CHICAGO — In this fast-paced, got-to-get-it-done-today world, many managers overlook the wonderful tool of patience. Patience is an essential part of dealing with employees, diagnosing problems and developing plans for the future. If we relegate patience to our bottom desk drawer, we shall surely fail.
When developing plans to improve one’s laundry operations, a healthy dose of patience is essential. You need to develop a complete understanding of what is happening and why. Fully understanding the cause and effect of a problem is the most difficult part. It is never cost-effective to treat the symptoms instead of the causes. To properly diagnose problems, you need to develop theories and try and test each one as thoroughly as possible. Sometimes, the best solution takes several years to discover.
In my laundry, we have had trouble keeping up with sheet ironing. There is a significant difference in the number of pieces produced per hour by our two ironers. Each is equipped with a “sheet picker,” and both receive the same type of products.
Ironer No. 1 has a cornerless flatwork feeder, and ironer No. 2 has a cornerless linen feeder. The linen feeder should outproduce the flatwork feeder, but the production is just the opposite.
The results fluctuate when using different combinations of employees on the ironers, but ironer No. 1 consistently outproduces ironer No. 2. Both ironers run at 110 feet per minute, and we have carefully observed the gap between sheets to make sure that both pieces of equipment leave the same amount of space between items.
We have tried speeding up the ironers but the finished product comes out wet. This took us down the path of making sure the steam traps and vacuum systems were operating properly. We then turned to the company that provides our pads to make sure the padded rolls were the appropriate size.
All through this process, we used creative scheduling to make sure that the ironers produced enough sheets each day to meet the needs of our customers. We knew there was an answer to the problem somewhere but it was difficult to determine where. We patiently kept looking for a sound solution.
Our sheets are washed in a tunnel washer, extracted in a press and then sent directly to the sheet pickers via a dryer bypass lane. We have been told that we cannot condition our sheets because the sheet pickers do not work well when the linen is tangled during the drying process. We checked the press to make sure it was reaching appropriate pressure and the cushion was properly installed and filled.
I eventually noticed that the cakes coming out of this press looked different than those coming out of a second press. The difference bothered me, so I started asking questions of our equipment dealer. The answer came back that the second press was designed to handle a 110-pound cake, while the first press was designed to handle up to a 150-pound load. Consistently underloading the first press caused poor extraction, and the higher moisture content prevented us from increasing the ironer speed.
This press problem does not answer why ironer No. 1 outproduces ironer No. 2, but we do believe that changing out the press will give us the ability to iron at higher speeds and produce more sheets.
The process to get to this point took almost two years. We are developing plans to install a new extractor when and if the capital dollars become available. In the meantime, I am content knowing that one of the annoying problems in my laundry has been identified, and I will wait patiently for it to be corrected.
Patience allows us to take the required time to find the optimum solution to our problems, or research and develop new product lines to increase our business, without excessive frustration and anger.