CHICAGO — Conveyors are the arteries that carry work through your plant and help things flow.
“Conveyors are an essential part of any drycleaning business. It is how we move clothes throughout the plant. It allows us to access a large amount of clothes in a small space and a conveyor also allows us assemble orders without unnecessary steps.
“In simple terms a conveyor moves clothes from point A to point B. It stores clothes and allows us to access them quickly. It will save on space and increases the production flow by decreasing steps.”
That’s Kathy Benzinger, the president and owner of Benzinger’s Clothing Care in Buffalo, N.Y.
“A funny story about conveyors — I remember how difficult they are to operate when the power is out. There have been occasions when the store is open but the power is out and a customer needs their dry cleaning.
“We will have to shimmy between the conveyor and the wall to find the customer’s items or shimmy between two conveyors that are side by side. This is always good for a chuckle with the customers.”
“We have low ceilings so all of our conveyors are singles. I do know that up and down conveyors are great for those with less floor space and high ceilings.”
She points out: “We have a wonderful distributor/mechanic that guides us through all of our equipment purchases. The best part about conveyors is that you can build them to fit the space that you have. All I need to do is give him the space and he recommends the conveyor that works best for us and he will also install it.”
A little about herself: “Having a dream of owning my own business finally came true in 1998 when I was fired from the family drycleaning business for being a ‘trouble-maker.’ Looking back I think the term ‘trouble-maker’ meant that I had a vision that was different from the rest of the family.
“We completed our central plant and opened our second location in 1999 just south of Buffalo, N.Y., which we refer to as the SouthTowns. I oversee the operations with the help of 52 amazing employees.
“Twenty years later we currently have five locations and seven routes. Four years ago we rebranded our company. With the future in mind we changed our name from Benzinger’s Dry Cleaning to Benzinger’s Clothing Care.
“We knew that the future of our company would rest in the hands of the millennials. Their needs will change the industry and we wanted to be in position for that change.
“We specialize in dry cleaning, shirts and professional laundry service. We will clean almost any item that is made of fabric. We also have a full alteration department and offer a free home and office delivery service.”
Benzinger offers this thought for anyone thinking of buying one: “Conveyors always pay for themselves. They last forever and they save you time and money by decreasing the number of steps needed to move the work and it increases the efficiency of the operation.”
“We have clients who come in with their children specifically to our plant store because their children love to watch the conveyor spin. We have a conveyor in our plant store, not in our drop store. This is something I inherited. We have two separate conveyors, one holds drycleaning orders at arm level and one hold shirts and goes up in the air.”
That’s Monica Manter, VP, Balfurd Dry Cleaner in State College, Pa.
If she could do it over she says, “I would not want one that inclines. It does save space but when it breaks, and it will break, or the power goes out, climbing up a ladder to fetch orders is a nightmare.”
About having a conveyor, she says there are pros and cons: “At our drop store we have rails where orders are organized alphabetically. It makes pickup quicker since all of a clients’ orders are in one spot but it also relies on our CSRs ability to alphabetize correctly. With conveyors, the racking scan is pretty fool-proof and orders are usually where they are supposed to be.”
The Balfurd operation began in 1927 as a tailoring shop. Manter says: “I’m a 4th-generation owner-operator in the business. We specialize in delivery service, tailoring and general dry cleaning but also have a large fire restoration and linen and healthcare rental division that operates in a separate facility.”
Manter offers this helpful tip: “Train whoever is loading to load it evenly and distribute orders throughout the conveyor. The times when we have maintenance issues are when there are large gaps between orders. The conveyor needs to have the weight of orders evenly distributed to avoid the wheels from jumping.”
So be moving those clothes efficiently with conveyors, and get on with your flow.
To read Part 1, go HERE.