Washin Anniston Coin Laundry
Pell City, Ala.
I got into the self-service laundry business at a very rapid pace – three stores in seven months. The first laundry was a renovation of a closed-down store; the second was an operating, unattended store; and the third was an operating store, which was attended by the owner.
The last store provided my biggest challenge, as I jumped into running it myself – 12 hours a day, seven days a week, while renovating it at the same time.
My business plan was set up for unattended laundries only. That was a big part of the decision to get into this industry – no employees, no inventory and flexible hours. But the third store was three miles from my first store, had a solid drop-off business and was a good investment – but it was not built to be unattended.
So, I started to hire attendants and train them, but it was mainly just “follow me and watch what I do, and I’ll tell you if you do something wrong.” It was frustrating for them and me. I was moving fast and making things happen, and my attendants never seemed to have the same enthusiasm. Of course, many other owners will already know why – attendants are employees and don’t have the same investment in the business.
Finally, one of the employees I hired fit well into the business. In fact, she recently celebrated her four-year anniversary. This woman created some stability, and I was finally able to get the training processes in place and documented. Currently, I employ three attendants, working individually to cover 11 hours a day, seven days a week.
The biggest mistake here is that my work background includes more than 20 years with a major automotive manufacturer – where every step in the manufacturing and maintenance process is based on specific operational standards. I’d even been involved in developing these standards, but I initially didn’t believe that the same systems could be used in any size or type of business.
Today, my training has been reduced from weeks and endless phone calls with endless questions to only about five working shifts before attendants are capable of running the store themselves.
Also, giving my employees the ability to make the decisions regarding customer issues has given them more confidence and a sense of ownership. They all have more of a “manager mindset,” rather than an “employee mindset” now. Whenever an attendant brings an issue to me, I always ask, “What do you suggest we do?” This changes their mindset.
I wanted to share a story about the difference between burning your boats and bridges.
I can only go into general terms but I believe I can still make the point in this video. It’s not one of my smoothest videos as I was trying to cover the points I wanted to make and skip over the specifics. As you know I own some Laundromats and one of my stores has a Drop Off Service. People bring in their clothes and for a per pound rate we wash, dry, fold and package them for pickup.
This particular situation involved a large order that was dropped off and my attendants agreed to the amount offered before getting all the weights done.
Coin Laundry Bulkheads- Definition and Explanation
This is a term that many who have been in the Coin Laundry business for years talk about all of the time and we may forget that people that are new to the business are not familiar with all of the terminology.
As with many words they have evolved from the original meaning and morphed into something else.
We can pull out part of the term that it means a wall. Previously I worked in the paint facility of a automotive manufacturing plant. A bulkhead there referred to a part of a wall or a steel plate where the paint lines connected from one side to the other. Usually through a rows of fittings.
We are getting closer now.
In Laundromats the Bulkheads are the area behind the washers where the utilities are routed and connected.
The sizes vary depending on the size and type of the machines.
Older Laundromat normally had rows of Top Load washing machines. They backed up against a bulkhead that was run through the store. These tended to be short and narrow. Typically about the height of the back of the Top Load washer and about 12′ to 16′ across.
As machines got bigger these were sometimes modified to be taller the cover the back of the newer washers.
The contents of the bulkhead has not changed.
Power: This can be from 120 V to 240 V in most laundromats and could be single or 3 Phase. The connections are made directly in the back of the machine or through a standard plug and receptacle.
Electrical panels containing the breakers for the washers are normally mounted on the ends of the bulkhead to provide easy access for Service Techs and customers should a problem come up. The older Top Loader bulkheads had the electrical panels mounted under the top cover.
Although the height of the bulkhead was increased the depth was not as there were no other washers on this side of the bulkhead. If washers were added the bulkhead would need to be increased to at least 30″ deep.
Water:Hot and cold. Piping sizes have increased from 1/2″ up to 2″ depending on the size and amount of washers connected to each bulkhead. Each washer will have a minimum of 1 Hot and 1 Cold connection. Some have additional connections for feeding the chemicals (soap) trays so the flow can be adjusted to prevent the soap tray from overflowing or spraying out the top. These can be connected with a Y connection after the valve or with a separate connection to the piping. The main water pipes are sometimes referred to as Header pipes (Headers). Each connection will have a valve at the header.
The timers on most washing machines do not actually run until the washer fills with water to the preset level. Having the right sized piping and water flow will fill the washers fast and complete the wash in the shortest time possible.
Water flow is affected by each part of the system. Piping and hoses should be as large as possible (within reason of course). But don’t overlook the valves at the headers. Install a ball valve or similar type will provide a full flow of water as opposed to a Globe valve that has restriction built in.
The following diagrams help show this difference.
Another possible restriction is the hose size between the valve and the washer. Many installations now are completed with custom hoses made of 3/4″ ID (Interior Dimension) material. The ones for your home washer are not meant for a large capacity washer.
Drains: The water has to go somewhere and it’s all downhill from here. Top Load and small, soft mount front load washers have built in pumps to push the water up and into a drain pipe. This type of setup is also used to prevent the water from running out of the washer. Larger washers have a gravity drain that is controlled by a drain valve below the drum that is opened and closed between cycles.
A washer with a drain valve is connected directly to the drain pipe and will probably be combined with the other washers to the building drain. The drain piping size and slope is also important to handle the volume that will fill the pipe when the drain valve opens.
Many customers that are using multiple machines will start them all within seconds of each other so they all finish at the same time.
The drains can be connected together in a single pipe or connected to a steel drain trough. This trough works well as a place for coins and other items to settle and prevent the piping from being plugged . In some cases the drain is an open trough under the bulkheads. This is only found in older stores as it leads to a humid and smelly laundromat.
That is the basics of Laundromat Bulkheads. The size, shape and material varies but they all have the same purpose.
When you are designing your laundromat or making upgrades make sure the bulkheads are big enough and deep enough to handle all of the utilities and the Service Tech that needs to get in there to work on the equipment. Most washer motors can only be removed from the back.
If you have any questions or comments please let me know.
My stores are located in the United States but this post will apply to my many readers around the world.
In the US the main coin for the Coin Laundry Industry has been the Quarter for decades. Some changes have been made including a separate drop for a dollar coin and credit and loyalty card operation. There are $1 coins in circulation in the US and are available from the banks but most customers have never seen them. I actually had customers buying them, usually older ones to give to their grandkids. This left me with making more trips to the bank to resupply the store.
I know my Canadian readers are probably amused as they would do well to find somebody that could find a dollar bill.
After reviewing a number of methods, including costs, future plans and, of course, some customer input the decision was made to install Imonex Coin Drops on the large washers and dryers. One of my change machines will then be converted to Dollar Coin and Dollar Token dispensing. This setup will allow all of my machines to continue to take quarters as well as $1 coin and $1 tokens and other machines can be upgraded in the future.
For more information on Imonex and how they can be implemented (they can be set up for virtually any international currency) check out the Post and PodCast I did with the President of the company, Butch Bruner
Many manufactures in other industries , Vending, Car Wash, Arcades, will find a coin drop they want to use and design the machine to bolt it in and look nice. The Coin Laundry Machine manufactures seem to want to be able to have a more free method of thinking in their design , it may also be that the parents of a coin operated washers and dryers are the OPL or On Premise Laundry machines that are installed in hotels, linen supply companies, and other areas where all that is needed is a start button. So each manufacturer has different setups, power supplies, mounting plates and other variations between their own machines and others.
Depending on the machine type some changes may need to be made. Some equipment will allow and easy installation and is literally Plug and Play but others require mechanical or electrical changes to the machine.
It does take some work and makes some noise but the benefit of reducing the time between collections and allowing your customer to use less coins to start a machine is worth the effort. My attendants have gotten so fast they can start a$6 washer without even stopping.
As the machines are converted additional posts will be created with the steps and pictures. Put the manufacturer name in the Search Box on the right and it will take you there.
If you have any questions please post a comment or email me at Ken@kbarinc.com
An attendant had some concern about a Dexter washer making a buzzing sound. This washer does have an alarm for the Emergency Stop and some others but it is a higher pitched sound.
The sound was coming from the control panel area. I talked to one service tech and he suggested I “hit the horse” which is the Logo on the Dexter. That didn’t do it but the sound changed slightly.
After pulling the top off I found the door lock solenoid was buzzing.
It’s an annoying sound but a fairly easy and in-expensive fix.
The bolts that hold the solenoid in:
Make sure to take a picture of the wiring before you remove anything. It doesn’t always matter on some switches but its a good habit to get into.
The new solenoid. There may be a difference in the connection to the door lock bar so you might have to bend the end a little to make it work. Just make sure that it is still enough of a hook that it does not fall out and leave the door unlocked during operation.
The new solenoid installed and working great.
As I mentioned it’s an easy repair. Make sure you turn off the power to the machine and be aware that is you are testing it like I show in the video that you be careful of the water flushing through the soap tray and stay away from any moving parts.
This particular machine has an emergency stop on the front that I stopped it with. If yours does not make sure you have someone near the breaker or plug so you don’t leave the machine unattended with the lid off.
Many businesses are looking to improve their online presence and are using social media, paid advertising, blogs and many other methods but they have overlooked some of the basics, Showing up on the search results.
Google, Bing and Yahoo are constantly updating their systems to provide relevant information based on user searches and even if you have been on the first page previously you may not be there now.
This PodCast is also part of the video below.
In this video I go through some live searches to find my own and other businesses in the area using customer search terms.
In conclusion I recommend that you search for your own products or services and see how you rank. Use your customers search terms. Also use other computers and your smart phone to see how you rank. Another idea would be to ask a friend or other businesses owner what they would search for to find your business.
Being found on a search is still one on the best methods to be in front of potential customers looking for your product or service.