CHICAGO — It was a decade ago that Dion Marcionetti, president of commercial laundry equipment distributor Laundry Concepts, penned an article for American Coin-Op titled Technology: a Must-Have for New Stores.
In it, he recalled a time around 1990 that a “computer-operated piece of equipment was introduced into the laundry business.” He described a dryer equipped with a computer that allowed the operator to change the vend price by moving some switches in the controller.
“I made a conscious decision to only sell my customers computer-operated dryers,” he wrote. “In my mind, this started our industry’s computer age.”
If that was the dawn of the computer age in vended laundries, where do things stand now?
Technology available today combines equipment controls and programming into full-store management systems, enabling owners to adjust cost structure, reduce utility costs and increase revenue from any computer, anywhere in the world.
Today’s tech is capable of analyzing output average totals, turns per day and revenue details, as well as use time-of-day pricing. Machines can be set to charge premium prices when the store is at its busiest and offer specialty rates during off-peak hours to further maximize the revenue stream.
Cloud-based tools open up all sorts of possibilities by storing and accessing data and programs via the Internet instead of a host computer’s hard drive.
In this story, we’ll take a look at some of these equipment controls, examine how they’re benefitting store owners utilizing them, and get a sense of how controls are evolving.
At the Clean Show in Las Vegas this summer, Laundrylux unveiled LaundryPulse, an advanced cloud-based management tool, and LaundryPay, an app that allows Laundromat customers to pay using their cell phones. LaundryPulse works with all Electrolux and Wascomat Compass Pro washers and dryers, the company says.
“Successfully managing a self-service laundry today requires a great degree of control, competitiveness, flexibility and speed,” says John Olsen, senior vice president – vended & OPL products, for Laundrylux. “LaundryPulse technology lets our customers manage their business from anywhere at any time - 24/7. It gives the ability to see real-time revenue reports, adjust pricing, create promotional campaigns, machine utilization reports and more.
“With our payment app, LaundryPay, there’s no need for coins or cards. Laundromat customers simply download the app on their cell phone, log in, and then use it to pay for machine use. They can also use the app to see machine availability and to receive a notification when their wash is done and ready for the dryer.”
For several years, Huebsch has offered equipment with the Galaxy™ control, which enables a store owner to offer multi-level vend pricing, customizable cycle selections and modifiers, and time-of-day pricing.
Building off the control’s acceptance and success, Huebsch is now adding wireless access and cloud-based management tools. Huebsch Command™ will give store owners access to easy-to-understand data reports that show information such as store performance, as well as performance compared with their other locations; turns per day; revenue by machine capacity; and cycle modifier usage to assist with understanding what features customers utilize.
Huebsch Command can send service alerts via e-mail or text message or provide an at-a-glance error report showing any machine issues. The cloud-based system enables remote starts and changes to machine settings from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Huebsch introduced Galaxy controls around 2008, rolled out enhanced features over time, and starting marketing it more heavily in 2012, says Kathryn Rowen, North American sales manager for the brand. The addition of cloud-based management tools can be linked to the “speed and cadence of technology,” in combination with the expectations of sophisticated, savvy investors, she says.
“I didn’t know life without a smartphone until five years ago, and if you would’ve told me that it was going to be something that people would have attached, like an umbilical cord, to their bodies, I would be shocked,” Rowen says. “But that’s the reality of how people get, gain, gather and share information today. It’s the new reality.
“That’s the sort of speed and instantaneous information that our new, savvy investors expect, so that’s really what’s pushing us to continue to evolve the sort of products we’re launching in the market.”
Huebsch Command will be introduced with Galaxy 600 controls. At this time, the cloud-based system will be available on equipment with Galaxy 600 manufactured as of January 2017; it is not backwards compatible, Rowen says.
“The reality is, you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Rowen says. “Having this information available to the store owners is really critical.”
Speed Queen is building upon the acceptance of its Quantum Gold control by adding cloud-based SQ Insights and SQ Insights Professional. Quantum Gold gives owners a high level of control of their laundry business and the freedom to run it anywhere, anytime, the brand says. The financial reporting capabilities give owners a window into their store’s profitability, and owners can program, monitor, audit and diagnose any machine issues easily. As for customers, they have greater flexibility in tailoring wash cycles to their specific needs, and special features such as the “Lucky Cycle” reward them for their loyalty.
“Insights is a cloud-based management platform, so it’s machine management, facility/store management, a variety of management tasks,” says Scott Chiavetta, vice president, Customer One, and chief information officer for Alliance Laundry Systems. “It’s flexible, easy to use. Cloud-based, so there’s no software to install.”
The user-friendly system is designed to provide single- and multiple-store dashboard reports and on-the-go access to store data, in addition to remote management and configuration, as well as real-time alerts.
“Insights leverages our existing Quantum network platform, so for customers that have already leveraged Quantum networking or customers that have our high-end Quantum Gold control, the solution is backwards compatible with existing locations,” Chiavetta says.
Speed Queen Insights Professional leverages the Insights architecture (required) but adds to it a payment system. The mobile app-based system has a CRM (customer relationship management) component that allows store owners or route operators to gather information about users to directly market services to them, he explains, and hones in on which pieces of the operation they can optimize.
“Everything on both sides, the machine control side and the software side, is designed around increasing the profitability of our customers, of our distributors and route operators,” Chiavetta says. “When you look at Insights and Insights Pro, it’s really that next step. Anywhere in the world, Insights is giving them really detailed information about their operation and allowing them to make the right decisions around profitability.”
The Alliance Laundry Systems executive says his company’s product development efforts are less about seeing what other laundry equipment manufacturers are doing and more about watching consumer giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.
“I think consumer technology is where we are looking, not only from the perspective of controls but software as well,” Chiavetta says. “The consumer market is voting with their dollars on how they want things to look and how they want things to operate. Those consumer companies move very quickly, and we traditionally have a little bit longer development horizon, so hitching our wagons to them and taking the lessons they’re learning rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”
And so the computer age continues to speed ahead in the laundry industry, offering store owners and customers the tools they want and need to conduct business quickly and easily in a fast-paced world.
If you missed earlier parts of the story, you can them here: