“To ensure that the laundry I manage is achieving top production on an ongoing basis, what records should I be keeping and why? Do you track anything out of the norm?”
Equipment Manufacturing: Joe Gudenburr, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.
We tend to speak in terms of therms per hundredweight, pounds per operator hour, and gallons per pound. Each of these metrics — measures of the business that we operate — tells part of the story as it pertains to operational condition. More importantly, these metrics provide a framework from which performance can be measured, opportunities to improve can be defined, and investments can be justified.
I visit roughly a dozen operating laundries a month as part of my responsibilities. You would be surprised to discover how many facilities don’t use metrics, or make limited use of the powerful information/data they have at their fingertips.
Yes, the senior managers know how many pounds they process, if their volume is up or down, and if their expenses are tracking in accordance with said volumetric changes. However, many simply aren’t able to drill down into the process beyond this level to truly harvest the opportunity that stands before them, or have missed the mark on educating their workforce regarding the use of such measures.
[NP][/NP]But I do see a number of plants that have embraced the use of metrics, empowered their workforce to make metrics-based decisions, and are in a growth mode because of the disciplined practices they have put into place.
It’s not too late to join them. Detach yourself from the daily “firefighting” and simply observe your operational environment. Take notes regarding things that are working well, and those areas that seem to be out of control. Evaluate where you have some type of performance-measurement protocol, and define where said measures are sorely lacking.
To bring structure to our dynamic environment, it’s beneficial to have a discrete set of performance measures to quickly understand how various processes are operating. This real-time snapshot empowers those at the ground level to make educated, timely decisions that can impact client satisfaction, product quality, and the financial bottom line.
There is a simple visual tool that can be used to help get all levels and departments within an organization to buy into the importance of developing synergistic business metrics. It’s a circle.
In our case, the circle begins with a sale, then progresses to order processing; scheduling and manufacturing; delivery and project execution; service and support; customer feedback and satisfaction; and repeat business, where it continues.
We all desire to retain satisfied customers. If the business process is efficient, and firing on all cylinders, the circle will remain unbroken, clients will be satisfied, and strategic objectives will be achieved.
This circle can be tailored to any business. Once a process is laid out, one can begin defining the key operating metrics for each process step. Many plants are measuring various operational aspects, but not all members of the organization are aware of these measures or how their job impacts them. This lack of communication or knowledge limits employee contributions.
What are the right metrics? How many metrics are enough, and how many are too much? Typically, each functional area can determine how it’s performing through the use of no more than a handful of metrics. As they are established, it is management’s responsibility to tie incentives and strategic objectives to commonly shared metrics, and to department-specific objectives.
Management is essentially establishing a precedent that no one area is more important than another, that all employees must work together to achieve success.
Linen Supply/Commercial Laundering: Tamica Goree, Ph.D., STG Linen Services, Glendale, Ariz.
There has been a sharp increase in the cost of the resources necessary to operate a laundry over the last decade. Natural gas prices rose by 20.5% between 2003 and 2004, then another 30% in 2005. Sewer rates also have increased. In some municipalities, water and sewer rates have increased by as much as 50%. As local communities struggle to find funds to upgrade aging publicly owned water treatment facilities, this trend will continue.
[NP][/NP]Chemical costs also have been rising as the price of core resources needed to produce them — such as oil — has doubled and even tripled. Production labor and employee benefits also make running a laundry more expensive.
While linen service companies are not able to control external cost increases, they are able to adjust operations to become more cost-effective. Accurate and meaningful collection of production information is key to providing significant data that gives direction and highlights areas that may be impacting costs.
Laundry cycle times, loads per hour, chemical usage, and equipment performance all contribute to production efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Laundry Cycle Times — Temperature, water conditions and soil amounts are among the factors that influence these times. Productivity depends on washer capacity, formula times, and how one rates on “controllables,” i.e. making sure the washers are loaded properly and to appropriate capacity. For example, if you have a 30-minute wash cycle and an eight-hour shift, then 16 cycles equals 100% productivity. Once average loading and unloading times are calculated, tracking them can help one determine if improvements are warranted.
Also, cycle times vary depending on linen types and conditions. A standard laundry formula to use as a baseline might include 2-3 minutes for soil removal or flush, 7-8 minutes for suds or wash, 7-9 minutes for bleaching, 2-3 minutes for rinsing, 4-5 minutes for conditioning, and 5-7 minutes for extracting.
Loads Per Hour — According to several years of customer research conducted by Ecolab’s laundry division in the West and Midwest, most hotels/motels allot for 50 to 90 pounds per hour, hospitals average 45-100 lbs/hr, and nursing homes average 40-80 lbs/hr.
Chemical Costs — The price of chemicals is certainly an important factor when resupplying stock. However, a lower price isn’t always the rule of thumb when selecting one product over another. Consider the capabilities of comparable chemicals and how they perform. Documenting the rate at which your company uses chemicals can give you the information you need to possibly switch to a better-performing product, even if it costs a little more.
Equipment Performance — The use of a scale is a big part of laundry procedures. Proper equipment loading ensures that the use of chemicals, water and energy is controlled. Programmability is another big piece needed to run a strong laundry. Having the ability to adjust time cycles is key to extending washes, flushes and rinses as needed.