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Hot Irons (Part 2)

Inspection and training are key to a great finishing outcome

CHICAGO — Just as the name suggests, clothes and other items aren’t ready to go back to a dry cleaner’s customers before the finishing process is complete. Pressers and buck operators are crucial to providing the service clients expect and demand of their cleaners.

To explore the importance of this critical process, American Drycleaner reached out to four industry professionals to get their views — Carlyn Parker, director of operations at Dependable Cleaners in Boston; David Grippi, chief operating officer of Clean Franchise Brands; Sasha Ablitt, owner of Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners in Santa Barbara, California; and Jim Desjardins, president of Daisy Cleaners in Salem, New Hampshire.

In Part 1 of this series, we asked our professionals how the finishing process has evolved over the years, and today, we’ll be looking at the inspection and training processes they have put into place.

Q: What is your inspection process, both before the finishing process starts and after finishing? What does your staff look for, and how does the process work?

Ablitt: One of our philosophies is that everybody’s an inspector. Starting at mark-in, they sort for pre-spotting. After that, we have tall, small pant horses, where they put the stained garments on to do pre-spotting. And then, of course, the dry cleaner does the post-spotting when he hangs the clothes after cleaning. Then, the clothes go to the finishers, who all have red tape around so that if they find any stains, they can send it forward to alert the inspector. We do have a dedicated inspector who is also looking for stains.

So, the finishers are looking and the inspector is looking. Then, even at the very last step, which is scanning it onto the assembly machine, they’re also looking for anything that might be out of place. Really, everybody is expected to be an inspector.

Grippi: That’s a great question because I think that sometimes we lose that inspection process, and it’s very important. With the inspection process, when you’re hanging a garment out of the drycleaning machine or the dryer, you want to make sure that the clothes are hung on the hanger correctly. Make sure that the pockets are put back in place if they’re out of place, for instance, because when it gets to the presser, it makes it easier for them to finish. If you’re folding the garment over a hanger or just throwing them on a hanger, they’re just sitting there getting squished and the wrinkles get stuck.

After the garments have finished, you want to look at each piece, and especially the ones that really stand out. On suit coats, for example, the lapels should be nice and rolled. Always check pants to make sure you have only one crease and not double-creased. With casualwear pants, make sure that, if there are no creases, that means no creases anywhere. There shouldn’t be creases on the size of the pants; they should just be rolled on the side and no creases down the middle. And make sure you’re checking for loose threads for loose buttons. That’s all part of the finishing process and finishing the garment.

Parker: Both processes are pretty much the same. On the first inspection, you’re looking for any stains, rips, tears or anything on the piece that doesn’t look right. And then post-pressing, the finishing inspection is all about making it look perfect for your clients. So, it’s looking for those same things, but also looking at the quality of the pressing.

Q: What kind of training do you give to someone new to ironing and buck operations?

Grippi: One of the things that we try to train the new operators is how the equipment works, and what each piece and each activity of the press does — what the bottom steam does, what the top steam does, how the vacuum works, and so on. We also give them some background training so that the pressers know the difference between finishing a cotton garment, a linen, something that has acetate or something with a pile fabric, like wool or an angora sweater.

Parker: It’s one-on-one training with another presser, and they get on to the press by the end of the day. They do only a few garments during the first couple days, but they’re doing it. And then, within 30 days or so, they’re up to just about the minimum pieces that we want them to do — the minimum efficiencies. Since we pay by the piece, they’re incentivized because the faster they get up to quality and piecework, the more they can make.

Ablitt: Typically, the manager will do the safety training on the equipment first, and then the basic training. We always start people on the simplest equipment. Usually, new finishers are going to start on the shirt buck because, as I mentioned, that’s the easiest one for people to learn, and it gives them a good feel for what it’s like to work in the plant — it’s really like a factory in the back of the cleaners.

Once they get the hang of production flow, speed, and just general equipment usage and safety, we have a mentor for them — I like to train all my people in leadership skills, and I want them to think of themselves as coaches. We have about a two-month process, which may seem a little long, but I feel like giving them a good period of time really helps.

Come back Thursday for the conclusion of this series, where we’ll take a look at the talents of a great finisher and the role this process plays in the overall satisfaction of the customer. For Part 1, click HERE.