BOSTON — Wash Cycle Laundry is used to being unique in the laundry and linen services industry.
When the company started in Philadelphia in 2010, it used a bicycle and trailer to pick up and deliver goods for residents and businesses.
It was also a social enterprise, providing jobs for people needing second chances in life and using efficient laundry technology to lessen environmental impact.
In 2013 and 2014, because of its growth, the company branched out to Washington, D.C., and expanded to the Boston area in 2018, where Wash Cycle found continued success.
Success that pushed the Chelsea facility to its limits.
“We had filled our first Boston-area plant to capacity and were bursting at the seams,” says Gabriel Mandujano, founder and CEO of Wash Cycle Laundry.
“At the same time, our landlord was eager to transform our old building into something new and was willing to let us out of our lease early.”
The company found a former farm plant in Lynn, Mass., to renovate and equip.
“We were able to more than double our footprint and increase our capacity to match,” Mandujano shares.
And the move afforded it another chance to be unique in the industry—being the first laundry with an equipment installation from the Sea-lion America Company.
“Sea-lion makes a great product, and although they are new to this market, they are very committed to the U.S.,” says Mandujano. “We had some experience with machines they manufactured but sold under a different brand name, and I was confident they knew how to build a solid washing machine.
“I know there are risks and costs with being the ‘first,’ but the Sea-lion team is competent, committed, and in it for the long haul, and we trusted their commitments to fix whatever hiccups would come up along the way.
“They also have a great engineering team at their factory.”
There was a grand opening ribbon-cutting for the installation on Oct. 25 with the Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce and the North Shore Latinos Business Association.
Sea-lion’s reputation, and LinkedIn connections, were key to forging a relationship with Wash Cycle Laundry, says Ed Kirejczyk, president of Sea-lion America Company.
“Sea-lion needed an entrepreneurial spirit to take a chance on a foreign brand and, after several rounds of conversations, found that in Gabriel,” he shares. “Wash Cycle also had prior experience with a Sea-lion made product and was open to listen to our proposal.
“When investing in a new plant, you need a stable supplier partner and while quite established in other markets, Sea-lion is a relative unknown in the North America market. Our offer was substantial in the design layout, equipment selections and commitment to after-sales support that gave Wash Cycle sufficient confidence to feel that the reward was worth the risk.”
The Lynn site represents Sea-lion’s first tunnel washer system and high-speed serpentine ironing line installed in North America.
“The ‘Laundry Dragon’ tunnel washer system is well-proven in Asian markets and can be attested by the rapid start-up and commissioning at Wash Cycle,” Kirejczyk says.
The tunnel has been officially commissioned, Intertek certified, and turned over to the Wash Cycle team, so Mandujano says the company is “flying solo” at this point.
“When customers come to the plant, they’re very impressed by the look and capacity of the tunnel, plus the dashboards and reporting it can offer,” he shares.
Mandujano says he’s accustomed to brand-new laundry equipment needing a lot of tweaks and sometimes a few replacement components before it’s ready for production use.
“I think everybody was pleasantly surprised when we were able to put production laundry through the tunnel line on its second day of commissioning,” he says.
“With some of the smaller equipment, there were definitely a few items that needed tweaks, but Sea Lion’s techs and factory were very responsive with fixes.
“Otherwise, no news is usually the best news, and we’ve barely heard anything.”
Kirejczyk says the serpentine ironer is a finishing process that is unique, yet fast and produces exceptional results.
“Although it seems like a complicated design, it is quite stable and straightforward once understood,” he points out.
“Installing these systems in the USA is a significant milestone for Sea-lion, as we are a technological and market leader in Asia looking to expand our global presence.”
Mandujano says that for Wash Cycle, the installation is an on-ramp to greater scale, sustainability and automation.
“Our business plan is to partner with quality hotel operators over the long term rather than simply chasing volume, so we don’t spend a lot of time counting how many millions of pounds of laundry we process,” he shares. “I’d rather let a machine sit idle than sell a customer that is constantly in a state of emergency.
“That said, adding a tunnel for us means that there’s really no client in our market that’s ‘too big’ for us. We can credibly tell anybody that we can handle their peak demand in less than a shift, with great quality and reliability.”
Kirejczyk points out that any business needs good employees, reliable suppliers and reasonable customers to succeed.
“As business partners, Wash Cycle and Sea-lion have similar social goals,” he says. “Wash Cycle prides itself as a resource for second-chance employment. Part of Sea-lion’s corporate mission is to pay back what has made it successful.
“These similar social-responsibility goals rate high on the corporate beliefs of both companies and show that ‘Together, we create a clean world.’”
Mandujano says that customer response to the plant has been strong, and he hopes to fill it to capacity.
“With the equipment, we’re really looking forward to digging into its programming and utility usage per pound processed to see how much we can optimize those metrics,” he shares.
“Working with Sea-lion in the future—I’m both an automation enthusiast and skeptic, so in the future, I’m looking forward to considering where we can add further automation in Lynn or elsewhere, but in such a way that it doesn’t outstrip the capabilities of our team to manage it effectively.
“Sea-lion’s somewhat unique in that they manufacture just about every machine in the plant, plus automation between them, and as a pretty vertically integrated manufacturer, there are a lot of possibilities.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].