"Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday." – Steve Jobs
Of course, the industry’s largest biennial gathering is coming to Las Vegas next month. But, you would be forgiven for mistaking the acres of new equipment, products and services for a mini Silicon Valley – an exhibition floor teeming with innovation and invention directed at making your business and the experience of our customers better than ever.
Let’s admit that for the past couple of decades the self-service laundry industry has had – and earned –more of an analog reputation. The appeal of the business was rooted in taking a simple approach to helping customers tackle a basic chore. And it worked for a long time. Drop a quarter, add water and detergent – spin and repeat.
As the needs of our customers changed and the cost of utilities began to climb, the innovators across our industry rose to the occasion by offering more efficient washers, dryers and water heating systems. This was quickly followed by some of the first card-operated laundries.
In just the last couple of years, a quantum leap forward by both legacy manufacturers and new entrepreneurs has propelled us toward Clean 2017, which will feature an unprecedented array of equipment, tools, controls and software that collectively have transformed our analog past into a bright, smart, digital future.
Here comes my obligatory appeal for you to join us at the show… beyond the normal platitudes of convening with your peers for education and inspiration, I truly believe that this year is different. In my 25 years of traversing the laundry business, I’ve never seen so much “new” and I think those who miss Clean 2017 will be missing a watershed moment in our history.
Within this issue’s cover story, some of today’s leading laundry owners will share their own unique outlooks on the upcoming show, along with what specifically they’re anxious to see and do in Las Vegas. Clearly, there will be much to choose from: new washer capacities and controls; updated machine networking capabilities; peak efficiencies in washers, dryers and water heaters; laundry management tools and software; unprecedented programmability; new solutions in wash chemistry, new payment systems including mobile solutions; new software platforms and apps to manage and grow wash-dry-fold; and too many more to list, including the Internet of Things (IOT) technology coming to the local laundromat.
Those of you reading this column who also walked the show floor in Chicago back at the first Clean Show in 1977 must be astounded by how far our industry has come in the 40 years since. One of my favorite aspects of the technological revolution in laundry is that it hasn’t just been the purview of the millennial operators and entrepreneurs as one might expect. Plenty of “old dogs” are learning the “new tricks,” making the investments and delivering better profits and an enhanced wash day experience for the millions of families visiting laundromats each week.
Clean 2017 will be a milestone by virtue of the 40th anniversary to be celebrated on the show floor in Las Vegas – but perhaps the lasting impression of this year’s show will be as the year that the industry fully embraced the “new” and built a new reputation for bringing innovation and leading edge technology to the mundane chore of laundry.