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.
There were a lot of “special features,” he recalled, but the one that sold him was the capability to control the temperature and the differential. The gas valve was controlled by a more precise thermostat, better regulating the flow of gas while keeping dryer temperatures at a level that would dry clothes in a reasonable time. That meant saving money on utilities but still keeping customers happy.
“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.
PROGRAMMABILITY OPENS DOOR TO PROFIT
Continental Girbau’s branded Express Laundry Centers utilize washers equipped with its ProfitPlus® Control.
“The ProfitPlus® Control delivers advanced programmability that sets laundries apart, satisfies customers’ need for wash options, and allows owners to boost profitability, simplify maintenance and improve store efficiency and marketability,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales and customer services for the commercial laundry equipment maker.
Based on the makeup of their laundry load and the soil level, customers choose from four primary cycles, but the control also gives them the option of adding an extra wash or rinse and/or a delicate cycle.
Martin “Marty” Mullican co-owns Owasso (Okla.) Express Laundry Center with his wife Lynn. The 4,200-square-foot store housing 42 washers and 44 dryers has been in operation 18 months and was profitable after 120 days. Besides serving walk-in customers, it offers wash-dry-fold service, does laundry for a few commercial accounts, and is starting pickup/delivery.
“Well over 50% of our customers choose a selection driving an up-sell,” says Mullican. “Those controls, as customer options, really add value on both sides of the transaction. For example, we’ve taught our customers that whenever doing bedding, a load of towels or jeans, always ask for an ‘Extra Rinse.’”
When coupled with a card system like CCI’s LaundryCard, “we can quickly and easily program our wash/rinse/extract cycle parameters and machine price settings, in penny increment if desired,” he adds.
“Anytime you can offer customers more choices and options, it sets you apart from the competition,” says Phil Irwin, with Waters Express Laundry Center in Tampa, Fla. “The control is absolutely impacting our bottom line.”
Dan Sofranko, who runs the Perfect Wash Express Laundry Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., says communication between the equipment controls and his store’s card system allows him to quickly change vend prices and programs on multiple machines simultaneously.
“From my cell phone, I can adjust equipment settings, issue new cards and change vend prices, remotely,” he says. “When the laundry first opened, I programmed eight days of free washes, which really brought people into the store.”
The ProfitPlus® Control comes standard on all new Continental Girbau vended washers, plus it’s available as a retrofit kit for older models.
In Part 2 coming Thursday: Management from afar