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.
MANAGEMENT FROM AFAR
DexterLive controls are the brainchild of equipment maker Dexter Laundry and have been available for three years now. With them, store owners can solve problems and manage their businesses anytime, anywhere there is an Internet connection. DexterLive features the ability to start, reboot, or remove a machine from service remotely. There are state-of-the-art reporting features (revenue, machine usage, and cycle selection, for example), and e-mail alerts can keep an owner up-to-date on laundry status or signal when there’s a problem.
Every Dexter C-Series washer or dryer comes with free access to DexterLive.com, for programming and setting machine promotions. For more features, networking a store is relatively inexpensive, say company representatives.
“We want to give (store owners) the flexibility to run their business without having to be at their business,” says Jaimie Johnson, Dexter’s marketing manager. “We just see a need to let our customers live the life they want to, not the life they have to. Most people are trying to open laundries, looking to leave 9-to-5 jobs. They’re not really interested in spending their entire day at their laundries. And many have multiple stores. They’re not able to be at each store for a certain amount of hours each day.”
DexterLive’s ability to allow her to manage stores remotely is precisely what drew Deborah Dower to it. Dower owns four unattended stores in the Sacramento, Calif., suburbs, three of which are called Paradise Laundry.
“I don’t really use controls to look at my revenue, because my credit card readers do that, as well,” Dower says. “That’s an added benefit, not the reason that we upgraded all of our stores. It’s more about ease of programming. … I wouldn’t add a store that doesn’t have remote management.”
Ross Dodds, who co-owns attended Wash on Western in Hollywood, Calif., with husband Russel Pinkard, is equally enamored with DexterLive’s abilities, especially when one of his customers uses too much soap.
“My attendant can call me and say, ‘Washer 33 is so soapy,’ and I can go into the system remotely and say it’s ready for a final rinse and spin again,” he says. “We can take the opportunity to train our customer on what happened … and we saved them from spending another $3-4 on a 27-minute wash and rinse, by instead starting an 11-minute rinse for them.”
Electrical engineer Cody Millikin and the Dexter team releases DexterLive software/firmware updates every six months so even store owners who’ve had the system for a couple of years can have the “latest and greatest” version. Additionally, conversion kits are available to upgrade certain Dexter models dating back roughly 10 years.
Dower, whose background is in IT, having worked 25 years for Hewlett Packard, says the controls available to self-service laundries have evolved dramatically in just a short time.
“It’s kinda neat to see this low-tech industry, relatively speaking, has just grown by leaps and bounds in the last six, seven years for alternative pay systems and remote management,” she says. “We run our entire operation remotely.
“I can turn the lights on and off. I can unlock a door if somebody gets locked out. I can control the temperature in the store. And everything is on my iPad.”
In Tuesday’s conclusion: New releases and the cloud