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Improving the Industry Roundtable: Water/Energy Conservation; Impact of Smartphones

Utility usage will always be important part of laundry equation

CHICAGO — With the last calendar page flipping to reveal another year has passed, how would you rate your self-service laundry operation? Do you think it has improved, has gotten worse, or is about the same?

The self-service laundry industry, while well-established, is still subject to internal and external influences. The basics of your laundry operations are largely unchanged but there are factors at play when it comes to building your business.

American Coin-Op invited representatives from several manufacturers and distributors, along with some store owners, to size up the industry today compared to five years ago, to identify opportunities for stores to improve, and to establish the manufacturer’s, distributor’s and store owner’s roles in moving this industry forward.

Q: How do water conservation and energy savings figure into a store owner’s future success?

Chad LangeSales DirectorMaytag Commercial Laundry

Managing utility costs—which tend to be one of the bigger expenses for a vended store owner—is extremely important. Taking steps to conserve water and energy can help directly address these costs to help a store’s bottom line. Closely monitoring operations, running machines efficiently and replacing older equipment can really make a difference. Owners should rely on their manufacturer and distributor as trusted resources to identify the best ways to address utility costs.

Kathryn RowenNorth American Sales ManagerHuebsch

Efficiency is a significant contributor to the overall success of a Laundromat. One of the most important services we and our distributors provide to existing store owners that have equipment seven years or older is an analysis of what they could save by retooling their stores. Often, the savings can pay for the note on the loan. Plus, they get the added benefit of shiny new equipment that can earn a higher vend. It’s simple: better profitability is the result of earning a higher vend with more efficient machines.

Tod SorensenRegional Sales ManagerContinental GirbauVice PresidentContinental Girbau West

A laundry can save tens of thousands of dollars annually by investing in energy-efficient, soft-mount equipment. It can also save through efficient water heaters, store lighting, insulation, etc.

Gary GauthierNational Sales Manager, Vended LaundriesPellerin Milnor Corp.

Vended laundries re-sell utilities — water, gas and electricity — to our customers. When we sell something, we need to know our costs for that item and market capacity for it. Reducing water and energy consumption within our processes simply allows us to re-sell utilities at higher margins for improved cash flow.

Kevin HietpasDirector of SalesDexter Laundry

For many, many years now, our industry has been ahead of the curve on energy efficiency, and for as long as a store’s utility bills are a major cost of doing business, the conservation of water and energy will be an important part of the equation. Beyond just making new models as energy-efficient as possible, we’ve made our new Electronic Pressure Sensor retrofittable to older models, so those machines can have as much of today’s efficiency as possible.

Q: How has our society’s growing usage of smartphones and tablets impacted—and will continue to impact—self-service laundries, including wash-dry-fold operations?

Rowen: Smartphones are ubiquitous. They are far more than communication tools. Virtually anything from games and movies to news and banking are only two clicks away; the world is flatter than ever. The faster that smart proprietors can adapt to the level of service and convenience that has become the norm in our “instant gratification” society, the more successful they will be.

Sorensen: Smartphones are the future of operating and buying everything. Tech-savvy laundries utilize smartphone apps that allow customers to see available machines at a laundry before they even arrive; purchase and operate washers and dryers; and track the status of their loads, among others. There’s no doubt smartphone technology will only increase.

Gauthier: Our industry’s first experiences with mobile technology in vended laundries gave us things like text messages to machine users and handheld reporting to store owners. Thanks to mobile wallets, we’re now seeing a wide variety of payment options for self-service machine use. Store owners are now able to better market, promote and sell their services, including wash-dry-fold. We’re just seeing the start of it!

Hietpas: With a smartphone being a part of most everyone’s daily life, utilizing this important item for store management (by owners) and for machine operations (by users) will only become more common. The key to maximizing the value, to both owners and users, will be making the use and operation as intuitive as possible. The more intuitive, and “frictionless,” that manufacturers can make their use, the faster we will see greater use — by both owners and users.

Lange: Advancements in today’s technology really have the potential to enhance the owner experience and a store’s operations. Machines with remote connectivity capabilities are now equipped to help owners do things like evaluate revenues, adjust pricing, modify cycles and provide credits from a tablet or smartphone. That way, owners can manage their store even when they aren’t there. Delivery of real-time data can help owners ensure their operations are as optimized as possible.

Customers will likely continue to respond to owners’ efforts in this area to improve satisfaction and retention, such as the ability to use an app or kiosk to view machine availability, cycle progress and pay for their services.

Coming Thursday: Do laundry owners bear a responsibility to the industry as a whole?