Updated: Nov 28, 2021
The heart of every successful laundry operation is working equipment. Think about it. If your machines are not working, you’re not making money. If you’re not making money (or not what you should be making), then you need to make changes so that you do.
I thought I would introduce some forward thinking when it comes to adding or replacing equipment. I will also dabble in analyzing your equipment sizes and “level/size” pricing for your market. Laundry equipment for this discussion is washers and dryers only.
When looking for equipment, you should be sure that there is “brand” recognition, with what you purchase. Well known brands have parts locally and readily obtainable and repair technicians in the area can fix them. Not so much with "off brands". "Off” brands may sound really good financially, but frequently, parts are hard to find and even more challenging, is trying to find repair technicians willing to work on the machines.
Have you ever heard of the phrase, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" (Benjamin Franklin, 1736). Buying well known brands most likely will cost a bit more up front but when they need servicing, when they are down and it does happen, solutions are closer at hand meaning less down time, less loss of money and less customer dissatisfaction Well known brands mean more techs doing their service; more parts available, and less time down. Less time down means, more money in your pockets.
Did you know that laundry equipment has two lives: Physical life and Economic life. Physical life means just that, the machine itself, i.e. the washer or dryer. The Economic life means what it costs you to keep the machine up and running well. The physical life will always outstrip the economic life. Huh? Think of a car, a brand-new shiny car. Drive it new off of the lot and your maintenance bills will be mostly the cost of an oil change. Now, drive that same car, every day on the freeways of L.A. and after two or three years, do you think your maintenance bills will be limited to just oil changes?
Washers and dryers have lots of moving parts and like everything else parts wear out. You can replace the parts and do so successfully for many years. At some point “fixing” that washer or dryer will cost you more than replacing it with a new one. That is when the Economic Life of the machine is over. It costs more to keep an old washer or dryer alive then purchase a new one. From the customer perspective, broken machines mean the owner is not attentive to their needs. Broken machines do not encourage new customers, they turn them away. Stable customers, grow weary of broken machines, waiting for an open dryer or washer and they will move on to a new laundromat. There goes your customer base. There goes their money and your dream!
At some point, it is worth taking out a loan and buy the best machines for your laundromat.
When do you consider this step; because it is a big step. Do you replace machines like for like or do you seek to maximize your profits and evaluate the equipment mix also known as the “energy” of your laundry to maximize your profitability? Before you decide on what type of washers or dryers to buy, in what ratio or "mix" there are some other considerations.
We will focus on your collections and your local competition. Local competition is defined as all laundromats within a half a mile radius.
Let’s start out with your collections and see how many Turns Per Day (TPD) (same as cycles per day) you are doing in your laundry. Divide the specific collections (per size of machine, or the load for each machine, (i.e. a 30 pound washer, 40 pound washer, 80 pound washer) by the vend price, by the number of days collected, by the number of machines to arrive at your TPD.
Next, survey the local competition. Yes, get in your car and drive to your competition. Throw a load in one of their machines and sit and observe. Take written notes about the laundry operations. How many washers and dryers, how many of each size or load capacity, what is the vend price, who does the machine accept payment, i.e. quarters, cards, credit cards, apple pay, so forth, and an estimate of the age of the machine. When you use the dryers make sure you write down how long they give you in time for your payment, i.e. fifteen minutes for .25 cents. How many laundry carts do they have? How many machines are out of order?
Do this for each and every laundry within one half of a mile in all directions, from your laundromat. I know it’s a lot of work, but just think about all of that information you will learn about your marketplace. Or if you are not inclined, pay someone to do it for you. But make sure they know exactly what information you need and give them a form to fill out so they understand what exactly you are looking for.
Do a spread sheet showing the quantity, size and vend price of each machine for every laundry you visit. Once this is done, look for the “hole!” See if there is a machine size that the local marketplace just doesn’t have. Figure out how you can incorporate that machine size into your laundry. Or perhaps one size isn’t represented enough like the other machines. Perhaps there are too few of a particular size. Look at the vend prices. Try and maintain at least $1.00 in between each size. One last thing about the vend prices: your prices should be at or above the poundage rating for the machines. For example, if you have a 40lb front load washer, the minimum that you should be charging for that machine is $4.50 per vend.
All of this information is needed before you decide on what size (load) of machine to buy, in what quantity, in what ratio to each other machine, including the ratio between washers and dryers.
Andrew J Cunningham is a 36 year industry veteran located in Southern California. He is an author, broker, consultant and an operational guru. Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 310-951-4556