My institution has asked me to submit a plan to redesign our on-premise laundry to produce a more efficient work flow. Our end users are primarily healthcare in nature. What elements of our physical space and equipment must I take into account in developing this plan? What layout pitfalls should I avoid?COMMERCIAL LAUNDERING: Richard Warren is the general manager of Institutional Services Corp., Conway, Ark., a commercial laundry that provides COG, rental and linen distribution services for healthcare clients. His experience also includes OPL and industrial laundering, linen supply, and leather/fur cleaning.
This is not an easy task! You’ll need to know where the electric service is, as you may need to replace and/or reroute the whole thing. The same goes for steam, water and air.
Is the lighting where you would like it to be? Service doors? Truck docks? Will you be moving the wash aisle? Boilers? Ironers? Dryers?
Will you be expanding the existing building? Will you be replacing folding equipment in the foreseeable future? Do you have overhead space for sling storage, or conveying equipment? What’s going to be done about ventilation?
One rule of thumb is that you’ll need 1 square foot of floor space for each pound of work you process in a day. Another rule is that the work always needs to progress toward the exit doors.
Ideally, you want nothing crossing the path of anything else, and this can be a little difficult at times. For instance, your clean shipping carts are needed in different parts of the plant, but all are going through the cart wash. The linen is needed in those same areas but must go through the dryers. So, the chances of disturbed work flow are high.
All this is primary, but it illustrates the need for an engineer, or designer of some expertise. The consultants need the knowledge of the laundry management, as they will be living with the new ideas for years.
My conversations with others indicate to me that all plant layouts have some flaws, so don’t be discouraged.
My advice is to not bolt anything to the floor unless it’s necessary for the operation. After using a machine for a while, you may want to reposition it for better work flow. I like flex lines or hoses for compressed air, and electrical service cords long enough to be able to reposition a folder as the need arises.
One mistake to avoid is putting a storage bin or a folder too far away from the goods that are going to utilize that space or machine. Often, too much walking and carrying or pushing is done solely because there is too much room. I advocate “bringing in the walls.” The workers will find they’re more productive, and have less fatigue because management made it possible for them to take fewer steps. They’ll be more productive, even though they aren’t working any harder.HEALTHCARE LAUNDERING: Sue Klein is the marketing manager for Shared Service Systems, Omaha, Neb., a central healthcare laundry that serves customers ranging from large urban health systems to small rural hospitals. She’s been active in the International Association of Healthcare Textile Managers (IAHTM).
Having an on-premise laundry in healthcare brings some unique considerations. Many healthcare institutions seek national accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation\ of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). This independent, not-for-profit organization establishes national standards focused on patient safety and quality of care.
JCAHO also maintains Quality Check®, a guide that provides the current certification status of organizations and programs. More than 15,000 healthcare organizations and programs are accredited.
JCAHO details specific infection control policies that must be followed for an organization to maintain its accreditation. Additionally, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires specific handling methods for bloodborne pathogens. These requirements must be factored into the laundry design, as well as everyday procedures.
I recommend focusing on the following areas:
Separation of soiled/clean linen
- All handling equipment should be designated as only clean or only soiled.
- Negative airflow should be established in the soiled area to ensure that airborne bacteria from the soiled linen don’t contaminate the clean linen.
- Allow adequate space where soiled linen arrives.
- Allow adequate space where you’ll store linen before delivery.
- Remember to factor in the additional linen volume you may have on holidays or long weekends.
Minimize employee movement
- Design the workflow to minimize backtracking.
- Move the linen as little as practical.
- Design rail systems (if used) to bring the linen to the employee.
- Use tilt tables, or similar tools to minimize reaching and movement by the employee.
- Sheet pickers, more efficient presses and newer extractors can pay dividends in labor savings, chemical savings and less frequent linen replacement.
- Design adequate space to accommodate reclaiming your water.
- Design efficient access to your dock or transportation, if you’ll be transporting outside the immediate building.
- Distance from dock to processing areas should be minimal.
- Floor composition should be conducive to moving heavy carts.
- Consider electronic tugs if weight, distance or floor type will make transportation an issue.
Consider touring other laundries from your industry, as well as networking with other managers, to give you invaluable ideas on unique layouts and solutions to your building’s idiosyncrasies.