ROANOKE, Va. — In discussions with my fellow laundry managers, no topic creates the deer-in-the-headlights look more than talking about standard operating procedures. Everyone knows we should have them and that they are an essential part of a good policy and procedure manual, but most managers put off creating them at all costs.
Creating a standard procedure is much like planning a trip from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Seattle. There are an infinite number of routes that can be taken to make the trip. The planner needs to make a choice based on several options: speed of travel, historic sites, national parks, traffic, type of vehicle, weather, and interesting tourist traps. After all, everyone should experience Wall (Drug), S.D., once in his or her life.
Creating a standard procedure on how to do a job in your laundry is just like planning a trip. Your procedure needs to be designed around your laundry facility and your operational goals. The most common mistake that inexperienced managers make is to assume there should be a “nationally” correct way to do a job. They struggle with creating the procedure, because they do not want to set it up the wrong way. They fail to understand that the purpose of the standard operating procedures is to supply a uniform way of doing things in their laundry.
Why should we spend the time and effort to develop standard operating procedures? A manager can argue that they can operate their laundry without them. The best reason to develop standard operating procedures in your laundry is the knowledge you gain by reviewing the way linen is handled in your laundry.
I guarantee that, as you follow the flow of linen through your laundry and develop an understanding of how each step is completed, you will find ways to improve the workflow, reduce labor and lower your costs. Standard procedures should be developed with the entire laundry in mind, not just a single department or process.
For example, if you are operating a pre-sort laundry, the categories that you sort into are dependent upon the volume of linen processed, the way it is dried or conditioned, and the way the item is finished. There are times when the needs of the cart makeup area may override the needs of production.
Sorting washcloths and bath towels into separate categories will speed up the operator on the towel folder, but it will also slow down the processing of washcloths because it will take longer to get a load to wash. The key question: Will the laundry benefit from a constant flow of both bath towels and washcloths entering the cart makeup area, or can it handle washcloths in the feast-and-famine mode?
The laundry manager could overcome the problem of feast or famine on washcloths by increasing his inventory on that item, provided there is enough money in the linen budget. Both procedures will supply clean towels and washcloths to the cart makeup area. Each possible procedure has its pluses and minuses; neither one is perfect. The final answer may hinge on how other items are processed. If there is not much space to sort soiled linen, there may be an overriding need to keep sorting classifications to a minimum.
The standard operating procedures for your laundry reflect the unique challenges you face in receiving and handling soiled linen and processing it into clean linen. Procedures need to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis as changes are made to the equipment or linen items. Improving the overall performance of the laundry is a constant, never-ending process.