The laundry industry is constantly evolving. The previous impetus in the commercial sector, with facilities such as hospitals and hotels actively bringing the laundry process in-house, is becoming a victim of the harsh economies of scale in the sector. As the volume of laundry processed escalates, delivering profitability requires an increasingly sophisticated balancing act. Competition is fierce, and the margins are fine. Consequently, this is driving many to outsource to larger industrial laundry facilities, being unable to compete.
The pressures on in-house laundry managers are considerable. They are routinely taking on more responsibility, and this includes being acutely aware of developments in chemical dispensing systems, which enable them to keep up with the increased volume - while maintaining the edge on their competitors. Technology that can contribute to achieving or sustaining this advantage is fundamental and prized.
What any in-house laundry doesn’t need is any significant downtime. A failure of any of the key elements - that when combined contribute to a successful production life-cycle - is likely to impact very quickly on their bottom line. Launching a disruptive technology into this market is challenging. Especially if it claims to remove fundamental lifetime costs - currently factored in - and addresses issues of wear that have the potential to disturb the key premise of accurate chemical dosing. This is primarily down to the fact that chemical dispensing technology is at the very frontline of the process of fine-tuning that is required to keep a highlyautomated plant, with a considerable volume of material handling, in continuous and efficient operation.
The relentless pressure on overheads means that although companies operating in the commercial sector are extremely open to any innovation that will increase the results of their actual cleaning performance – it comes with the absolute proviso that the innovation also contributes equally to their ability to remain costeffective against the larger facilities. This is a balance of priorities that will be a familiar to anyone at the sharp end of the cleaning industry.
Conversely, this can produce a conservative response to new technology. Potential customers are invariably as concerned with negative effects as they are with any powerful testimony you provide. This is because it only takes a small negative impact, on the quality of the cleaning and the chemical costs involved to immediately affect margins and reputation – although this is revealed further down the line - rendering outsourcing unavoidable.
Those in-house laundries approached will often revert back to a narrow immediate focus in the face of new technology. With my existing margins so tight, how can I justify incurring the extra expense? Also; how quickly will the unit recoup my initial outlay? A broad approach is key to your response. Stress on the bigger picture - in particular, the costs and benefits of a unit over its entire life-cycle. This allows the end user and the chemical company to think holistically about not just the chemical, but the dosing system and consequently the effects on the laundry, including environmental and financial impact.
Share the science; such as demonstrating chemical compatibility and the accelerated lifetime testing process, to build confidence. Highlight expertise and the support for installation and beyond. Customers will attempt to find a weakness - as if what you are showing them is “too good to be true.” Work out costs so they can see a return and gain absolute certainty of the accuracy involved.
This is a vital part of innovation – moving past the industry, not just with the technology but in this process of working with customers to deliver them piece of mind. Differentiation is key; not just in proclaiming the disruptive technology but in lifting your approach from the standard sales claims of your competitors. Ultimately giving in-house laundries the technology they need to not just survive, but to compete on all levels.