Sorting, Arranging for Better Efficiency (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“Every minute counts when working to produce clean linens in a timely fashion. How can simple sorting or arranging of items throughout production help to make the process more efficient?”

Chemicals Supply: Carrie Armstrong, Ecolab, Eagan, Minn.: 

carrie armstrongReviewing your facility’s production flow and various job tasks can reveal inefficiencies that should be addressed to make the processes more efficient.

I would enlist the help of your employees; they may have suggestions for increasing their own productivity or that of their co-workers. Each task in the production process requires space, along with various tools. The idea is to have all the tools within the workspace.

Generally, the soiled linen will enter the laundry on the soil side and will be sorted and transported either by cart or by sling to the washers. An examination of the process may reveal slings/carts aren’t always available for sorting, and the sorters have downtime or spend time searching for carts. Implementing a process in which the wash-aisle personnel transport the empty carts to a dedicated area near the soil sorters may help reduce downtime for the sorters.

A task on the clean side that often proves to be made more efficient is the relocating of a folding table. By moving it to the middle of the finishing area instead of the far end, thousands of steps can be saved for the folders getting the carts from the dryers. The time needed to fold the linens will decrease, allowing workers to assist in other areas of production. Ensuring convenience of personal protective gear can help with efficiency, too. Having to spend time searching for protective gowns, gloves and masks reduces employee productivity.

These are just a few examples. In reviewing each task in the laundering process, from receiving the soiled linen to transporting the clean linen, there are likely some additional simple ways to arrange tools to make the process more efficient. Again, your employees may have some suggestions for improved productivity. Providing clean, quality linens is a team effort. 

Equipment Manufacturing: Gary Ostrum, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.: 

gary ostrumThis is a question that has certainly evolved over the years. Today, it’s just as much about what technology has done to enhance the process.

As an example, most major garment/apparel processors—whether utilizing bar codes or chips—let the system do the sorting. Once personnel hang garments to go through the steam tunnel, the system takes over from there, sorting the garments according to the specific employee at an end-user’s location.

So in today’s plants, we need to look at when sorting should take place. What technology is out there to take over this task, and will it have an effective ROI based on the operation’s business plan?

Today, most sorting still starts on the soiled side of a facility. The goal here is to get the items sorted to the proper item, soil and/or processing classification. Once again, size may not be a sorting classification at this time, as downstream technologies may be available to handle this.

What is the importance of sorting? Effective pre-sorting allows goods not only to be processed optimally through the wash/dryer aisle, it also allows for goods to be immediately ready for final processing as the plant’s finishing technology allows. With many plants dealing with anywhere from 100% cotton to 100% synthetic goods these days, sorting allows for the items to be washed and dried to the manufacturer’s specifications, hopefully ensuring the linens will have the life cycle they should.

Items sorted by classification tend to be similar in terms of soil level, allowing for the fine-tuning of one’s wash aisle in terms of chemistry, water usage, etc.­—once again optimizing the linen’s life cycle.

I know some readers may have to post-sort for one reason or another, and those reasons may be valid. But the bottom line is that concessions will need to be made on the processing side, as one now has to wash according to the heaviest level.

I would still recommend sorting take place before the dryers to at least optimize the processing at the dryer aisle. At the very least, goods will have to be sorted before they get to the processing stations of the finishing operators, to the level required by the finishing technologies used.

The operators of a plant’s finishing equipment should be able to process goods through the equipment without stopping to sort items. This is where technology helps speed the process, especially when it comes to sorting by size.

As I mentioned earlier, today’s garment/apparel systems can take the clean sorting down to the specific set of garments used by a specific employee, or can separate by size for bulk processing. Large-piece flatwork systems can measure goods on the fly, allowing not only for changes to the fold of the item as it goes through the system, but also allowing for separating by size as the items are stacked. Small-piece folders can sort by multiple sizes, allowing for all room terries to be processed at once.

Identifying important factors for where and when to use finishing technologies for sorting begins and ends with a thorough analysis of plant operations. In doing so, one can understand which process allows for the best processing quality and highest production at the most attractive cost for one’s facility.  

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: James Brewster, RLLD, The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels, W.Va.: 

james brewsterSorting needs to be done at some point in the laundering process, whether it’s done before washing or on the clean side after being processed.

I have always pre-sorted before washing to make the process more streamlined. By doing this, you can categorize each item or sort by soil class. Washing will be made more efficient if you use the correct formula for the particular soil class.

This also translates to easier finishing on the clean side. For instance, towels can go straight to a folder and you can run one size of towels without having to sort through smaller towels, speeding production. You’ll also be able to place a certain type of towel on a shelf or in a laundry cart without question.

Sheets will go straight to the ironer without workers having to worry about sorting through towels or whatever else may be mixed in, so sheet production will increase as well.

With a smaller laundry, you can wash everything together and post-sort, but this will slow production down a bit, and you will also end up using more chemicals in the wash since you won’t be able to adjust for various soil classes. This will reduce the life of the linens, causing your linen costs to rise.

In my opinion, pre-sorting is the best option. It may take a little more labor on the front end, but it will drastically increase productivity on the back end and create a more efficient process. 

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion! 

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