How to set standards to determine pieces per operator per hour per finishing unit

With today's tight profits and difficult labor market it becomes more challenging and complex to fix a production standard for each step in the overall production process.  It is true that we want to determine the total number of pieces that the finishing units can produce realistically in a given hour.  This is known as pieces per operator per hour.  Since the dry cleaning operation is composed of many different types of garments, we must set standards for each step of the production process since the inspection, assembly and bagging of dry cleaned, wet cleaned or pressed garments are performed aggregately after finishing.
To accomplish this we must begin with the most important step in the production process.  Although finishing is not the first step, it is certainly the most productive step since it is the finishing people who determine whether the work will get out on time or not.  As I have often remarked: "One person can come in 3:00 AM and do cleaning for several pressers, but he/she cannot press for several pressers no matter what time he/she comes in."  Once we get the finishing department squared away on a suitable production standard, we can then turn our attention to the other supporting departments: cleaning and spotting, inspection, assembly and bagging.
There are many factors involved in determining a production standard for finishing:
The unit must be ergonomically correct.  All pieces of equipment must be placed within easy reach of the operator and at the right height.  The pieces must be placed in the most efficient order for rapid and easy "in" of unfinished garments and "out" of finished garments.  The rails must be at the proper height to avoid standing on tip toes to either remove or hang the garments.
Steam pressure too high produces steam that is too dry, and steam pressure too low produces steam that is to moist.  For dry cleaning finishing, the ideal steam pressure is 70 psig at the unit.  If the steam is too dry it will not remove wrinkles with ease, and if the steam is too moist it will require excessive vacuum time.  All steam traps must be in good working order.
If the air pressure is too low the press heads will work slowly.  Ideal air pressure at the unit is 75 psig.  The air must be dry and cool to be efficient.  An air pressure regulator should be installed at the compressor outlet line and set at a constant 80 psig to 85 psig (depending on the distance travelled).  The air line should be increased two sizes (minimum) larger than the outline size on the compressor (after the air passes through the air dryer/filter, pressure regulator and after cooler).  Three sizes larger is ideal.  Each machine should be equipped with its own air filter/trap with automatic drain.
The vacuum header should not be reduced in size from its outlet.  The vacuum unit should be sized double the number of machines it is servicing.  Each take off from the header should have a drain valve installed just before it enters the pressing machine.  A vertical check valve at the bottom nipple, below the tee pointing toward the machine's vacuum valve, will be closed when vacuum is on and will open when vacuum is turned off.  Otherwise, a hand gate valve will suffice. The amount of vacuum at the completion of steam pressing determines the quality and stability of the press job.  Too little vacuum will not preserve the press job, and too much vacuum will waste good production time.  Three to four seconds of vacuum (if all the factors above are present) will be sufficient.  However, over vacuuming is not as harmful as under vacuuming.
 Proper maintenance and cleanliness of the equipment is essential.  Management must inspect the equipment every day and actually operate each piece to make sure it is at its most productive capability.  Do not depend on the operator to report all deficiencies of the machines; see them for yourself since most times the operator will ignore a deficiency and not complain about it.  Press padding must be supple and clean.  Grid plates must not be damaged or dirty.
The area of the unit must be well ventilated and well lighted.  There must be no shadows over the equipment.  Padding, or carpeting, over the entire unit's floor will reduce operator fatigue in addition to comfortable shoes.  Cleanliness must be a prime concern since dirty press tables and heads are detrimental to good production and quality.
Going to the bathroom, taking breaks to relieve tension and fatigue, lunch, etc., are necessary functions.   In reality, a person cannot continuously work for the entire day without a break as we did "in the old days." Also, cold water must always be available and convenient to get.  A break room, today, is as essential as a boiler room; and a refrigerator, sink and stove are standard equipment.
All garments must be inspected closely for spots after cleaning to ensure that the presser will not be held up by returning a garment for spotting after it has been 75% pressed.  The spotter should hang all similar garments together on the unfinished rail and in the order of the units' location to the cleaning/spotting department.  The cleaner should ensure good cleaning with excellent solvent maintenance, and the drying cycles should be proper to ensure a wrinkle-free load after a cool-down cycle (as appropriate for perc or petroleum/hydrocarbon).  
If the volume is large, a distribution conveyor should be utilized for both feeding the press units and taking away of the finished garment to the inspection/assembly areas.  It has been proven many times that a presser will move more work when the unfinished garments are there in the finishing unit as opposed to an empty entrance to the unit.  The cleaning/spotting department must do all in its power to support the finishing units and keep the work moving.
It has been proven many times that an hourly worker is penalized if he/she works fast and rewarded if he/she works slowly.  The penalty is less hours, and the reward is more hours. An incentive can be in several forms: piece work, hourly bonus, go home sooner when work is finished with full day's pay, time off with pay for exceeding standard, etc.
Strange as it may seem, another incentive can be management's requirement that the operators attain the prescribed standard in order to retain their job and agreed salary.  In this regard a piece count is maintained and compared to the required standard.
Since the dry cleaning/spotting and wet cleaning departments will process all types of garments in support of all the dry cleaning/wet cleaning finishing units, it is almost impossible to determine the total pieces per operator hour involving all facets of this area of production as is the case with laundered shirts.

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