Removing Clutter, Reorganizing Often Reclaims Wasted Production Space (Part 1 of 3)

“My laundry isn't all that large. I am always looking for tips and advice to make the most of our production space. What general suggestions can you give me about how best to operate in cramped quarters?"CONSULTING: Jim Buchbinder has been the vice president of business development for Turn-Key Industrial Engineering Services since January 2007. Previously, he worked at Arrow Uniform Rental for 23 years, from plant manager to vice president of product development and distribution. He’s a member of the Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA) Plant Operations Hall of Fame.
It’s not uncommon in our industry to process 100,000 pounds per week in a facility designed to process half of that. Whether it’s a function of rapid growth, poor planning or a reluctance to spend on capital improvements, laundry managers are often stuck holding the bag. Here are some common “space wasters” within a laundry:Unmoving inventory – Owners (or managers) are often reluctant to purge inventory. To make matters worse, when space is at a premium, employees often throw away product that’s in better condition or in greater demand than the product that’s stockpiled. Keep only the products that are usable and in demand.Low-priority soiled product – Some examples are stain wash, unsorted loads and soiled garments going back to the stockroom. Since no one demands these products, they can sit day after day.Too much “work in process” – The closer that you can run each process to “just in time,” the less work will be waiting in carts or slings for the next process.Clean product waiting for delivery – Can you send product to a depot or load it onto a truck sooner to free up space? Do you have more clean inventory than you need to fill your daily route requirements?Clutter – Carts sometimes become filled with tangled hangers, empty boxes or other junk. They can be in your way and stay in your way, since no one wants to deal with them.
Perform a daily walk-through to make sure that your staff deals with these space wasters every day. There’s no substitute for undergoing a thorough facility planning exercise. When you truly don’t have the space required for your volume, you’ll make compromises that will affect product quality, labor efficiency or both. Taking the time to properly plan for needed changes will pay big dividends in the future.CHEMICALS SUPPLY: Kevin McLaren directs the CLG (Commercial Laundry Group) Laboratories for the Dober Group, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals. He joined Dober in 1994 after serving 10 years as an applications chemist in the industrial and institutional housekeeping markets.
Whether having been folded and stacked or sorted and hangered at their exit, fabrics tend to return to the laundry in a soiled, rumpled mix. The desire to grow one’s business, to bring on more customers and to process more pounds of goods is stressing the launderer’s ability to make order out of ever-increasing disorder.
To maximize production capacity, one must identify bottlenecks. This starts in receiving and soil sorting, dictated by route pickups. Once inside the laundry, the laundering and finishing processes become a study of time and motion.
To simplify the process, the launderer needs to know how much time is spent 1) staging and sorting prior to laundering, 2) laundering, 3) staging bulk items and some linens prior to drying, 4) staging bed and table linens prior to ironing, 5) staging garments prior to hanging, 6) ironing and hanging, and 7) towel folding and bagging.
Any of these steps can bottleneck the entire process. For example, specific to the wash floor, shorter formula times have been a long-held goal. But savings attributed to shortened run times are readily wasted by excessive turn times of the washers.
Underloading washers creates the need for additional loads. Overloading washers escalates rewash rates due to poor wash quality. Excessive steam-up time and improper water flow and hot/cold modulation can extend the time required to wash loads. Inefficient dryer performance can result in overdrying and delay delivery of goods to finishing.
Wash floor and production management data systems are improving the launderer’s ability to study times and motion throughout the process. By applying time/poundage/piece count metrics to individual steps, the management team can determine if equipment purchases would improve throughput or if operational efficiency is lacking.LINEN SUPPLY: Bill Kartsonis is the president of Superior Linen Supply Co., Kansas City, Mo. He’s the immediate past president of the Kansas City chapter of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) and is a Master Hotel Supplier certified by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA).
What are your needs and purposes? Do you only process lightly soiled room linen, or must you handle greasy or feces-laden linens? Do you only process white linen or do you do colored linens, too?
It’s critical to have enough space allocated for soiled linen. If you have multiple categories of soil, it’s preferred to sort and hold them in separate areas. It’s most desirable to have a separate room for soiled linen, and is required when handling healthcare linen.
I could go on and on delineating the design requirements of linen flow, but the key point is that your particular needs require different designs. Some hotels only have wash systems in place to handle light-soil items and aren’t adaptable unless additional space and equipment are allotted.
Think of a laundry as a pipeline: things flow in and things flow out. If you hold linen in any given place too long, you can choke the system.
I recommend reading The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt, a business novel that describes what happens when we constrain production and how we can avoid these costly bottlenecks.
Consider using tall carts, because you can get three times more linen in the same footprint.
Think 3-D and use vertical space if you have high ceilings.
And process and fold as soon as you can, because it takes less space to store clean, folded linen.
Finally, if it fits your design, place a worker where he can perform some hand work while waiting for a machine to run its cycle.


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