Dear Santa: It never hurts to ask
It’s a little weird writing this holiday column because I write these well in advance. It’s summer time as I type and here I go again with my traditional trip to Santa’s knee.
For the past decade, I have fantasized about products that don’t exist for shirt launderers but probably should and I write about them in my December column.
A few years ago, I wished for some sort of “pace-setter” or production tracker on a body press and now at least two manufacturers have something like that. I am going to up the ante this year.
Based on my best recollections of my childhood, I know that if I wish for many small things, the chances of being completely ignored by Santa are much less than if I wish for one or two really big things, but hey, I’m swinging for the fences here.
I only want a couple of things this year, but they are big! When I was 14, I wanted a mini-bike. It never happened. Forty years later, I bought a Harley. I wonder if that taught Santa a lesson?
I am still as production oriented as ever because it is more important than ever. I still see gross examples of labor waste. Typically two people on a double-buck shirt unit are producing around 70 shirts per hour. You may think that this is OK, but it’s driving you to the poor house.
If you are operating a double buck, the secret to good productivity is being able to dress the buck that you just undressed quickly enough so that it is ready to go in just before the heads release off the previous shirt.
On a typical rotary double-buck shirt unit, the presser has about 30 seconds to unload the just-pressed shirt and tie it onto a collar cone, and dress the next shirt and index it by pressing the buttons to send it in.
We all know that this involves numerous steps so I think that we need a few small signs or pictographs or even photos that advance at a calculated rate to yield a desired production level. Let’s see if we can walk through this. Engineers, take note.
Let’s picture a set of 4" x 4" square signs in a vertical row in front of the body press operator, on the left-hand side for presses that are unloaded to the left and on the right side for presses that are unloaded to the right.
The first sign lights up when the buck that was just being pressed returns to the dressing position. Light number one flashes:
UNDRESS (the engineers will think of another word. Remember, I don’t engineer this stuff, I just think it up), LOAD CONE.
This light flashes slowly for 4.5 seconds and then more quickly for a second and a half. Then a beep sound at a volume that is audible but nowhere near annoying.
There is a one-second pause between the time that this light extinguishes and the next one illuminates. This allows the presser to twist away from the collar cone and be ready to load the next shirt. The next light illuminates. DRESS BUCK.
This illuminates for three seconds. Then a beep and a one-second flash from the third light. It reads CLAMP COLLAR. Eleven seconds have passed.
The next light illuminates and it reads LEFT CUFF. This flashes for 3.5 seconds and blinks quickly for another two seconds. There is a one-second pause to allow the presser to move to the other side of the buck.
Light number 5 illuminates and it operates like the previous one, but it says RIGHT CUFF. Twenty-three seconds have passed and now the sixth light flashes: POSITION FRONT. It flashes for four seconds. Then the seventh light, CHECK BACK, flashes for three seconds and then finally INDEX NOW flashes feverishly.
Thirty seconds (the times are nothing more than an educated guess) and the buck is dressed!
The goal is to get the presser to keep up with the prompts. Tiny electric shocks for non-compliance was someone else’s idea.
I really think that this is a great idea! I could be convinced to endorse a Trainee – Average – Expert mode for this pace-setter, under the right conditions.
Those of you who have read my book, Labor Pains & Profit Drains, (Amazon.com) or Training the Trainer (Cleaner’s Supply), may remember that I endorse identifying at which step a presser is faltering.
Let’s say that you find that the presser is struggling with buttoning the button on the collar cone. The Trainee mode would allow you to add up to two seconds on any one step. A simple “10% increase across the board” would not be conducive to eventual improved production.
Now that I have you all excited about this 22nd Century shirt unit, 88 years early, check this out:
Tangled hangers make me crazy. Well, they make me wanna hang myself! If they aren’t tangled in the box, they are crossed up on the rail or in the collar cone. It is true that sometimes a presser’s production is affected because of tangled hangers!
Flashback! Do you remember when Midwest Hanger was still in business? At the trade shows, they had this miniature hanger-making machine at their booth, cranking out these doll-sized hangers that they gave away to passers-by. It was way cool!
Click on this link to see the hanger-making machine in action. (It’s really worth a look!)
Suppose that we make a low-production — two hangers a minute — version of this machine? Hmmm. I’m liking this. We are all too familiar with the issues regarding hangers. Suppose that we didn’t need to buy shirt hangers anymore? Suppose that instead of buying hangers, what we bought was a spool of #13 aluminum or galvanized wire (so they wouldn’t need to be painted) that would feed into a machine, maybe even a machine integrated into your favorite shirt press.
When the steam chests on the body unit release, this machine feeds a length of wire into the manipulator which swiftly folds the wire, twists the neck and makes the hook. The Cadillac version of this machine will hand the presser the hanger. In New England, we would call this “wicked pissah.”
Look Santa, you hosed me on the mini-bike. Gimme this will ya?
“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!” (Really.)