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Facing ‘Once in a Generation’ Challenges (Part 2)

To know where your company stands, you need to understand your numbers

While the events of the past two years have been, to say the least, challenging for the drycleaning industry, cleaners who took lessons from 2020 and 2021 have a better chance of enjoying a brighter 2022.

That was the theme of a webinar that gathered four industry experts together to discuss “The Industry’s Response to ‘Once in a Generation Challenges.’” The event was part of the three-day WinterFest Expo, a series of virtual workshops staged in January. It was co-sponsored by The Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA)Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA) in cooperation with the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

In Part 1 of this series, we examined information about on the drycleaning industry as a whole. Today, we’ll look at how to best use some of the information that cleaners can use based on their own company’s performance and customer trends.

Past and Present Performance

Brian Fish of Pier Cleaners in Rhode Island has a simple answer to why it’s crucial for owners to measure their company’s key performance indicators (KPIs): “Because what gets measured gets done.”

Fish says he finds that key performance indicators provide a focus for strategic and operational improvements. They also create an analytical base for decision-making and allow his team to remain focused on the areas that matter most for the profitability of his business.

“We want to make sure we’re measuring our company’s success versus our targets, objectives and industry standards,” Fish says, noting that this valuable data allows him to see how his company’s performance has changed over time. “We want to make sure that we’re judging ourselves versus what we’ve done in the past, not just versus the industry.”

KPIs also provide a solid base for performance reviews.

“These reviews become less opinion-based and more measured, which is crucial, especially as our labor costs are increasing,” Fish says. “We want to make sure that when we’re talking with our staff, we know exactly what they’re doing.”

Fish detailed some of the data he measures at Pier Cleaners, including incoming sales, piece counts, wash-dry-fold sales, and pieces per operator hour (PPOH).

Another critical KPI for Fish is customer flow.

“I want to make sure we’re not overstaffed at times because our customer flow was down,” he says. He found it was important to look at this set of data, because customer habits have changed since the pandemic. “Customer flow used to increase in the middle of the day,” he says, but the data shows that behavior has dropped off. “We saw some changes that indicated that we would be able to adjust our labor because of different trends we saw in 2020 and 2021.”

Using KPIs, Fish can check his company’s progress and compare it to previous years. This gives him actionable data, as well as a handle on what his costs actually have been at any given time — crucial information for setting prices.

“Having the information I need to make sure I’m pricing properly, and that I’m scheduling properly, are probably the biggest things that you can take away from any of these numbers,” he says.

The ability to track a team member’s productivity provides Fish with insight into where more training — or personnel changes — might be necessary.

“With it being so hard to find people right now, we don’t want to get rid of somebody just because they’re pressing 35 shirts an hour instead of 40 shirts an hour,” he says. “If that person is showing up every single day, and they’re doing a quality job, and there aren’t a ton of touchups, we can work with that person to get them to 40 shirts an hour.

“But if I’m tracking this properly, and I know that the person isn’t there half the time and they’re only doing 32 shirts an hour, then I know I need to be out looking for people.”

While tracking important KPIs takes some time and effort, Fish says that this task can become a simple — yet powerful — part of a manager’s day if it’s done regularly.

“I’ll take 15 minutes every day and input some data, but I’ll look into it a lot more once a week,” he says. “I’ll take a couple of hours, typically on a Monday morning or afternoon, and put together the numbers for the previous week into a report to give all the managers. Then, we’ll spend a couple of minutes on it at our weekly managers’ meeting so that everyone knows exactly where they stand and are able to use those numbers to forecast for scheduling for the next week.”

Come back Thursday for Part 3 of this series, when we’ll look at some of the factors out of a cleaner’s control — and how they can navigate potentially choppy waters. For Part 1, click HERE.

Person looking over business graphs

Caption: (Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .