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Pressure to Produce Demands Balancing Act (Part 1 of 2)

“There is consistent pressure to produce goods at a rapid pace, based on directives to meet certain individual production figures, but I’m concerned that we’re sacrificing quality for quantity. Can you offer suggestions for how we can balance the two?”Linen Supply/Commercial Laundering: Duane Farrington, RLLD, Hancock Co. Laundry, Weirton, W.Va.
The pressure to produce more with less won’t go away. In fact, you’ll probably be asked to increase your numbers in the future.
But don’t fret. There are ways to help increase production and actually improve quality. The first question to ask is, “How can we do this job better?”
Can the task be done by machine, or does it require folding by hand? With new finishing technology, payback in increased production can justify a purchase. Quality will most likely increase, too, because workers will labor less while producing more.
Some new equipment can fold linen of different sizes and stack them separately. This gives an operator more time to concentrate on stains and tears. On the ironing side, most newer machines have quality-control features that enable an operator to press a button to reject a suspect piece of linen.
These ideas are all well and fine as long as there is capital for these purchases. If there isn’t, then you must look at each individual and their capacity to perform each task.
Product positioning or presentation can affect how well a person performs. You must analyze each task, step by step, to determine if something is causing a bottleneck. When you start breaking things down, involve the employees and get their input on how to improve the task. This usually generates better results.
Also, look at the tasks that your laundry performs. Do you have to do all of them?
I’ve seen people folding rags when they could be collecting them in net bags for delivery. You might not even realize these types of things are going on in your facility. If you can eliminate waste, then you can spend more time on tasks that are vital to your mission.Healthcare Laundering: Bob Pfeifer, Sodexo Laundry Services, Lansing, Mich.
Production goals and standards ensure the viability of any operation. There is no need to sacrifice quality for quantity in any laundry setting.
What is acceptable quality to one facility may not be to another. You must make an effort to understand what your clients want and then work to deliver at least that level at all times.
There are many “quality checks” that can be utilized.

  • Soil sorting — Sorters who understand the importance of proper sorting allow for goods to be washed on the proper formula and start the cycle of quality.
  • Wash process — A good wash formula, properly configured for water conditions, soil conditions and types of soil present in your plant, is the second defense.
  • Drying — Proper formulas prevent overdrying of linen.
  • Communication — Properly communicate, to all employees, your standards for producing quality (what should be rejected) and quantity.
  • Monitoring — Consistently monitor productivity and share the results with every employee. A generalized productivity board is an excellent tool, but each person must be made aware how their individual performance contributes to your operation’s overall quality and volume.
  • Quality checks — Periodic daily testing of goods produced should be a mainstay. It’s the one opportunity to absolutely know who produced the goods. Spot-check 10-20 items in a cart as they are being produced, then track problems you discover and work with the employee(s) to correct deficiencies.
  • Client input — The user areas at our facilities are the final check. Implementing and tracking a returned-goods policy is a tool that will enable you and your client to quantify a percentage of returned goods. A return of less than 1% is the goal I set.

Consulting: Tom Mara, Victor Kramer Co., Oceanport, N.J.
First, quality is subjective. Work with your customers and your superiors to thoroughly identify what is considered acceptable.
Develop a list of quality standards, specify concisely how each is to be interpreted and measured, continually work to improve the guidelines, and train your crew on a regular basis.
Instill in your finishing operators an urgency to participate in quality control and show them how to look for stained or damaged goods as they feed the ironer or small-piece folder, or as they fold articles by hand.
Train a linen maintenance specialist to collect rejected goods, sort and evaluate them, then act based on your standards.
Develop effective stain-reclamation procedures and formulas.
Set up a sewing department.
Institute a program whereby stained and damaged articles are culled at user locations (such as floor linen closets) and returned to the laundry for evaluation, reclamation, repair or discard.
Work with nursing or housekeeping staff on a regular basis, and visit with end-users and your crew often to see how effectively they’re participating in the program.
The other half of this issue involves understanding typical industry standards for equipment and human productivity.
Don’t rely on machinery name-plate capacity or productivity values, and be wary of numbers you hear claimed by others — every laundry operation is unique, and what might be attainable at one location may not be at another, and for good reason.
Join an industry organization, meet regularly with your peers, visit their laundries, and delve into their habits and methods. Measure their rates of production at the ironers and folders. Prove the accuracy of their workload statistics (pounds and pieces) before you accept, without audit, their productivity claims.
Keep a journal of your findings and try to identify best practices. Define what you know to be reasonable and effective productivity standards for your equipment and your employees. Use these to develop processing methods that work in your plant, refine them by testing them yourself, and then train your employees regularly.
Include a feedback mechanism to provide for continuous improvement. Use a practical work measurement system to document individual, team and equipment productivity statistics. Make the results of these measurements available to your employees and your superiors.
Once you’ve accomplished these things, you will know you have achieved an appropriate balance between adverse demands for high levels of productivity and quality, and you will be able to competently defend your standards.Come back next week for Part 2 of this story!
 

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