Removing Clutter, Reorganizing Often Reclaims Wasted Production Space (Part 2 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?"TEXTILE/UNIFORM RENTAL: Steve Kallenbach has been in the uniform apparel and industrial textile business for more than 29 years, from route sales/service to group general manager to regional sales manager. He has been regional sales manager for American Dawn since 2004.
Having seen many laundries, both large and small, I find several key reasons why plants run out of space.Organization/housekeeping – Many operators simply don’t pay enough attention. One can often find open boxes of supplies, hanging obsolete textiles and storage of noncritical items. Doing some “spring cleaning” a couple of times a year can add needed space. Also, set work habits for employees to eliminate clutter and have a place for everything.Purchasing practices – With most key suppliers offering “just-in-time” delivery, there’s no reason for operators to store more than two to four weeks of new textiles or supplies, unless it’s special merchandise or gets you a better buy for volume. For the purpose of merchandise control, new textiles should be secured in one area, away from production flow. After all, you don’t want it to be an easy job to put in new merchandise unless absolutely necessary.Production flow – Setting up your production flow in a “U” shape (within the confines of your physical operation) and training your personnel to keep carts and racks in specific lanes and areas can open plant space.
If at all possible, all wash and dry areas should be washed and dried completely each day before shut down, and the carts and racks should be staged for the next day. Train your people to use your available space accordingly, and you’ll find more of it available!Cubic space – First-generation physical plants typically don’t use space “above the rack.” Installing sling systems or railing may require capital, but if you’re an expanding business, it’s much more financially efficient than moving to a bigger space. Putting flooring above office space for paperwork storage can clean out many corners in a plant.Obsolete items – Whether it’s supplies or textiles, sometimes you just have to let it go and find a home for items that have been lying around for months or years.
Take a fresh look at your operation and identify places and spaces that can be filled with revenue- and profit-generating business rather than used for storage.HOTEL/MOTEL LAUNDERING: Neil MacDonald has managed the laundry at the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club since the property opened in 1995. His other experience includes managing laundries at the Ihilani Resort & Spa on Oahu, the Westin Century Plaza Hotel and the Westin Kauai Resort.
I have a couple of suggestions if you place your flatwork in clean carts and you have limited space.
I looked around our production area, which is too tight. There’s not much space between the walls and the spreader-feeder/ironer. As I looked at the traffic jam of sheets and pillowcases, I thought, “Wow! What would we do without the four-swivel-caster configurations on our production carts?” Four swivel wheels make it a whole lot easier to move carts and racks in and out of position.
Carts with two swivel casters and two rigid casters are difficult to maneuver in tight areas where three-point turning is needed. You want the 2-swivel/2-rigid configuration on carts that you have to push or pull long distances or hitch to a cart tugger.
The all-swivel configuration prevents associates from sometimes having to lift carts into position. This lifting of carts isn’t good practice and could cause a back injury.
I also suggest returning carts from the production area to the wash area right after emptying them, so that no one has to waste time looking for empty carts.
To best operate in cramped quarters, ensure that each of your production carts has four swivel casters, and keep your production area free of empty carts.TEXTILES: Kevin Keyes is the Laundry Service Team (LST) leader for Milliken & Co.’s Napery Fabrics Business. His team provides technical and marketing support to the textile rental industry. He’s been with Milliken for 19 years, having served the first 11 in textile manufacturing.
One of the biggest opportunities that I see in many commercial laundries is the need for a good cleanup and organization plan. Most of the time, there is enough space, but it’s filled with clutter and unnecessary things.
Years ago, Milliken implemented TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), with one of the program basics being a process known as 5S.Separate – During this phase, you separate the “needed” from “not needed.” Sort everything in your plant based on criteria: frequency of use, potential for use, space, etc. Remove all of the unneeded items and you open up more space.Simplify – The key to this step is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Areas are organized, and manifests are created.Systematize – Everything that has been through the first two steps is labeled and marked with visual controls. By the end of this step, you should’ve removed all of the unnecessary items from your plant, organized everything in a certain place, and marked and labeled all areas.Standardize and Sustain – These steps build on the work you’ve done. Standardization means incorporating the strategy throughout the plant, including the office areas. Sustainment means creating a plan to prevent things from reverting to the way they were.
While this all sounds like a lot, it’s best to start with a small area. In our plants, a great area in which to start this process was the “shop” area, which was usually small and disorganized. Get your “model” area looking good and people start to take notice and want to get involved. Then you can move on to other, larger areas of your plant.
Not only will your plant look better, it’ll run better. Just remember that 5S requires top management support, and everyone needs to be involved.


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