FORT WAYNE, Ind. — In nominating his Peerless Cleaners for a Plant Design Award, co-owner Steve Grashoff wrote, “We offer just about everything you can think of.”
Full-service dry cleaning, laundry, household items, draperies, wedding dresses, leather, suede, commercial linens, restoration work, even car mats—you name it, Peerless cleans it.
With the company occupying five floors of a downtown building built in the early 1900s, constantly moving product up and down ramps using a forklift or a trailer pulled by a golf cart became a daily challenge to maintaining productivity, according to Grashoff.
So, about two years ago, with the September 2015 expiration of Peerless’ lease on the horizon, he went in search of a new site.
Today, after a total investment that Grashoff pegs at $1.4 million, the result is a 32,800-square-foot, L-shaped, single-story plant that earned the Grand Prize for Best Plant Design in American Drycleaner’s 55th Annual Plant Design Awards competition.
After Peerless Cleaners purchased the former tire distribution center and took possession in December 2014, Grashoff, armed with a full set of original blueprints, began designing the drycleaning plant he and his staff wanted. Meanwhile, work began to thoroughly clean the building of tire residue that had accumulated throughout over the years.
Before he became involved in dry cleaning, Grashoff spent 20-plus years in the grocery business. The last five were spent developing supermarkets and remodeling and building new store locations, he says, so he had a good idea of what needed to be done to convert the former warehouse into a production facility.
“We had remodeled our existing facility several times and were achieving very good pieces per labor hour in our core business. I really wanted to take what we were doing in our Main Street plant and insert it in the Hillegas [Road] plant to maintain that productivity and not confuse our employees by totally changing the ship.”
Because of their familiarity with Peerless’ unique operations, Grashoff believed he and his management staff were best qualified to determine plant design. After taping off the desired layout and equipment placements, he brought in distributor Eagle Star Equipment to take measurements and fine-tune the design.
Peerless repainted the entire interior, ceiling, walls and production-area floors before moving in brand-new equipment: a boiler, drycleaning machines, washers, dryers and a conveyor system.
Before any existing equipment was moved from the original plant, it was rebuilt and painted white for a “clean look.” Inspiration for the latter came from seeing photos of Wooven’s Grand Prize-winning plant last year, Grashoff says.
Peerless began transitioning to its new plant in July 2015 and was fully operational there by the third week of the month.
Major production equipment includes a 100-hp Fulton boiler, two 90-pound Union K4 drycleaning machines, 10 Continental Girbau washers, eight Continental dryers, a Metalprogetti assembly system with autobagger, four Sankosha shirt units, a Railex garment conveyor, and a variety of drycleaning presses from Forenta, Unipress and Ajax.
Peerless uses Compassmax POS from Maineline Computer Systems. Chemicals and packaging supplies come from Tri Supply and Cleaner’s Supply.
What’s next for Peerless? “Volume,” Grashoff says.
“We want to be open to look at new opportunities and new markets. … This building can handle quite a bit more volume. We’re only a five-day-a-week operation, Monday through Friday. We know that we could work longer and more days if we can find more business.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.