Clean 2015: Refinements Generate Enthusiasm (Part 1)

Diana Vollmer |

Small innovations safer, far less risky to embrace

SAN FRANCISCO — Excitement is the word that best describes Clean 2015 just completed in Atlanta. The excitement wasn’t generated by the innovation or the creativity, but emanated from the participants, both exhibitors and attendees alike.

The enthusiasm for the refinements that have been made to existing products, services and equipment was a large part of the upbeat atmosphere. But more importantly, the anticipation that the current upturn in the industry will continue into an even brighter future was prevalent and pervasive.

Past “lookers” placed orders. Education sessions were packed and directed at profitable expansion. In particular, the seminars targeted capturing the next generations that outnumber the aging baby boomers that the industry has relied on for so long. Many examples were highlighted describing successful forays into new areas of development. Most of the sessions were made available for review online through the sponsoring organization, so if you missed the original presentation, it may not be too late to access the material.

On the show floor, exhibitors showed that they had made strong efforts to improve your operations by presenting well-thought-out additions to their offerings.


One of the best aspects of the show was that the innovation presented there was through refinement of proven equipment and processes rather than dramatic leaps into the unknown that require a huge leap of faith and even greater investment risk. Small innovations are safer and far less risky to embrace.

Interactive Computer Screens on Equipment — Most of the equipment manufacturers have upgraded or added interactive computer screens that serve multiple purposes in addition to the previous program control. The possibilities include:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Identifying problem-solving alternatives
  • Maintenance schedules and monitoring
  • Training instructions
  • Specification and operating reference documents

Labor-Savings and -Management Tools — Although add-on productivity modules have been available from third-party sources for several years, one of the newest additions at this show was the factory-installed, built-in version.

These monitors provide built-in productivity counters, which have been expanded to include reporting, charts and historical tracking of productivity by operator for comparison against goals, averages and benchmarks. They are user-friendly, and therefore the equipment requires less skill and less training for optimum quality and productivity from the unit.

Automation Expansion — Additional processes have been automated to remove the risks of:

  • Unpredictable employee attendance due to illness, other obligations or lack of desire to show up;
  • Reduced skilled and dedicated employee availability due to the new, more dynamic economy and expanded employment opportunities; and
  • Ever-increasing cost of labor force through wage and benefits expense.

Equipment, by comparison, has a more predictable cost of acquisition and operation and a higher probability of being there whenever you need it to work.

Plug and Play — The equipment offerings that are available to smaller retail plants had been expanded even more than at past shows with:

  • Boiler-less alternatives that meet landlord requirements
  • Design that accommodates installation through standard doors with specifications that provide dimensions that are less than 36 inches wide

Alternative Solvents Expansion — More suppliers have added alternative solvents to their product lines.

Expansion of Heated Solvents — Solvents that had not provided for heated alternatives in the past have added that capability due to the positive reports from operators applying heat in their cleaning processes.

Sales and Marketing — Although the sales and marketing offerings outside the point-of-sale (POS) systems were limited, additions have been made to programs offered by suppliers in conjunction with their products, including:

  • Prompting sales and service staff to cross-sell, primarily with badges that suggest ideas
  • Prompting customers to ask questions with visual prompts
  • Providing on-site cross-sell ideas with targeted posters, videos and hang tags
  • Providing content for electronic messages and social media

Customer Relationship Management — The specialized marketing companies and the POS systems have developed programs for customer relationship management that are ever more customized to customer needs and media preferences. Be sure you are utilizing yours to maximum benefit and effect. If you don’t have a program, it is overdue for acquisition.

Reputation Management — Reputation management of ratings on Yelp and other rating services is proven to have a direct and positive correlation on sales growth. If you have no knowledge of how to do this or no time and/or desire to do it yourself, find someone who can manage this program for you. One example provided at Clean 2015 documented a 21% increase in sales over 11 months that mirrored the efforts of the reputation management program.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at [email protected], 415-577-6544.


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