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The Dream Dry Cleaning Plant (If Money Were No Object)

Diana Vollmer |

SAN FRANCISCO — Do you dream of a new plant? Are you tired of “making do” with what you have? What would you include in your wish list for a new or renovated plant if you were not constrained by cash or space?

Of course, that is never the actuality and there are always constraints, but let’s suspend budgetary and space limitations momentarily and dream a bit.

In addition to the obvious basics for which there exist standard checklists, a state-of-the-art dry cleaning and laundry plant would include:

RETAIL STORE FRONT

Even in industrial locations, retail plant stores can generate substantial sales volume if they are well designed, appropriately marketed, and also professionally managed.

Some considerations and components that increase the probability of success for any dry cleaning store include:

PLANNING

  • Professional consumer profile analysis of passersby to gauge their propensity to buy your services—do they want cleaning and can they afford it?
  • Traffic count analysis; make separate pedestrian and vehicle counts by time of day and by traffic direction
  • Easily accessible major traffic arteries for shuttle, route and customer access
  • Easily accessible curb cuts to parking lot and drive-thru access for both entry and exit
  • High degree of visibility from all traffic directions and surrounding businesses and homes
  • Professional interior and exterior design
  • Attractive, attention-grabbing landscaping

STORE INTERIOR

  • Point-of-sale computer system integrated with production, customer management and communication, exception management reporting, billing, and your financial accounting system
  • Flat-screen TVs located at the customer’s eye level (whether they are standing in the store or sitting in their vehicle in the drive-thru) and featuring continually changing marketing messages that promote services and products to increase cross-sales to existing customers
  • Credentials that are organized and professionally presented within customer view
  • Visible, well-organized alterations department with a uniformed tailor or seamstress
  • Oversized alterations fitting room providing complete privacy and full-length mirrors on all walls, a call button so customers do not have to exit the room for assistance, a raised platform for pinning hems, a chair for the customer and/or the seamstress, and ample hooks and hangers for clothing (no storage of company supplies or equipment)
  • Specialty service consultation area, i.e. bridal
  • Professionally executed service displays (similar to professional retailer display) to promote various specialty services and products
  • Ample attractive shelving to store folded work
  • Easily accessible but visually separated mark-in area
  • Display units—shadow box and hinged frame—to display garments and posters
  • Surveillance camera system for safety, training, workflow review, and theft avoidance
  • Attractive, uncluttered counters with recessed computer monitors and keyboards
  • Glass-fronted display cases to highlight specialty services
  • Signage that is visible and memorable (interior and exterior)

DRIVE-THRU

  • Canopy that is visible and incorporates signage
  • Automated sliding double door (same for customer entrance)
  • 24/7 kiosk for automated order drop/pickup
  • Marketing messages along drive-thru wall and located at eye level for customers in their vehicles

 

PRODUCTION PLANT

GENERAL

  • Surveillance camera system with close-up on mark-in for garment capture
  • Quality checklist illustrations and charts for each product at relevant stations
  • Ample multi-level storage (both flat and hanging)
  • Excess boiler capacity for growth
  • On-demand hot water
  • Flexible access for equipment delivery and movement
  • Outflow water meter to reduce sewage charges
  • Ample full-spectrum lighting at all stations
  • Efficient air conditioning system
  • Media-equipped training area
  • Heat-seal bar-coding (temporary for delicates)
  • Scanners for item and production tracking
  • Auto-assembly (assisted assembly for smaller plants)
  • Automated distribution conveyor
  • Automated storage and sorting conveyor
  • Auto-bagger
  • Automated production tracking and posting board
  • Seal-coated floor (to aid in maintenance and cleaning)
  • Tall ceilings (14 feet plus) to allow for airflow/ventilation and flexibility in conveyor, storage and equipment configuration

DRY CLEANING DEPARTMENT

  • Effective, environmentally friendly solvents and chemicals
  • Wet cleaning system
  • Tensioning equipment
  • Steam tunnel for pre-conditioning and/or streamlined finishing
  • Tensioning double legger press
  • Tensioning topper
  • Coat-O-Matic form finisher
  • Sweater table

LAUNDRY DEPARTMENT

  • Flatwork ironer (120 inches or more in width to avoid creases)
  • Temperature-controlled soak sinks
  • Tensioning collar/cuffer
  • Tensioning heated collar cones
  • State-of-the-art shirt units
  • Tensioning unit for non-standard-sized shirts, blouses and lab coats
  • State-of-the-art programmable washers/dryers
  • Starch cooker to service customer demand for heavy starch
  • Shrink-wrap machine
  • Fine household linen blocking frame or table for ornate and vintage table clothes

SPECIALTY DEPARTMENTS

  • Leather spray booth
  • Shoeshine station
  • Garment restoration processing and storage areas
  • Disaster restoration processing and storage areas
  • Rug cleaning department
  • On-site cleaning system
  • Pillow refurbishing machine
  • Garment photography station for before-and-after photos (when appropriate)
  • Packaging area for specialty items

 

STAFF AREA

  • Internal staff communication system
  • Staff lunch/break room inside the plant
  • Comfortable staff break area outside of plant (out of customer view)

 

PLANT MAINTENANCE

  • Air hoses throughout to keep equipment clean and free of lint
  • Jet propeller-type fan for lint removal
  • Magnetized extension rod to pick up metal debris (i.e. pins and staples) on floors
  • Organized maintenance/tool area

 

FLEET

  • Van washing bay to maintain cleanliness of the fleet
  • Real-time fleet GPS tracking for flexible dispatch and service to immediate and added stops en route

 

SALES AND MARKETING DEPARTMENT

  • Call center
  • Materials development area
  • Professional-quality copier/printer

 

Clearly, this list is not comprehensive, but you may find it useful in planning the next additions to your current plant, a renovation of your existing plant, or a completely new plant at a new location.

Determine what additions are appropriate for your operation now and in the foreseeable future to best meet the goals and plans you have for growth. Expansion can be possible if excess space is subleased for a period of time until you need it for your higher-capacity requirements.

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 dvollmer@mfmi.com, 415-577-6544.

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