While a variety of things helps make a self-service laundry successful, there’s no doubt that the equipment plays a vital role.
What are some of the newest equipment offerings? Can equipment become even more efficient? What lies ahead? We posed these questions, and others, to representatives from some of the industry’s major manufacturers.
“In responding to store owners’ appetite for larger, more profitable equipment, Dexter responded with updated 50-, 60- and 80-pound washers featuring new, larger door openings, and larger-capacity coin vaults,” says Kevin Hietpas, Dexter’s director of sales and marketing. “The new models are easier for customers to use, and they command higher vend prices, which makes those stores more profitable — a simple, but powerful, combination.”
Customer preferences drive future product development, and he sees customers asking for improved energy efficiency and better performance without sacrificing product reliability.
Two shifts are occurring. “The first is the number of larger-capacity machines that store owners are willing to install.” He sees many stores where 50% of the washers are what could be called large-capacity. Hietpas credits store owners for understanding what customers want, and also realizing that the larger and more expensive machines can still make stores more profitable.
The other shift is the emergence of large-capacity stack dryers. This is helpful because most stores have limited space, owners get more drying capacity into that limited space, and the drying capacity better matches the increased wash capacity, he adds.
[NP][/NP]“Store owners are definitely trying to keep their equipment longer, and Dexter distributors have had great attendance at service seminars this past year, as store owners try to keep their equipment in top condition.” Dexter tries to convey that laundry equipment is a long-term investment, he adds.
In terms of producing efficient washers and dryers, Hietpas gives the industry a 7+ on a 1-10 scale. “Customer interest in energy efficiency might be new for many other industries, but for vended laundries it is just part of the landscape that has always been there.”
One of the constants in the industry is that there is always a mix of “new blood” alongside experienced operators, he says. “Over the years, I have seen folks enter our industry from all walks of life, and they all bring a unique perspective and many interesting ideas.
“We can never forget that we are a retail business and cater to store users. The better we meet their needs, the more successful we’ll be.”
New Maytag Commercial Laundry equipment includes multiload, soft-mount coin washers (18-, 25- and 35-pound) featuring high-speed extraction of up to 350 Gs; Energy Advantage multiload, stack 30-pound dryers designed to save owners nearly 25% in energy and utility costs without increasing average dry times; and high-efficiency (HE) front loaders designed to cut utility costs up to 60% compared to older, conventional top loaders, says Randy Karn, Maytag Commercial Laundry national sales manager.
Whirlpool Commercial Laundry has developed its first high-efficiency (HE) front-load commercial washer which is ENERGY STAR- and CEE Tier II-qualified, meaning you can reduce laundry utility costs and, in select states, receive utility rebates, Karn says.
Like others, Karn says there is a company emphasis on water and energy efficiency. “Eco-friendly laundry machines go a long way in the eyes and pocketbooks of owners, operators and users,” he says.
Maytag and Whirlpool Commercial Laundry continue to test and evaluate machines to provide customers with the most efficient equipment possible, he adds. “Our new, state-of-the-art commercial laundry testing lab positions us to stay ahead of the industry technology and eco-friendly advances. Continual testing also allows us to maintain and even raise the bar for cleaning performance, ensuring that eco-efficiency and excellent "cleanability" do not have to be mutually exclusive.
[NP][/NP]“In a weakened economy, it seems self-service laundry operators are keeping equipment longer. However, in terms of dollars, operators would have a greater return on investment if they replaced their old washers and dryers with more energy-efficient machines.”
Rating equipment efficiency on a 1-10 scale, he says washers are an 8 or 9, and dryers are a 7 or 8. “Energy efficiency has already achieved significant advances, but as technology continues to evolve, there will be efficiency improvements in the machines.”
Looking ahead, Karn predicts that several factors will influence laundries. “The cost of utilities and space availability will determine the location of the facilities. The government, in a number of ways, could very well affect self-service laundries through incentive programs and agency-mandated regulations. New equipment and technological enhancements will also have an impact on the business.”
Cashless systems are also on the rise. “Cashless systems are customer-friendly and easy to use. Some systems offer programmable incentives and credit options, and give self-service operators the ability to track card usage and income.”