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Tracking, Measuring, Improving Laundry Performance

UniFirst shares how it handles its productivity monitoring

CHICAGO — Productivity.

That’s an important word and concept in laundry and linen services.

Overall, operations need to process a certain number of pounds per hour for sustainability and profitability. And to achieve this, laundries need to track and measure all aspects of the operation, including employee production, equipment and resource usage.

But how can a laundry operation best measure and improve the productivity of its plants and equipment and employees to help ensure it is operating as efficiently, with excellent quality, as possible?

To monitor its productivity and efficiency, workwear and textile services company UniFirst, which is headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts and serves customers throughout North America, developed a centralized, web-based application to record and track, in real-time, systems performance, energy consumption, equipment utilization and labor activity at all of its plants.

Born out of the need to bring “islands” of data together to better utilize production metrics, the proprietary UniFirst Production Monitoring (UPM) includes interfaces to all automated production systems, as well as the company’s energy management application, time and attendance/payroll applications, and its computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

The company says UPM presents information in both dashboard and report form, including detailed system and plant summary data that is accessible at any time by both corporate and plant decision-makers.

UniFirst shares that its corporate headquarters utilizes the same detailed, plant-specific data that is available on all of their local production floors.

Further, the company says UPM has allowed it to realize many benefits, including improved system performance, equating to a higher rate of throughput; improved equipment utilization, resulting in less energy consumption; rapid identification of process flow issues, allowing for real-time adjustments to equipment and labor; and an increase in overall productivity.

American Laundry News had the opportunity to ask Jose Nunez, UniFirst’s Senior Manager of Corporate Production, and Eric Canty, Manager of Engineering Technologies, about laundry and textile services tracking and measuring with the company’s UPM system.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “tracking productivity and measuring results” regarding laundry operations?

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

What do you consider most important in terms of tracking and measuring?

First, you need to have accurate real-time data collection. Then, you need to use the data to create actionable tasks.

Finally, you must have full transparency of how the data is collected. In other words, the “math behind the metrics.”

How does UniFirst handle its tracking and measuring and making use of the information?

Biweekly process improvement meetings are conducted by regional leads with all their locations to review detailed data. Monthly process improvement meetings are conducted to review summary data. We also employ consolidated monthly reporting of all locations data.

Why did the company put forth the effort to create the UPM system?

UniFirst values on-time and accurate information. By using data collected from systems, machines and our employee Team Partners, we’re able to make more informed business decisions. 

Whether it’s managing labor costs, flexing staff on the plant floor, determining optimal layouts, purchasing specific capital equipment or opening a new facility in a particular region, these decisions are backed up by UPM data.

UPM sounds like a very involved system, so let’s talk usage. First, how do supervisors make use of the technology?

Training and coaching are provided by supervisors, whether it’s for improving labor efficiencies, utilization or productivity.

Supervisors balance labor across production departments by using historical data such as product mix, available staffing and equipment capacity.

What information does the system provide to employees on the floor of the laundry?

UPM provides individual employee Team Partner activity efficiencies throughout the plant, and system-level data in our wash aisle, sort/ship area and stockrooms.

Briefly share how the C-suite interacts with UPM.

Our executive-level managers benchmark local and regional performance while looking for trends and opportunities for improvement.

They also identify areas of the business where operation standards are not achieved to help determine training priorities, optimize flow and where investments should be prioritized.

Finally, they can identify leaders who make ongoing incremental improvements for possible career advancement.

How is accountability handled with the system?

Using data collected by UPM, coaching and training are provided to our employee Team Partners who require additional support.

If you were speaking with a colleague, what’s some of the top advice you’d give regarding tracking, measuring and using that information in a laundry?

We’d recommend five things:

  1. Ensure accurate data is being collected.
  2. Ensure that all parties have a complete understanding of the data being collected and why.
  3. Define step-by-step procedures required to develop standards (SOPs).
  4. Create realistic standards for benchmarks and goals.
  5. Implement an ongoing process to review/refine standards as needed.


What Gets Measured Gets Managed (Conclusion), Jan. 31, 2019

What Gets Measured Gets Managed (Part 1), Jan. 29, 2019