CHICAGO — Jon Witschy, sales manager of Spindle Technologies’ management software team, is a true believer of the adage, “What gets measured gets managed.”
“It’s very important to have good criteria for determining how well things are going in the business,” he says.
Witschy applied this adage and stressed the importance of creating standards and criteria for laundry processes in a recent webinar hosted by the Association for Linen Management (ALM), titled Set Expectations, Track Results and Make an Impact on Your Bottom Line.
“Standards allow you to review the inner workings within a facility to make improvements possible in various areas, and to zero in on issues, whether it’s with personnel or production equipment, or process flow,” says Witschy, who adds that standards ultimately create structure and cohesion within a business.
“The standards, and the analysis of the standards, become a language that is understood at all levels of the organization, from the plant floor to management.”
Regardless of which method an operator takes to establish operational standards for his or her facility, standards should never be set in stone, Witschy stresses.
“All standards should be regularly reviewed for potential modification down the road,” he says. “As you change process flow, or equipment, or even a type of product, such as moving from a natural product to a synthetic product, you should be open to change within the standards in order to better suit the operation.”
Setting realistic goals and standards is also key, according to Witschy.
“If we were to set a standard too high, the feedback that we’re constantly giving our operators is demoralizing,” he says. “If we set [standards] too low, the motivation is reduced because your worst performers are hitting the standard, or doing better, and they might think, ‘Why work any harder?’”
Setting standards should account not only for the performance of an employee, but for the equipment as well.
“You may have two ironers or two folders that are right next to each other, and one of them might be significantly older than the other, and thus you have to have different standards for each of those pieces of equipment.”
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
At the core of establishing operational standards lie the opportunities for improvement, according to Witschy.
“With the information you’re obtaining as you collect against the standards, it indicates where changes can be made to improve the operation.”
If individual employees are having difficulty perfecting a specific procedure, for example, Witschy says, “look elsewhere in the operation to see where they might be a star at another particular process so we can either retrain them, or reassign them.”
Standards can also pave the way to equipment analysis, according to Witschy.
“One of the other things [about] having standards and having the performance percentage … is you’ve got the information to justify a costly repair or even a replacement of [a] machine,” he says.
Operators may also have the opportunity to adjust process flow, for example, by adding another employee to an ironer shake-out team to not only mitigate the process, but also reduce the overall time required for the task, explains Witschy.
IMPORTANCE OF FEEDBACK
When collecting performance numbers based on these standards, relaying the progress to team members, celebrating their efforts, and constant coaching is of importance, according to Witschy.
“We can always collect them and post them, but unless the numbers are followed up with some sort of consultation or coaching for the employee, they lose their effect,” he says.
“Visibility of standards adds peer performance as a motivator,” Witschy adds. “Obviously, no one wants to be at the bottom of the list [when] looking at the overall performance numbers.”
And in terms of how often feedback is given, “real time” works best.
“When operators receive that feedback more regularly … It actually prevents any anxiety or any concerns about what’s going to take place at a performance review because when they see their numbers daily, they know exactly where they are,” he says, adding that standards push operators to do their best.
“We start to kind of change the attitudes that the operators have and really how they look at their individual performance.”