DENVER, N.C. — Bringing new products to market is never easy. It’s an undertaking that typically requires a tremendous amount of resources and capital. But what about reviving a once-popular piece of machinery that was no longer being produced?
This was the task for manufacturer Leonard Automatics, a company best known for producing steam tunnels that saw an opportunity to revive production of the Challenge Stack-N-Store multi-lane draping stacker.
The machine was once highly successful, is still widely used, and is known for being reliable, durable and cost-effective, Leonard says.
But the company also knew that in times of a slowly recovering economy and obvious uncertainty in world markets, any capital expenditures require careful consideration.
What’s more, Leonard had never ventured into the flatwork side of the laundry before.
“The decision was really pretty easy once we did the research behind the product,” says President Jeff Frushtick. “We are not going to sit back and worry about tomorrow; we are going to evaluate our opportunities just like we always have, and if it makes sense, we will commit the resources to make it happen.”
Leonard acquired the product assets in March. The goal was to put the initial project into production as quickly as possible, with the Clean Show to be the unveiling platform.
Leonard’s personnel had the daunting task of going through thousands of files, including engineering drawings, technical data and miscellaneous information.
Through the staff’s diligence and experience and the company’s entrepreneurial spirit, a fully operational Stack-N-Store was on the floor ready for display when the Clean Show opened.
The stacker accepts napkins, bib aprons, towels and other small pieces up to 22 inches wide right from an ironer and automatically stacks and counts them. Each lane stores up to five stacks of up to 250 pieces for a total capacity of 1,250 pieces.
Its automated efficiency means that one operator can easily handle 5,000 small pieces per hour and still have time for other duties, Leonard says.
The machine was a big hit with many attendees, the company says, and Frushtick says it will help Leonard to grow into other segments of the laundry industry.
Not only is the company filling a void left by the departure of Challenge, it is now able to assist laundry operators with technical support, parts, and new-project sales.
“Thankfully, the opportunity that was recognized at the beginning of the year and the amount of capital and energy expended has already proven to pay off,” he says.
Purchases were made on the show floor, and there has been additional sales and interest in the months since, says Dan Farnsworth, vice president of sales and marketing.
Not only has Leonard revived a missing piece of equipment, it has established the parts stream, technical support service, and a rebuild program for the many laundry companies that invested in the Stack-N-Store over the years.
“Instead of staying the course, this is the best time in years to be reaching out and investigating how to make all of our companies function better, more efficient, use less energy, and improve quality,” Frushtick says. “Sometimes you have to spend a little to gain a lot.
“Leonard Automatics decided this was a great time to invest in our company, in a new line of equipment, to firmly position ourselves for growth and the future.”