Automation and Technology: Lapels Next Generation
Long before opening his Lapels Cleaners in Nashville, Tennessee, Chris Cooley was an ambitious entrepreneur owning an insurance brokerage and working as a financial advisor. His two jobs kept him on the road more than he liked, and he decided to open his location in the hopes that it would enable him to stay closer to home.
Cooley, a semi-absentee owner, has remained more involved in the business, as laundering service numbers have skyrocketed throughout the pandemic. This increase in volume inspired him to find additional efficiency solutions to keep up with the growing demand.
“I always want to make sure that we are being as efficient as we can because this is a high-volume business,” Cooley said. “In dry cleaning, you need a lot of pieces to make a profit. You can process a lot of pieces with a lot of employees or use equipment that enables fewer employees to handle the same volume.”
As a result of the large demand for all that Lapels offers, the brand continually innovates its services and technology, like the notification system that customers have come to depend on. Like Lapels, which has remained at the forefront of modern laundering services with its advancements, Cooley has always had an interest in making technological improvements in his businesses and recently took this innovative spirit to the next level by adding automation technologies to his facilities.
“Depending on how serious a person is about getting into the laundering business, automation machines are something to seriously consider. If you want to own one store, then automation might not be necessary. If you want to get into something more substantial, something bigger right out of the gate, you should consider it because it will significantly reduce labor costs from day one,” he said.
Cooley operates the brand’s hub-and-spoke business model that includes a processing plant with three satellite stores as well as residential and commercial pick-up and delivery services to extend the reach of his operation. Since satellite stores are simply a pickup and drop-off point for the plant, Cooley felt like an automated kiosk system would be the perfect solution to reduce the number of hours needed for personnel while cutting labor costs. Assembly automation in the processing plants also reduces labor costs and increases the output for the location. As laundering services are on the rise, the increase in output will reduce the need to expand and incur expensive real estate costs or move to another location entirely. Cooley expects all the advancements to be installed and in operation by early 2023.
Before deciding to open a Lapels location, Cooley suggests that any potential franchisee visit franchise senior management in person. Seeing and speaking with them face to face is important to make sure that the level of trust, competency, and support is what it needs to be. “Five years ago, the key selling point for me was senior management at Lapels, and that is just as important today.”
In addition, Cooley recommends speaking with multiple franchisees and experiencing work life in an actual Lapels location. “Talk to several people operating the type of business model that you are interested in opening. Go spend quality time with someone willing to spend a week with you and show you what the business is like. Each franchise is vastly different and understanding what type of business will work best for your life will be beneficial,” he said.
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