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Searching for the Ideal Productivity Monitoring System

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Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Hiob

Eric Frederick |

ROANOKE, Va. — I spent a lot of time at the Clean Show looking at improvements in productivity monitoring systems. I find the benefits of using one worth the time and hassle of collecting and entering the data.

I talked to numerous vendors that had developed systems to provide instantaneous productivity monitoring of each workstation and employee. The more frequent and accurate the feedback, the better the results.

The ideal system would allow for tracking of both group and individual production data.

I have always tracked three areas in my soil-sort department. The most obvious is the five employees who sort the linen off a belt from an elevated platform into various slings. This has always been a group effort, and their production is based on how well they work together as a team.

My second is the two “dumpers” who place linen onto the incline conveyor feeding the elevated sorting platform. Their performance has a major bearing on the soil-sort group’s efficiency.

Finally, I track the employee responsible for unloading the trucks, weighing the soiled linen and placing the carts in the cart dumper.

I want a system that can instantaneously track the performance of all three areas with a minimum of data entry. The ideal system, in my mind, would be one where the carts are weighed into the system by scanning the bar code. When the cart is placed into the cart dumper, it is scanned again and the next poundage is credited to all three tracking areas.

I want a system that visually gives the employees or the group a graphic measure of how they are doing vs. standard. The simple system of a red, yellow or green light does not provide the type of detailed information I want my employees to see.

The preferred system will also be capable of supporting large screens that can be placed in the break room and the supervisors’ work areas. The break-room screen would provide peer review of the workers’ or group efforts, while the other screens would provide feedback to these key groups as to where their efforts need to be focused.

An employee or group that is not meeting production standards could be lagging due to several conditions. It might be the result of poorly sorted or improperly washed linen; pillowcases that are not properly conditioned cannot go through the ironer as fast as those that have the right amount of moisture, for example. The supervisor can investigate and take the steps necessary to correct this problem.

Poor production may be the result of improper or incomplete training. It might be a problem with a piece of equipment; the supervisor can work with maintenance and get it corrected as soon as possible.

An employee may simply need a little added motivation. Knowing that the system is there, and that someone is actually paying attention to it, can provide the needed encouragement.

The ideal system would allow for tracking productivity of each employee, each piece of equipment, the number of pieces of each type of linen produced, and the production rate for each piece of linen. It would track downtime by piece of equipment and be able to provide laundry management with actual productivity by area.

Labor is our single largest cost, and real-time productivity monitoring promises the ability to improve the use of this resource. I would expect that my laundry could improve productivity by 10-20%. With that kind of labor savings, it would not take long to justify the purchase of such a system.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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