REPORTAGE – High technology and human factor measure the competitiveness in laundries

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Travelling across the market subjected to continuous and hectic changes where industrial laundries adapt to clients’ needs and artisan laundries acquire the mindset and processes of industrial type instead. And where the concept of team work conveyed to the employees can still turn out to be the ace in the hole. It is important to be aware of the social value these companies constitute, self service included

 

Gerardo Delli Bovi, the owner of D.B.G. SERVICE LABORATORY, dry cleaner’s and laundry from Sedriano, Milan says: “Two years ago, when the company’s income was decreasing, I gathered all the employees and thoroughly explained all the reasons why the turnover had been going down together with our capability of being competitive. In particular, two critical and intersected factors came out: a drop in productivity and a weak capacity of adaptation to the market and to its requests in terms of services, even before the costs”.

Two years later, the crisis is well over, to the point that in 2017, Delli Bovi can say the following about his business: “Once we all understood that we were sailing the same boat, we were able to build a team and turn the page. Today, the production levels keep up with the quality again which D.B.G. perceives as a pleasure and an obligation towards our clients. Their number has increased thanks to some solutions we applied. First of all, our opening hours have changed. We open at 6 o’clock in the morning because, situated along a busy road with heavy traffic, we hoped to intercept the commuters on their way to work. We managed to: between 6 and 7 o’clock a.m. about ten clients pass by our laboratory daily, most of them are our usual clients. It is a great way to start a new day”.

Starting the Detergo focus dedicated to the query “How can we increase the competitiveness in a laundry?”, it seemed suitable to chose this kind of a witness, a proven “insider” as he has underlined the importance of human resources that translates to involvement and team work in a company projected into the future. Another, fundamental variable is constituted by technology, a leverage on costs and tasks acquisition which does not always combine with the creation and preservation of new work places.

Giuseppe Conti, the owner of A13 (accessories for laundries) summed up his views this way: “Today, competitiveness is born from collaboration and partnership. Close relations between clients and suppliers allow to obtain results that are the base for considering a product and a service competitive”. “An expert competitiveness – Conti explains – does not originate from the possibility of entering the market and charging less or trying to offer any kind of products as long as the client chooses you and not your competitor. Instead, it rather consists of providing the clients with what they really need even if this could mean giving up on an easy and immediate profit”.

In the light of these considerations, the focus-reportage that you are about to read concerns quite exiting man-machine dialectics in terms of the entire laundry business future. Because of the vast variety and a great number of answers, we divided the work into three chapters; each one is dedicated to a separate segment that composes the laundry sector.

 

ARTISAN LAUNDRY BUSINESSES

We define them this way not really in deference to tradition, to family businesses and dry cleaners that are actually about to die out, apart from the glorious historical businesses, but because the word “artisan”, apart from preserving its irreplaceable value of creativity, the dynamics and the capacity of interacting with the reality, also projects these aspects into the future. “As a matter of fact – says Andrea Corazza, the Sales Director at ELECTROLUX ITALIA (washing machines) – today, an artisan laundry’s communication ways include a Facebook page through which it connects to their usual and potential clients”.

“We actually feel the necessity to carry out the feasibility studies as far as the possible development of artisan laundries is concerned – explains Livio Bassan, the Managing Director at CHRISTEYNS ITALIA (chemical products for laundries) – because today, they certainly are unique of their kind: on the one hand, they need to have entrepreneurial mindset so that they can plan on investments and targets. On the other hand, however, they work on the market relying on their deep knowledge of the territory they operate in. There is no need to be competitive while purchasing a new hydrocarbon machine if I do not really know what clients I will use it for. Will I start to compete with some other laundry that offers the same service? How far is it from my headquarters? What is its history?”

The territory is the key word also in the analysis by Corinna Mapelli, the co-owner of TREVIL (ironing machines). “Where do I operate? What potential clients live near my laundry business? What kind of competitors am I facing? These are efficient questions to start with – engineer Mapelli claims. – If I begin with these inquiries while making an investment, I will have understood whether it is convenient to finalize it in case of e.g. a carpet washing machine because this kind of service might be missing in a 10-kilometer area range. Or maybe it should be better to upgrade the logistics so that I can withdraw and deliver linen to the new hypermarkets in the area”.

“Certainly, all of this is possible due to the professionalism of the staff –Corinna Mapelli continues – because in some stages of work it becomes strictly decisive, like in the passage from ironing station to the transport system”.

“I observe the industrial laundries that specialize and focus on market niches, and I see, at the same time, artisan laundries develop up to the point of becoming small industries – adds Carlo Miotto, the Sales Director at IMESA (washing machines). – The business is there on purpose to welcome the birth of new hybrid models, that I personally find really stimulating. By optimizing the available resources like the complete traceability of garments – also an artisan laundry with the right mindset and not only right machines, can service a small nursing home in an competitive way providing each of the one hundred inpatients with perfectly washed elastic socks. With the great satisfaction of the management that can rely on the suppliers they have established business relations with”.

 

Marco Boccola, the Sales Director at ILSA (washing machines) makes an original choice. “I would rather have a client of our company speak for us – he explains – because there is a deep harmony between our company mission and their high grade of competitiveness”. The client turns out to be Roberto Agostinetto, the owner of a dry-cleaning centre, Centro Lavasecco Agos. “Our brand – Agostinetto says – is composed of eight stores and two tailor’s shops situated in the north-east of Italy. These are artisan businesses making part of an industrial structure as certified by 40 people among the owners, employees and collaborators, and by the constant technological update starting from text messages to a total garment traceability and high ironing technology. We adopted the solution of texting the clients fifteen years ago. We inform them that the garment is ready to be withdrawn”.

“All this allows to reach goals such as the alliance with the Swedish giant, Ikea. – Agostinetto continues – We guarantee laundry services in Ikea commercial centres, e.g. Le Tiare di Villesse with its 180 shops. The idea is to share the low cost, therefore I manage to guarantee quality ironing services charging 3 euro for ironing a pair of trousers. We optimize the workforce and high technology Ikea style”.

Local and global together, known as “glocal” philosophy. Also Walter Cividini, the Managing Director at FIMAS (ironing machines) fully promotes the idea when he says that “also for an artisan launderer it is actually necessary to acquire competitiveness mode of an industry, yet remaining small and based out of a big city. It means occupying free market room left behind in the proper territory by guaranteeing small tailoring services or special services like shoes washing, which is quite common now abroad. As for the machines that repair shoe heels and shoe soles, and make keys too, should the need be, one needs to initially invest three or four thousand euros that are destined to return over the next couple of years”.

 

Marco Niccolini, the Sales Director at RENZACCI (washing machines) concludes on the topic of the post-artisan, at this point, laundries: “Competitiveness has made the investors grow making the structures and work cycles better performing – claims Niccolini. – What has revealed to be successful today, are the accessories e.g. disinfection and odour elimination, which is strictly connected to the global and all-inclusive concept of Cleanliness endorsed by the successful ozone treatment cabinets”.

“In such context, – Niccolini continues – the bio dry-cleaning through the innovative techniques of natural cleaning can guarantee a comforting turnover. If it was not this way, the demonstrative campuses on the bio factor would be deserted whereas, on the contrary, we register a great number of attendees”.

 

INDUSTRIAL LAUNDRY

 

It is again Marco Niccolini (Renzacci) who opens the chapter of industrial laundries on the role of competition. “Inside such impressive market changes – he explains – industrial laundries are also changing face, even if less visibly when compared to artisan businesses, yet radically. The income margins grow on the basis of the capacity to supply sure, quick and customized rental service: smaller volumes but at the same time more significant as far as the quality of the service is concerned”.

Andrea Perata, the Division Manager, Textile Care at ECOLAB (chemical products) intervenes on the subject: “Workwear sector is the one where competitiveness will definitely turn out to be more and more decisive. The sector is sharply growing both in Italy ad in Europe – explains Perata and adds: “In this context, laundries will compete on the most difficult stains removal such as those produced by mineral oils deriving from food processing industry, yet protecting the most delicate fabrics and the high visible, reflective parts of workwear together with the fireproof protective garments”.

“To use sports vocabulary, another race track – Perata continues – concerns low temperatures, certified disinfection processes: 55 degrees for workwear and 40 for hospitality sector linen. Laundries going in this direction can decrease energy consumption levels and reduce the stress that the fabrics undergo while obtaining a double result: preserve the necessary technical properties over time and bring out the touch quality and wearability of washed garments”.

“Industrial laundries can win the challenge by combining the quality of services and the management of resources” is the point of view by Livio Bassan (Christeyns). He makes some examples: “It is clearly perceived in health care sector where businesses often need to face the puzzling Dutch auctions while they actually need to preserve the indispensable quality principles as we are talking about hygiene here. As far as restaurants are concerned, competitiveness pushes the laundries towards the highest possible dynamicity as it can be seen through the colour range of linen available on the market today. In this case, who chooses original colours, nice looking and easy to wash linen, is definitely travelling one step ahead”.

Following this stream of thoughts, Carlo Miotto (Imesa) alleges that “among industrial laundries, the one that chooses the most simple way of technological update, will get all the advantages: ergonomic solutions, affordable costs, likely income. It is, however, fundamental to know that every change is never definite nor last, therefore it would be necessary to direct the resources towards the next one coming up so that we are not caught unprepared”.

Stenilio Morazzini, the CEO at MONTEGA (chemical solutions for textile businesses) dictates a precise guideline as far as competition goes. “Today, the market offers everything that one needs to sharply lower the washing temperatures, to count on optimal drying time and to rely on the best purification plants possible”. “Currently, green washing processes – Morazzini explains – have no higher costs anymore. Moreover, low temperatures and low alkalinity guarantee a long life cycle of fabrics. That is why, the possibility of being strong and nice at the same time while fully dominating the competition is right there”.

 

“Competitiveness derives from products indeed – adds Claudio Montanari, the owner of MONTANARI (transport systems) – but also from the cost formulated thanks to the deep knowledge of the market where one operates. Today, an industrial laundry cannot do everything anymore, dividing itself between servicing restuarants, nursing homes, hotels”. “In this regard, –Montanari claims – what is actually fundamental is the planning. It is true that new flatwork ironers can iron and fold double as much as they used to just a few years ago, but what is important today, is to optimize these machines by keeping them always ready, automatically, without manually operated trolleys nor personnel”.

 

 

SELF SERVICE

 

Finally, talking about self service, Andrea Corazza (ELECTROLUX ITALIA) underlines socially relevant topics. “A busy tourist location – he declares – is complete if equipped with an adequate number of self-service laundries for tourists, able to guarantee services to hotels as well. Also in big cities, the competition between self-service laundries can be won by focusing on unanswered services such as washing pet accessories or covers used in horse stables”.

“In any case and in any place – Corazza concludes – self service works if it welcomes clients who stop for half an hour during the washing time. Therefore, I believe they should be equipped with wi-fi, a small library that offers free books exchange and vending machines”.

“When a self-service owner – adds Carlo Miotto (Imesa) – understands that they are not dealing with users but with clients to be satisfied through services, they will win the competition”.