“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?””
Tom Storm, Washing Systems Inc. (WSI), Cincinnati, Ohio:
With respect to washroom hourly production, there is an absolute requirement and then two possible approaches.
The absolute requirement is that the classifications to be processed must be accurately weighed. Without accurate weights, a production report is of no value. Additionally, weighing classifications is a necessary practice for attaining proper machine loading, which affects quality and utility consumption.
The weights obtained will be soiled weights. However, production data based on soiled weights is usually sufficient, because hourly production is normally used to look for variations in production, for specific machine problems, or to evaluate machine utilization. If clean, dry weights are desired, they can be obtained by correcting for the soil factors which should have been determined to set the soiled load weights.
The first method to determine washroom hourly production should be easy, if liquid chemistry is being used. Most liquid chemical-injection systems will automatically provide you that data, especially if it’s the type that consists of a central injection system delivering to a number of washers.
These systems record load weights of each load either through manual data input, automatic transfer from the sling/loading system, or default settings that assume the loads have been weighted to the proper soil-weight standard. The system keeps track of the length of time each load runs and also how long each machine remains idle after unloading.
Hourly production reports are normally available from a standard report menu and can be calculated based on actual run time, or shift times. They can be obtained by classification, by machine, and by operator. They can be pooled for any time period desired. Some washer software will provide the same information; however, to obtain it for the overall washroom requires all of the washers to hail from the same manufacturer.
The second method requires a lot more work. A washer log sheet must be maintained at each washer location where the person(s) operating the washroom records the load weight (or weight of slings or carts loaded), and the start and stop time for each load.
Hourly production can then be tracked by inputting the data into an Excel spreadsheet. Although time-consuming to compile, such data can be extremely useful in spotting production problems.
Tony Regan, Datamars Inc., Peachtree City, Ga.:
In today’s market, it’s critical to monitor productivity wherever possible. Pinpointing it to hourly production makes good sense, as you can determine if there are roadblocks in your process. One component isn’t able to work at full capacity if it’s waiting on another.
As important as it is to monitor your production, doing it cost effectively is critical. You don’t want to reduce productivity for the sake of tracking it.
The methods you can employ range from simple manual tracking to more sophisticated means using solutions that interface the process with individual item identification.
Solutions include something as simple as charting loads going into washers by weight or pieces making their way though ironers and steam tunnels to RFID solutions that scan an item at a particular station, time-stamp it and follow it through the complete laundry process. This would give you visibility of where things might be getting held up and for how long.
The first step is making sure you are maximizing the use of your equipment. If this is done, then most likely personnel will follow as they’ll need to keep up. You may also realize where some personnel may be redeployed.
It’s critical to identify and post your production targets against what you’re actually seeing for throughput. If you’re not hitting the target levels, you need to decide why. It might be related to the operators or it may be a part of the process early in the work flow.
Once you’ve identified your expectations, you need to make the workstation accountable. This is sometimes difficult because as station operators move around during the course of the day, you may not get an accurate gauge on what was completed during the hour versus the full day.
There are ways to have employees sign in to a workstation, either with an employee card or through other electronic means, similar to how they would “punch in” for work.
Through software, you can monitor production for the station by any given period and tie it to an individual employee or team of employees when they’ve signed in. Since it would be tied to a unique identification code, this would prevent any confusion over who was where and when.
Monitoring the production of the stations by hour or by employee will show if there is an increase or drop-off in production from one to the next.
The second part of the question is whether the employees will have a problem with this. Frankly speaking, this will depend on how it’s presented to them. Obviously there’s a need to maximize efficiencies. If it’s presented in such a way that you’re monitoring the entire laundry process, then most won’t feel singled out. In addition, those who do feel they’re working at a higher rate will know that this will show up against those who may not be.
Sharing production graphs with the staff is also a good way to get them to buy into it. If someone sees their particular area is holding up the day’s production at a given time during a given day, you may see that they set goals for themselves. Turn this into a positive rather than a negative and you might be surprised how the entire work force takes ownership of the success of the total operation.