Weekend Getaway at
By Randy Vansparrentak
When investment bankers
consider a merger or acquisition, they talk about efficiency. Business 101 professors theorize about
synergy. But the actual work involved in blending the strengths of two organizations, realizing
efficiencies and harnessing synergies to yield bottom line returns often falls on the shoulders of real
people like Brian Johnson. As general manager for Alsco in Denver, Colo., Johnson is responsible for
operations at the company’s two processing facilities in the city. The Cook Street facility has
been part of the company’s original plant lineup since 1970 and its production has gravitated
towards a specialty in food and beverage linens such as napkins and tablecloths. The Elm Street plant
was acquired with the company’s purchase of National Linen & Uniform Service in 1996 and was
stocked with a tunnel washer and a slate of other hefty equipment to handle mammoth loads of medical
and hotel linens such as sheets, pillow cases and towels with speed and efficiency.
But the plant was also handling 10,000 pounds per
week of food and beverage linens from preexisting contracts, not quite enough to warrant investing in
dedicated equipment or logistics systems, but enough to require adding a separate step in the process
to manually sort incoming linens for direction to the proper production line. Johnson considered this
workflow a thorn in the side of his plan to boost the efficiency of both plants. Separating their
workloads by focusing on specific product lines - food and beverage in one and medical and hotel linens
in the other - would speed and streamline the process, eliminate any potential for error in separation
and allow workers to develop expertise in the textiles and chemistry of each product line. “We
had a long term strategy in place that called for continuous improvements in production
efficiency,” says Johnson. “Efficiency creates capacity without requiring investments in
facilities or new equipment and that allows us the flexibility to grow as markets grow without having
to incur exorbitant capital costs to meet demand.”
When Johnson’s team made an acquisition of
upwards of 25,000 pounds per week of medical linens, he saw the additional volume as an opportunity to
separate the workflow of his two plants and bring their operations more in line with corporate
strategy. This meant equipping the Elm Street plant to specialize in medical and hotel linens and the
Cook Street plant for food and beverage linens. To make room on Elm Street and accommodate the extra
volume, Johnson wanted to transfer the 10,000 pounds per week of food and beverage linens to Cook
Street. This would eliminate the sorting process altogether. But the transfer also required
transferring the American eight roll Super Sylon ironer through which the linens were pressed.
Dismantling an ironer of this size, transporting it
safely through busy city streets and then reassembling it properly was no easy task. Completing it in a
single weekend without disrupting production at either plant required particular expertise.
That’s when Johnson called ...
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Proper waxing keeps your
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When the economy was humming
along, the laundry industry was already paying close attention to cutting costs. In recent years, many
of the investments in equipment were made to capture savings in energy, water, chemicals or to save on
other costs. Now that the economy is humming along more quietly it may seem quite a challenge to find
other ways to save.
Even if you have already implemented a wave of cost
control initiatives, held staff meetings to stress the importance of cost controls and scoured your
operation for cost saving opportunities, please remember the easiest place to find savings is in
equipment maintenance. It’s not as glamorous as spending on new equipment that runs more
efficiently than older equipment but establishing and following a routine maintenance program saves on
energy costs, saves on equipment repair costs and prevents the unplanned downtime that could cripple
productivity and lose a customer. And it costs almost nothing. It also boosts quality and ensures
throughput will meet the high rates you used to calculate how productive your operation should
Call me anytime with questions or email firstname.lastname@example.org.