Dirty Socks

I have heard people say that once you have experienced the power of Lean Six Sigma that you will never be the same. I can vouch for that. Process thinking and waste elimination will begin to infiltrate every part of your life – including how you do laundry. I never thought of laundry as a ‘process’ but after watching my husband do laundry, I realized that batch processing was prevalent in our house. Some of it I can deal with – at least the part where you collect laundry, put it through a wash cycle and load it in the dryer. It’s the batch processing of laundry after it has dried that needed to be addressed.

Here’s how my husband does it. Once the laundry is dry, he first hangs up the shirts. Next he unloads the remaining clean laundry in a basket and takes it upstairs where he places the basket on the floor next to the bed. It can sit here for hours or sometimes days. Next he picks things out of the basket and sorts them into piles on the bed (kid’s clothes, towels, etc). Next he goes to each pile and folds the pile and stacks it on the bed. Finally he takes the stack to the final location and either puts it away or leaves it sitting on the kid’s bed for them to put away (right – like that ever happens). Taa-daa, the laundry is finally done. From dry to final location the laundry was batched up to four times and could take up to three days.

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Being the process excellence zealot that I am, I advised him that changing his process to incorporate the concept of “one-piece-flow” would be much more efficient. For example, here’s my process. Get an item out of the dryer fold it and put it in the basket organized by where it needs to go. When complete, walk the basket up the back stairs making stops along the way – putting things in their place. I have cut the process down to one batch and have achieved a cycle time of 12 minutes.

After my husband told me what I could do with my one-piece-flow, he proceeded to batch the laundry. So what are the lessons learned?

1. One-piece-flow can drastically reduce cycle time

2. Cultural change is at the root of all efficiency gains

3. Batch processing is still better than having dirty socks!

Comments 4

  1. michael cardus

    Dirty socks! How great that you wrote this post. I agree. Once I was trained in Lean 6 Sigma I started viewing everything in cycle time and deviation cycles. One of my areas of process (with my wife) is toilet paper replenishment. Min/Max toilet paper is a must!

  2. Angi Lee

    Gianna, Thanks for Dirty Socks, LOL, and your continued energy and perspective on Six Sigma. It’s funny how Six Sigma permeates our thoughts, Irrespective of our location, we’re always looking for process improvements, much to our families delight or dismay!

  3. jennifer lopez

    I was told not to long ago that once you have learned about lean six sigma you would look at life in a totally new way. Boy is this true!

    This past weekend, I was in the shopping mood and ventured out to our local “everything” store. I had my eye on a table for sometime but knew that if I waited I would at some point be able to buy it on sale. Well this was the weekend. The table had been marked down, marked down and marked down again and came to a final amazing price of $17.99!!!!

    I of course bought the table and had a young kid help me out to my car to load this once in a life time deal. Did you catch that? Yes, I said car. I drive a PT Cruiser so I have a little room for play but not much. After a little thought I figured I could put a seat down, turn the table a little and with a little rope close the hatch about half way. The young man took my direction very well until it came to the actual tying of the rope.

    He wanted to do the way most would think to do it. He explained that he would cut the rope 4 times then tie to several different points. This is where LSS took over. To reduce the time and add safety, I took the rope and starting tying and in no time at all I had a very secure table using only one rope and one cute. The boy was amazed and stated that he had never seen a rope tied that way. He followed that with “you must go camping all the time”. I had to laugh because in my head it was all the Sigma kicking in. It’s funny how even simple things can be changed through use of Six Sigma.

  4. shaveta datta

    very nice article … i am impressed from this and will start thinking in same way.

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