“I’m looking at implementing some sort of system to track the hourly production of my washroom and finishing department. What can you suggest? Does your operation use such a system? What kind of reaction can I expect from my production employees when I put one in?”
Nancy Greene, Kenosha Co. Detention Center, Kenosha, Wis.:
Tracking production can be a nightmare if you can’t back up your standards. Our industry operates based on time studies: wash formulas, drying programs, soil sorting, and either hand-folding or using finishing equipment.
On the washroom side, you’ll work out your production times based on the equipment’s timed formulas and drying times, along with your loading times.
Soil sorting can be labor-intensive if the area isn’t set up efficiently. If the employees are trying to sort with numerous bins in the way, much of your production time will be wasted. Clear the area for a smooth assembly line.
You’ll find the most resistance to timed production on the finishing side. And alienating your staff by conducting an “open” time study is not the way to go.
I provided a cart of linen for each of three teams – fastest, slowest and middle-of-the-road – and started the clock. At the end of the time period, I moved the teams to different tables and counted their production. This gave me the average hand-fold production of our staff. Their belief that I was doing an inventory (their idea) helped mask my actual intent.
I studied this over two weeks so the inmates didn’t catch on. When a person knows you’re doing a timed study, they’ll either speed up to impress you or slow down to skew the amount of time so they don’t have to work as hard.
Our fastest inmates easily exceeded the industry standards, and our middle-of-the-road inmates hit them with time to spare.
Having this kind of additional information will back up the industry standards, and you’ll be able to bring your facility’s administration on board.
Neil MacDonald, Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club, Lihue, Hawaii:
I have a form that is an excellent tool to record production. My whole operation practically runs off of this form. It’s excellent for recording piece production and evaluating performance.
The form is easy to use, and my associates adapted to it quickly. The system keeps my associates focused on the tasks at hand and, in the end, you have an accurate tool for evaluation.
Before you implement the form, you must have a list of all the “tasks” performed in your operation: feed, fold, catch, sort, damaged, lunch, etc. Then you must have a list of all items produced. I use initials to describe each item. “BT” stands for bath towel, “PC” is pillowcase, and so on.
The item list should include the size, weight, cost, color, vendor, category and any other vital information. Categories could be “Rooms,” “Food and Beverage,” “Recreation,” "Uniforms,” etc.
Picture on a sheet of paper a 10-hour day. Two main columns are divided into 5-minute increments. Inside the main columns are three columns with “Task,” “Item” and “Amount” headings.
An associate grabs their clipboard at the start of their shift and fills in their name and date. After they perform a task, they draw a line at the nearest time the task was finished.
For example, if Bruce starts work at 06:00 and attends a briefing that lasts five minutes, he draws a line at the 06:05 mark. In that box he writes “Briefing.” If he goes on to fold 600 bath towels until 08:00, he draws a line at the 08:00 mark and writes “Fold” under “Task,” “BT” under “Item” and “600” under “Amount.”
At the end of the day, I have a history of all tasks, items and amounts produced by my associates. The information on the form must be kept simple, legible and accurate. Everything you need to record productivity is there. Input the information to a spreadsheet or database program and you will be tracking productivity in no time.
Richard Warren, Institutional Services Corp., Conway, Ark.:
Production must be measured in order to have a point of reference. The most common means is to divide the clean goods processed by hours worked.
Some keep separate figures for different departments within the laundry, such as the soiled side and clean side. Some will subdivide into “dry fold” and “flat work,” then possibly further separate towels, gowns, blankets, etc.
Some production managers use a stopwatch to time different workers doing different tasks. This works better if the laundry has staff working at the same task all day, every day. When workers have multiple tasks, the record-keeping can become a full-time job itself.
Many OPLs use soiled weight or an estimation of the volume done during a particular day. Some operations use the total hours worked, including custodial, maintenance, etc., since those hours are an expense just as insurance or FICA is. As production increases, those hours will decline.
Others keep track of production hours only. Some use supervisors’ hours in this calculation, while others do not. There isn’t a right or wrong way, as long as your needs are being met. Once again, it’s consistency that matters.
I suggest that you quietly use several different methods. When you determine which one works best for you, it may be introduced as something that has been going on for some time, and now you are sharing the information with the workers. They will not feel as threatened.
Management should share production information with the workers, as they will be interested in how the numbers change. And, more importantly, why they change. Don’t make the mistake of trying to compare numbers directly with another operation. Seldom will you be comparing apples to apples.
I may choose to use a different calculation. If you and I compare our numbers, they may actually show different information. Since we don’t know what formula the other used, we need to be careful about making value judgments.
As long as there is consistency from one measuring time to the next, your numbers will be a good indicator of your progress.