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Manual Bagging vs. Auto-bagging

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

All dry cleaners are feeling the labor crunch and are considering many ideas to save labor and time. Some are now turning to automation and investigating if machinery is worth the investment.

According to Richard Thum, owner of Five Star Cleaners in San Antonio, TX, the bagger assist automated bagger saves him time and money. After 10 years of using a bagger, Thum states, "I would definitely recommend it, if you have the room." Thum says he was able to eliminate 2-3 bagger positions. They used to pull employees off other jobs to bag clothes when a route driver needed to leave, but they haven't done that in a decade.

In addition to saving time and labor, Thum says that it's quicker, easy to operate, easier on his employees, reliable, and saves on plastic costs since it fits the bag directly to the clothes. He chose the bagger assist model (as seen in the video) so they can check the clothes for quality assurance, but there are fully automated baggers that don't need assistance.

Ian Noble of Rick's Cleaners in Austin, TX, averaged 18.6 seconds for his staff member to remove items off the rail, place it on the bagging stand, bag it and remove the order to place on the next line. With some assumptions, here are some possible savings to encourage an analysis at your plant.

Employee Hourly Rate: $12

Achievable Time Per Bagged Order: 20 seconds (this number will increase as the day goes on and the employee slows down). 3 orders per minute

# of Invoices/Orders Bagged: 400 orders

400 orders / 3 orders bagged per minute = 133.33 minutes

133.33 minutes = 2.22 hours

2.22hrs x $12/hr = $26.67 per day

If your plant operates 6 days per week, this equates to $160.02 weekly. If you operate 51 weeks per year (accounts for closures on major holidays), this costs $8,161.02.

These calculations assume no breaks or other jobs that occur in between customer bags. It only highlights time spent on bagging exclusively if that job was uninterrupted.

Owners and operators - use your own wages and timing to determine the true cost of bagging (labor portion only) and then compare that to the investment of an auto or semi-auto bagger. What is the break even point for your initial equipment investment? How long will it take to re-coup that cost and save money with new equipment?

Semi-auto bagging at Five Star Cleaners by Richard Thum

Manual bagging at Rick's Cleaners by Ian Noble

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