VERSAILLES, Ky. — Every industry has them. Sometimes they are referred to as quick-buck artists or trunk slammers.
The laundry equipment industry is no different. There are plenty of folks out there who would love to sell you a piece of equipment and walk away.
But let’s be honest, they exist because there are customers out there who want the cheapest price possible and couldn’t care less about the infrastructure around these organizations … until something breaks down. Then, the customer realizes the lack of a service department, parts department, etc., can be costly and not worth the low price they paid up front.
Ours should always be a relationship business. The distributor should be relied on for far more than moving steel in and out of the laundry room.
No doubt, each member of the REM Co. team is committed to ensuring each customer gets the pinnacle of service and knows the value our company provides beyond commercial laundry equipment. I think that’s the level that the best in this business should be held to.
So, what can distributors bring to the table for laundry and linen services?
IDENTIFYING THE NEED
At its root, quality distribution is not about selling large machines; it’s about asking questions and providing solutions. That starts upfront by enlisting your distributor to perform a laundry room needs analysis. Certainly, not all distributors are qualified to do this.
A needs analysis looks at the current state of laundry demands and what they may look like in the future. The goal is to come up with the best solution. The finished product can serve as the facility’s roadmap for equipment replacement, laying out several equipment options as well as the cost savings each scenario can bring, versus the current laundry setup.
A laundry needs analysis document truly is the product of experience and specific industry knowledge. Again, not all distributors possess these skills and the in-depth understanding of a variety of industries, ranging from hospitality and long-term care to commercial laundries and athletic facilities.
The real value of a laundry needs analysis is that the document helps laundry managers position an upgrade of the operation with owners/general managers of the facility. Because all the information and potential savings are included in the document, it justifies the expenditure, versus just asking for capital to buy new equipment. Management sees the savings and return on the investment in labor, utilities and improved productivity.
Most any distributor can sell equipment that they think you need, but experienced distributors can provide this useful service, which can ultimately improve the operational efficiency of the laundry.
GETTING IT RIGHT
Once the operation has decided on a direction for equipment, a quality distributor can provide a wide range of services beyond just the washer-extractors and tumble dryers.
Financing can be a major boost to pushing a project forward. This is not something every equipment dealer can offer. For laundries that perhaps don’t have the means to accommodate a significant capital expense, financial services (or access to a manufacturer’s finance program) can help make a project happen.
There’s a difference between installing equipment and laundry planning. Lesser distributors will sell you equipment and, at best, maybe install it. However, the best in this business are focused on a well-thought-out approach.
For new construction and laundry retools, some distributors offer a laundry layout and design service. Laundry design seeks to lay out the facility to ensure not only overall efficiency, but also safety and ergonomics. You can’t minimize the value this brings to the table. Again, laundry design is rooted in experience and knowing the needs and challenges of operations, having been in and designed hundreds of facilities.
Your distributor can assist with a layout and design that creates not only a logical flow of laundry, but also one that reduces the risk of cross-contamination from soiled linens passing too closely to clean items.
Along with this, a quality distributor should be able to help pick out ancillary items, such as folding tables (accounting for them in the laundry design) and laundry carts. Don’t underestimate the value of this service. Talk to any laundry manager who is working with carts that don’t match up to the door openings on the laundry equipment they have, and they’ll explain how much of a hassle it is.
Quality service from a distributor will take things a step further to ensure your operation gets the right results. Let’s face it: The best, most efficient machines are only as smart as the operators. It’s important to rely on your distributor for staff training. For a quality distributor, this is a given. But there are plenty of others out there that install the units and wish you the best of luck.
You should be able to lean on your distributor to properly set up the equipment and ensure the correct programs are installed to match the loads you will process. From there, they can work with staff, getting them comfortable with how to use the machines. Only this type of service can make certain that the operation maximizes productivity and delivers on the efficiency (cost savings) promise of the machinery.
SETTING A BASELINE
One of the most important areas managers can lean on their distributor for, more than just installing or servicing equipment, is in continued monitoring of the operation.
Take, for instance, a hotel laundry. The manager’s view of the laundry efficiency world may only be of that operation or perhaps one or two more. However, an experienced distributor’s view is based on hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of hotel installs it has done. It knows what an operation that is highly productive and efficient looks like, versus one that is battling process issues that are impacting overall efficiency. Laundry management systems have made it easier to get an in-depth look, but operations still need a baseline.
Recently, my company did just that. In reviewing the laundry management system data for a nursing home, we noticed that the laundry processing cost was roughly 27 cents per pound. Experience tells us that’s high and worth digging further into the system data. There, we learned that there was extended downtime between cycles and efficiency was about 43%. By helping the operation tweak processes and retrain staff, efficiency rose to 74% and the processing cost per pound of laundry dropped to 21 cents.
As a distributor, we weren’t there to sell equipment, install equipment or fix equipment. This was about offering exemplary service, the type of service that only an experienced, well-staffed company can provide. There’s a value in that level of service. Just look at the savings number. The laundry was processing about 16,556 pounds of laundry a week. With those 6 cents per pound savings, that’s about $1,000 in savings a week.
This is a relationship business. Anyone can sell and install equipment, but only a full-service company with a large staff, a fleet of service vehicles and extensive parts inventory can ever truly be a partner in your success. Only this type of distributor can be your local expert and a true partner in your success. Some things are worth paying a little more. And believe me, if a machine goes down, it’s nice to know you have a partner with the parts and team to get it up and running fast.
Choose wisely and always opt for a distributor with a wide range of services to help with more than just selling a washer.