CHICAGO — With today’s consumers looking to conserve their personal time for pursuits that are more fun than doing their laundry, more and more self-service laundromats offering wash/dry/fold are adding pickup and delivery to their offerings.
Smartphones that enable users to handle virtually every detail have fueled the public’s embrace of services that come right to their doorstep. COVID-19’s 2020 arrival in the U.S. pushed interest in pickup and delivery—PUD, for short—for laundry and other services to new heights.
But before a laundromat takes the leap—hits the road?—there are some things to consider. After all, it would be foolish to think that adding transportation to the production mix wouldn’t create some new challenges.
And thus American Coin-Op is posting a three-part series this year on incorporating pickup and delivery, starting this month with a look at labor and workflow (it opened by introducing three PUD service providers and describing what was involved in getting them started). Let’s continue by looking at the associated labor pains and physical plant changes.
LABOR PAINS AND TRAINING
The obvious change in labor by adding PUD is the new driver position or positions. And as volume picks up, it may become necessary to add more attendants and/or additional work shifts.
Matt Simmons, who runs Super Suds Laundromat in Long Beach, California, with brother Aaron, thinks that deciding how and when to staff grows easier the busier a laundry becomes because the PUD order volume aids in calculating labor needs by day.
As an operation grows in scale, its leadership may need to broaden the scope of positions working on PUD WDF, according to Mark Vlaskamp, co-owner and managing partner of The Folde, a laundry pickup and delivery service that relies on laundromats it owns in Houston and Austin, Texas, as processing hubs. For example, The Folde employs workers whose primary task is to load washers or to move goods from warehousing to processing.
“Everyone is jumping into (PUD) but I think owners are trying to figure out what that sweet spot is,” Vlaskamp says. “Some people want a laundromat with two attendants and just to keep those attendants busy, and that’s awesome. Get an attendant, get a driver, and you can make good extra margin and revenue on that.
“But you’ve got to figure out how long you’re keeping your foot on the gas, because if you keep it on the gas, it turns more and more into a warehouse and logistics and you do really have to reach that next level.”
The laundry process turnaround for customer delivery is “non-negotiable,” says Colleen Unema, owner of Brio Laundry in Bellingham, Washington, so staffing—and staff training—is critical.
“We already knew how to do laundry, and make money at it,” she says. “Now the trick is to merge two streams of incoming laundry into the established process — and produce two streams of laundry, one for in-house and one for delivery.
“Keeping it sorted, tagged, prepared for a car ride and porch delivery in all kinds of weather, sometimes common sense isn’t there, so training becomes very, very important.”
But the Brio turnover rate was such that Unema felt she was training “over and over again.” So she created Brio Laundry University, an online learning management system featuring training videos, worksheets and quizzes.
“They get to see what to do, when, how, and what the quality control standards are. We will require all of our attendants to take and pass the classes. It is very detailed and puts into a system how to do laundry in a production-style process. The only way to make money doing laundry is to think ‘production.’”
While every laundromat is similar, few are identical. So each physical layout comes with its own unique challenges. But a standard laundromat layout is a good starting point for doing WDF and coordinating PUD, Vlaskamp says.
“There is a point where a traditional laundromat setup becomes inefficient and you have to start gearing your processes toward assembly line, like a Henry Ford-type setup, warehouse-type setup,” he adds.
Upon adding PUD, Brio put in stainless steel rolling racks with secure coverings and designated a staging area for incoming soiled laundry, says Unema.
Additional storage space becomes a need once PUD is added.
“In a way, some of the most valuable space at our laundromat is the storage to be able to store the clothes,” says Simmons, who describes Super Suds emptying out in the morning as PUD deliveries are made but filling up by 8 that night with the day’s pickups. “And you need to have the right machine mix to process all the clothes, as well. And you also need to have, as you get busier, flexible staffing.”
“I’ve seen creative takes on cabinetry, going vertical with floor-to-ceiling shelves, anything you can do to get extra space,” says Vlaskamp, whose company takes advantage of the area behind its dryers to store goods before washing. “It speaks to literally every bit of space is valuable. Most people don’t really use that space back there, and we’re cramming it up to the ceiling.”
Within the framework of order tracking, clearly designating spots along the production path (“...this is folding table 6, this is machine 112, this is this, this is that...”), while not really a physical change, makes it easier for everyone to follow orders throughout the process, he adds.
Coming in Tuesday’s conclusion: The impact on workflow, and getting your laundry business into PUD
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .