CHICAGO — Every development project intended to produce a newly constructed self-service laundry is similar in what needs to be accomplished to get from point A to point B and so on.
But the manner in which the project progresses from these points and beyond can vary widely depending on many factors. There are forces that project principals are able to control and forces that they cannot, any of which can influence a project’s timing and cost.
Laundry equipment distributors are often involved throughout the process, with representatives providing assistance with demographics analysis and site selection all the way to equipment installation and store opening preparation. At times, they’ll find themselves coordinating the project by virtue of their experience specific to laundromat development.
Along a project timeline lies milestones or signposts—tasks that must be achieved for an investor’s laundromat dream to become a reality.
“Well, my father used to say, ‘Without a plan, you have a plan to fail.’ So, you know, when you have a plan, you’ll know when you’re on target,” says Jeff Seele, president of distributor Sav-A-Day Laundry Machinery in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights, Missouri.
“A timeline doesn’t mean that you’re going to be 100% successful but lack of a timeline means you will 100% fail,” asserts Todd Santoro, president of distributor CleanWash Laundry Systems, Omaha, Nebraska.
In Part 1, we took a look at the average timeframe for store creation. Let’s conclude:
When the project timeline reaches the point of construction and equipment installation, an investor shouldn’t be surprised to see multiple tradesmen working in a coordinated effort. Oftentimes, the completion of one task leads directly into the beginning of another.
“Once we do all the underground plumbing and it gets inspected and we’re able to re-concrete the floor, then we could start to deliver the (laundry) equipment,” says Larry Vladimir, regional sales manager for distributor Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Sales, covering the Philadelphia market. “So that’s a big sign for me, because it allows me to start delivering the equipment.”
“First of all, (the timeline) gives you a much better idea and goals to reach in specific timeframes, as opposed to just doing it catch as catch can,” says Russ Arbuckle, president of distributor Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment S.E., Southside, Alabama, of a timeline’s value.
“If I know I need to reach this signpost two weeks in, four weeks in, six weeks in, it certainly gives you the ability to put pressure on whomever you need to and try and keep everything moving forward and not having a lot of lag time between different signposts.”
He recommends customers keep him involved when they meet with the general contractor (GC), and have weekly or biweekly construction meetings for the best chance of sticking to the established schedule.
“It allows me to interact with the subs, because at the end of the day, we’re the last guys there. Most subcontractors, if they’ve never done a (laundry) store before, have no idea what’s involved.”
“We have, almost every couple of days, a quick phone call with our GC,” says Santoro. “We have a once-a-week sub meeting with ‘What are the fires? What do we need to solve for?’”
Work may be ongoing in multiple areas, particularly when a project is approaching its targeted completion date.
“I mean, this is (the owner’s) baby … and they want to get it open sooner rather than later,” Seele says. “But we’ve just got to make sure that everybody else understands the importance of every week. You gotta be on the site. We gotta be getting things done because when you’re done with this, then he can do his. If you don’t do yours, we can’t do ours, and it’s the domino effect.”
Milestones have what Santoro calls “dependencies.” For example, he tries to schedule dryer installations at the last possible minute to prevent drywall workers from dropping excess “mud” on the machines. But workers responsible for venting aren’t concerned about drywall and can be held up because the dryers aren’t in place.
“If we don’t negotiate each of those milestones and dependencies, we end up with lots of things that have to be redone, either on our dime, the contractor’s dime or the owner’s dime,” Santoro says. “And that’s what makes milestones tremendously important for us.”
KEEP THINGS MOVING
Working within a project timeline takes measures of both patience and flexibility. Whenever something happens to slow a project down, it’s time to find other areas where things can keep moving.
“The best thing you could do to keep that more or less under control and do the best you can with it is communicate,” says Cliff Ross, vice president of sales for Metropolitan Laundry Machinery Sales, covering the New Jersey market. “You have to communicate with the other members of your team. The contractors, the architects, the attorneys, you know, and try to at least keep the ball rolling from our point of view. We can’t control what’s external to that but we can make sure that we’re in the right positions.”
“Well, when you have a timeline, everybody has the same goal and we try to keep everybody, you know, going the right direction,” Seele says. “If there is a pause, if there’s something that’s kind of run off the rails, we can bring ’em back.
“We can say, ‘Yeah, we’re not getting electric, or the power company’s going to delay us.’ When everybody knows where we are, they will adjust their schedule. Suddenly, if we’re ahead of schedule, I may come and bring in more machines sooner. If we’re behind, I may start talking to somebody and we may delay a shipment of machines.”
“I think during construction period, you can certainly move things around based on contractor availability or time of year,” Ross says. “Where you may not be able to make roof penetrations in the Northeast in February, you can do a lot of other work.
“I think we try to be flexible with that, too. Until you get to the point where the permits are issued, it doesn’t really matter what order you do things in, they all have to be accomplished.”
Finally, once completed through the stops and starts, another laundromat opens its doors and our industry grows just a bit larger. It was all part of the timeline.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].