RIPON, Wis. — As technological advancements continue to make huge strides in all walks of life — healthcare, home entertainment, etc. — it’s only natural that the neighborhood coin laundry joins the “revolution.”
Many equipment manufacturers are offering technology-based products. These advances have not only made the laundry experience more convenient and accessible for tech-savvy customers, they have begun to streamline coin laundry management for owners.
In the coin laundry industry, technology is still a fairly new concept. As such, long-time laundry owners and established customers may be fairly apprehensive about changing business practices.
“I’ve been primarily involved in restaurants and car washes, and in terms of technology and automation, these industries are more advanced than Laundromats,” says Jeff DeGroot, president of Fuel Supply Inc., an operator of restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations, which now has coin laundries.
From DeGroot’s standpoint as a relative newcomer, it takes time for people to adapt to new technology, no matter the industry.
“As word gets out that it’s not an ‘evil empire of technology,’ users will begin to see how their coin laundry stores can benefit from it,” DeGroot says.
New technology means new business applications and potentially new ideas for revenue streams and cost reductions. Owners can educate themselves about the benefits and limitations to the technology they are using compared to new technological possibilities. However, technological advancements can have their pitfalls.
“Understanding technology and how to use it is a drawback,” says Jim Rogers, vice president of Statewide USA, a Florida laundry equipment distributor. “Coin laundry owners need to understand that technology and computers aren’t always perfect.”
There is a certain amount of training that needs to be done in order for a laundry owner to properly operate a business-management system. For example, to satisfy operator needs, Statewide USA has developed a training program to assist owners in fully understanding the scope of its management technology.
TECHNOLOGY AS A BUSINESS TOOL
In recent years, manufacturers of coin laundry equipment have begun to emphasize business-management programs. Designed to make a laundry owner’s life easier, the programs are not without their misconceptions.
One misconception is that these programs can or may replace ownership responsibility. In reality, they only serve as an aid to owners in managing their laundries.
“Business-management systems are not designed to be a substitute for ownership, but as a back-up tool,” explains Kevin Hietpas, Huebsch national sales manager.
Designed to offer assistance with accounting, billing and monitoring, business-management systems should produce enough data for owners to make informed decisions.
“With the additional information and monitoring from the reports that are generated with a business-management program, owners take less risk when it comes to making decisions and operating their businesses,” says Craig Dakauskas, Speed Queen national sales manager.
With features such as report generation, these business-management systems provide the necessary data to run a laundry.
“The secret to good management is not only common sense and experience, but the ability to use data,” adds Rogers.
The numbers can reveal plenty to a laundry owner. For example, they can confirm what days of the week and times of the day the laundry is busy or slow. They can be used for accounting purposes and they can even show which machines receive the most use.
Figuring out what to do with the raw numbers can be a challenge for any coin laundry owner. One major drawback can be the overanalysis of the data.
“Just because a Laundromat owner receives a vast amount of data, not all of it will be relevant to his or her operation,” says Hietpas. “As an operator the challenge is to find the aspects that are most relevant to the store.”
Be selective with the data you are using. Whether you are charting daily revenues, comparing utility bills to customer usage or reviewing expenditures, the data is a means to confirm what laundry owners believe is going on in their stores on a daily basis.
Business-management programs also offer a degree of improved flexibility, especially to owners with multiple locations. A good business-management system should provide laundry owners with a centralized location to manage all of their properties.
“Because our headquarters is in Dallas and we have Laundromats outside of the area, with our business-management system I can monitor each store from my office,” says DeGroot.
For added monitoring, U.S. Restaurant Group is in the process of adding a remote security system so they can also visually see what is going on in the laundries.
There is also improved flexibility in pricing for customer promotions. With most of the programs on the market today, coin laundry owners have the ability to set special time-of-day, day-of-week pricing such as senior citizen’s day.
“With this technology owners can branch out into promotional marketing, an area that as an industry we haven’t gone too far into,” says Dakauskas.
Technology has opened avenues that many owners probably thought that they would never see. For years, owners have achieved success relying on different business approaches, including the by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach. While intuition has served many owners well, having the ability to confirm judgements through technology and data is invaluable.