Ask the expert – How to manage staff hours during inconsistent laundry orders

In this new regular feature for launderers and drycleaners we’ll be turning to industry specialist Andy Marsh for some expert guidance and sound, practical advice to help you to get the most out of your equipment and processes.

If you have a question for Andy, then please get in touch at editor@laundryandcleaningtoday.co.uk.

About Andy… Andy is an industry consultant with 25 years of experience across the sector. He has worked in most types of laundries and has designed and built some of UK’s finest operations. He started Marsh Project Solutions four years ago when he recognised that there was a need for independent advice in the industry. He has assisted clients with needs as diverse as machinery choice and supply, to energy saving equipment and water recycling systems. When it comes to laundry, he can pretty much assist wherever there is a need. Over to Andy…

Question

I seem to be having trouble ensuring that I have the right amount of staff to cope with the fluctuating volumes of linen that I must process. This means that my overtime bill is high. Is there any system that you have seen that can help me with this? My business is very seasonal and unpredictable mainly based on hospitality clients.

Andy says

Hello. This is a problem as old as laundries themselves. Predicting how busy your customers will be is like trying to predict what the great British summer will be like. But having said that, what is not unpredictable is the unpredictability itself! If you assume that volumes will fluctuate then you can plan accordingly. The trick is to be able to react to larger volumes (or smaller ones) quickly. In my experience I have seen two methods that have worked quite successfully. •

Method One: An annual hours bank. Assuming that you are very busy in the holiday periods (Easter, summer, Christmas) means that most likely you are very quiet in other parts of the year. This is an opportunity to let your staff finish early, when all the work is done. What you could do is pay the staff for the full day (or week) and “bank” the hours that they have not worked. When you get busy you can get the staff to work these “banked” hours as they have already been paid for them. In effect you pay them the same for each week of the year but some weeks they will work less hours and some weeks they will work more. It’s effectively an ‘average pay’ arrangement. It goes without saying that making any changes to employment contracts will need careful planning and consultation, and this method will only work if you have a high take up from staff.

Method Two: Rolling shift pattern. This method is particularly beneficial if you must run your laundry on a weekend. Your hospitality customers are open seven days a week and trying to process all their laundry in five days is problematic. Create a shift pattern where the staff work 4 x 9 hour days a week at a flat hourly rate. Each week their pattern moves forward a day, so in week one they work M/T/W/TH, in week two they work T/W/TH/F. In seven weeks, they will have worked the full pattern and be back to pattern one. Each day you will need a certain amount of staff to run the laundry. Make sure that on each day there are these amount of people ‘on shift’. So, if you need 12 people in work each day, Monday to Sunday, you will need 21 people on your staff roster to cover this (don’t worry the maths is sound!). The upshot of this is that on any given working day you will have 12 people ‘on shift’ and nine people ‘off shift’. Agree with the staff that they might have to work an extra day per week (at an agreed rate) when the laundry gets busy. The benefit for you is that at any given time you will have extra people not on shift that you can ask to come and work at short notice. The secondary benefit is that you are running your laundry seven days a week at a given cost (no overtime). The benefit for the staff is that they only work a four-day week, yes, they will be working weekends in this shift pattern, but having three days a week off compensates for this. They can also earn extra, when shifts are available. You can also cover holiday and sickness more easily this way. OK this sounds complicated, but it is not really. Anyone interested can contact me for a more detailed explanation. Again, ensure that any employment contract changes are handled correctly.

Good luck. For more detailed advice contact Andy Marsh

In this new regular feature for launderers and drycleaners we’ll be turning to industry specialist Andy Marsh for some expert guidance and sound, practical advice to help you to get the most out of your equipment and processes.

If you have a question for Andy, then please get in touch at editor@laundryandcleaningtoday.co.uk.

About Andy… Andy is an industry consultant with 25 years of experience across the sector. He has worked in most types of laundries and has designed and built some of UK’s finest operations. He started Marsh Project Solutions four years ago when he recognised that there was a need for independent advice in the industry. He has assisted clients with needs as diverse as machinery choice and supply, to energy saving equipment and water recycling systems. When it comes to laundry, he can pretty much assist wherever there is a need. Over to Andy…

Question

I seem to be having trouble ensuring that I have the right amount of staff to cope with the fluctuating volumes of linen that I must process. This means that my overtime bill is high. Is there any system that you have seen that can help me with this? My business is very seasonal and unpredictable mainly based on hospitality clients.

Andy says

Hello. This is a problem as old as laundries themselves. Predicting how busy your customers will be is like trying to predict what the great British summer will be like. But having said that, what is not unpredictable is the unpredictability itself! If you assume that volumes will fluctuate then you can plan accordingly. The trick is to be able to react to larger volumes (or smaller ones) quickly. In my experience I have seen two methods that have worked quite successfully. •

Method One: An annual hours bank. Assuming that you are very busy in the holiday periods (Easter, summer, Christmas) means that most likely you are very quiet in other parts of the year. This is an opportunity to let your staff finish early, when all the work is done. What you could do is pay the staff for the full day (or week) and “bank” the hours that they have not worked. When you get busy you can get the staff to work these “banked” hours as they have already been paid for them. In effect you pay them the same for each week of the year but some weeks they will work less hours and some weeks they will work more. It’s effectively an ‘average pay’ arrangement. It goes without saying that making any changes to employment contracts will need careful planning and consultation, and this method will only work if you have a high take up from staff.

Method Two: Rolling shift pattern. This method is particularly beneficial if you must run your laundry on a weekend. Your hospitality customers are open seven days a week and trying to process all their laundry in five days is problematic. Create a shift pattern where the staff work 4 x 9 hour days a week at a flat hourly rate. Each week their pattern moves forward a day, so in week one they work M/T/W/TH, in week two they work T/W/TH/F. In seven weeks, they will have worked the full pattern and be back to pattern one. Each day you will need a certain amount of staff to run the laundry. Make sure that on each day there are these amount of people ‘on shift’. So, if you need 12 people in work each day, Monday to Sunday, you will need 21 people on your staff roster to cover this (don’t worry the maths is sound!). The upshot of this is that on any given working day you will have 12 people ‘on shift’ and nine people ‘off shift’. Agree with the staff that they might have to work an extra day per week (at an agreed rate) when the laundry gets busy. The benefit for you is that at any given time you will have extra people not on shift that you can ask to come and work at short notice. The secondary benefit is that you are running your laundry seven days a week at a given cost (no overtime). The benefit for the staff is that they only work a four-day week, yes, they will be working weekends in this shift pattern, but having three days a week off compensates for this. They can also earn extra, when shifts are available. You can also cover holiday and sickness more easily this way. OK this sounds complicated, but it is not really. Anyone interested can contact me for a more detailed explanation. Again, ensure that any employment contract changes are handled correctly.

Good luck. For more detailed advice contact Andy Marsh

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