You are currently viewing e47: The Foltex Folding Machine for Laundromats

e47: The Foltex Folding Machine for Laundromats

Is the Foltex AT230 a game changer for launder service providers? According to the company, it can fold up to 1200 bath towels per hour or 750 sorted garments. Hear direct from Randy Roberts from Columbus Express Laundry about his experience with the laundry folding machine.



We’re gonna be talking about the Foltex A230 folding machine. Stay tuned. At the end of this episode, I’ll share my thoughts on this machine you sent over videos of the folding machine that you have, and it just looks ridiculously good. <laugh> , I was really impressed. It looked like you’ve got doing different types of garments in there from shirts to sheets to towels. What your experience with that and has it helped with efficiency ?

Speaker 2: 0:24

So we went to the clean show last year. One of the things we had on our eyes was a folding machine. We went there with intention to look at them and see, number one, was it something we can afford? Was it something that we thought would benefit our business? And we looked around and, and I talked to a lot of people in the industry. I have peers, mentors all over the country from Washington, California, you guys, Texas, New York, Cleveland, you know , just about everywhere. And , and I try and share and exchange ideas. I try and bring value to the discussions. I found what I thought was the machine. And we talked with, with some peers and they said , well, I think you ought to take a look at this one. So we took a look at that one. We went and visited that one from a much larger commercial business than us. That was a couple hours away. And we left there with a totally different understanding of the machine. I’ll say it like this, in a laundrymat, the weakest link in a and most laundry mats is folding. You can wash, you can dry, and then everything gets backed up at the fold. It became obvious to us if we were gonna grow this business the way we want to, that we were no longer gonna be able to count on people being able to fold. You know, the , the conversations that you have, Hey, how many pounds are your people folding an hour? 20, 30, 40, 56? Whatever it is , it’s all great. And it’s all interesting. We didn’t wanna be in that space . We wanted to be in the space where we could fold 500, 600, 700 pounds an hour. So that’s the equivalent of what three, four people can do in a day, in an hour. So we decided that we were gonna make a change. We didn’t do this as a employee hour reduction exercise. We believe in the team that we’ve got. We just don’t want to be adding as we grow and scale our business, tens of people to be able to maintain that. We want to grow it with 5, 6, 7 people that we believe in, that believe in us in the model, and can help us get where we want to go. We believe this is a big game changer . I’ll share an interesting story about the folder. So we’ve had it for maybe a month, a month and a half now. And the team was very apprehensive when we bought it. And I’ll , I’ll share a little joke. So a lot of ’em would go to the back of the laundrymat as far away from the machine. They, as they could get and fold on the tables back there. Why? Because if they didn’t look at the machine, it didn’t exist. And they just continue to fold. So then we had to have discussions with them of, hey, this, this isn’t designed to cut back the hours. So we had a compressor and I just pulled a compressor out of my garage and we took it and installed it at the laundry mat .

Speaker 1: 2:49

The air compressor?

Speaker 2: 2:49

Yeah, air compressor. Excuse me. And, and so we put it in and it was an older one. It was fine and it worked good, but it died this week. So the interesting part was we went to get a new one and we decided we were gonna go from 110 to two 20 electric. It took us about a day and a half to get it installed. And I walked in there yesterday and I said, oh guys, you’re not gonna believe this. It’s not gonna be ready for a week and a half. And the boohooing that happened in that room was glorious to me, <laugh>, because I’m sitting here and that tells me they now buy in .

Speaker 1: 3:19

That’s awesome. That’s great.

Speaker 2: 3:21

Yeah . So the supervisor, she actually called me and , and this is a , a little bit of an internal joke, but she has a week, which she can’t complain, self-declared. She called me yesterday and she said, all right , I’m gonna complain. And I said, you’ve , you’ve got till next Tuesday, you’re not allowed to. She said, this is a good complaint. I’m sitting here folding these pillow cases and I’m thinking I could do this so much faster on the machine.

Speaker 1: 3:43

That’s fantastic. What’s the learning curve? Say like you hired somebody new to use the machine. How long does it take to get them up to speed on it?

Speaker 2: 3:50

Less than a couple of hours. It’s point and clicks. We think we’re with the right partner again, I used the word partner, not vendor. They’ve been out multiple times since we’ve installed it to help us program it because we’re doing all these different things. Residential clothes, linens, towels, formats, you name it. We put through that machine and it does it all very well and very consistently. It’s a touch screen . You put the type of item you’re putting in it and away it goes

Speaker 1: 4:17

Nice. And it just helps somebody, a client of ours on their website and now they’re getting a whole bunch more commercial clients and different types of business . He’s not doing pickup and delivery yet. But one of the first questions that people ask when they call in is, do you do a pickup and delivery? So it all kind of fits together. He’s getting a lot of bites and some of ’em are now using him, but you’d be providing more value and be able to convert more sales if he did the pickup and delivery. So I mean, this all is just one big puzzle. It all fits together. You got the wash and fold , you got the pickup and and delivery. Now you added a new puzzle piece that just makes everybody more powerful or more efficient.

Speaker 2: 4:55

Yeah, we’re, we’re very excited about that. We , we believe this is a game changer for us. We believe in peak times. This takes it from something that, you know, we are busting at the seams . We can’t move to something that becomes a much more , uh, predictable process. And we’ve got a lot of process learnings as to how we want to do things. But the early feedback is just, it , it’s, it’s unbelievable. There’s a lot of people that are watching this, watching what we’ve done with this. I think you’re gonna see a lot more people adopt

Speaker 1: 5:27

It . It’s a com huge competitive advantage. And going back to your maid, to your June and then to July last year and your numbers are just going off the charts, how were you able to deal with that type of growth? And this before you had the folding machine as well. What about hiring, what about processes, trial by fire? How did you pull through that and continue growing your business?

Speaker 2: 5:49

We, we were scrambling. I have the luxury of a, of a great business partner who, who can help from a staffing from time to time if we just need, need short term help, number one. Number two, for some reason I do not know how to say the word no to new business opportunities, whether it be residential, commercial, whatever it is. We , we want to be able to say yes. And having said yes in this instance created more work than probably we should have taken on at that point. So we quickly hired, we had a little bit of a , of a ramp to get up to the right headcount. We were busting at the seams. We had more people in the laundromat than we had folding tables, which in the learning curve was part of our tough learning . We didn’t know that was counterproductive at that point, but we’ve since learned that somebody’s there, we have to have a table form . So we’ve learned the hard way in many instances.

Speaker 1: 6:41

It’s all learning. These are great problems they have and , and you’re able to adapt. What would you say to somebody who’s doing wash and fold thinking about pickup and delivery is kind of on the fence? What, what advice would you have for them?

Speaker 2: 6:52

In my mind, there’s really three types of people that are looking to do this. Somebody that’s looking to offset the cost of the attendance. And this is a generalism and I hate to do this, but they, they’re typically the ones that go in and undervalue the wash and fold. Meaning they’re gonna do it at a price that we may or may not be willing to do it at. So it, it helps offset the cost for the attendance. Then there’s others that probably heard it was a good thing but are unsure. So they want dip their toe in the water, wanna start slowly, probably look to start by controlling the introductory costs and it becomes a piece , part type of discussion. What can I use for my point of sale? Well I think I can use my calendar over here to do the pickup and delivery. And then you’ve got all these disparate parts that you’re trying to bring back together at some point in time . And then there are people that are looking to build this as a separate part of the business that complement the business but can stand alone . And that’s really where automation’s the priority and everything And and everywhere you do it, anytime you can reduce potential errors through a systematic approach to this. I believe there’s significant merit.

Speaker 1: 7:57

What you said about the automation is so key. I’m gonna do a YouTube video just on this. There’s a Steve Jobs, he’s addressing some business students. They took a look at all these companies and everybody’s spending about the same on technology, but they’re spending it in different ways. And the most successful companies weren’t just using technology just to manage their communication or they weren’t just using technology to handle their QuickBooks type stuff. They’re the most successful ones. Were using automation for their business process. Like for taking orders. You’re an airline company, not just using technology, just manage the flights. That’s important. But also allowing the customer to schedule flights. Mm-hmm <affirmative> from the laundry point of view, allowing customers to schedule pickup and deliveries. You’ve got the technology, the right place, you know, which is facing the customer. And then, then you could scale on the front end. And then our software also helps out a lot on the back end because we’re doing it too. It’s not just taking in the order , it’s well what happens after the order is taken, you know, where that order is and what, what happened to it and who worked on it. So we’ve got all the different pieces in there and we keep making things better is where you see the business going. What , what are your goals?

Speaker 2: 9:04

So we had our 2023 what I’ll call planning session and it’s with growth as fast as we’re growing, it’s tough to say we, we think we can be here, but we believe this business continues to grow significantly. We’re still very heavily investing in the business to fuel the growth. There’s a niche in this, in the marketplace for this type of business. You’ve got the, the large trucks, the you first , the Cintas , all of them. They’re not addressing the component or the , the parts of the market that we’re servicing, which is residential commercial at the smaller end of the business.

Speaker 1: 9:40

I think that’s important for people to be very cognizant and aware of is some places try and be the centas and we’re just a different business. We are the high margin, low volume business and that’s a great place to be. <laugh>

Speaker 2: 9:53

That , that was me initially I wanted to go get ’em and really felt that that was, we’re gonna take their business and the , the more I got into this, the more I learned and understood that it’s really not who we are or what we’re skilled to be and nor is it to your point, it’s not what we want to be.

Speaker 1: 10:09


Speaker 2: 10:09

I have no desire for high volume , low revenue business. Zero.

Speaker 1: 10:13

Absolutely. Well just wanna thank you for being on the podcast. I think people are gonna learn a lot. It’s unbelievable because I look at your January to February, it’s about a 25% increase and that anybody would get a raise if they were the chief revenue officer, hey 25% increase and then another 25%. And then you look at where you’re at now and it’s just <laugh> . We’re not talking about 25 percents anymore. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of percentages. And so you’ve been able to , to lead and guide your business and I’m really thankful you chose curbside to be the platform you’re running your business on cuz you take a lot of attention to the details and the customer experience and that’s what we’re all about. And then you’re taking that to a whole nother level where you just really appreciate the feedback you’ve been providing along this time that’s helped us make the software better. We listen, we love getting feedback and I will say on the software side, initially when you get feedback, there’s two avenues of going. It’s easy to get defensive cuz it’s like the baby. But then the flip side is just the different mindset, which is what we’ve adopted, which is we want the software to be the best it can be. So when somebody has advice, the most important thing we could do is listen, I just wanna thank you for, you know, speaking up and you know, letting us know about different things that could improve the process. So we’re very thankful,

Speaker 2: 11:25

Appreciate your help. All the partnering throughout the way.

Speaker 1: 11:29

My recommendation is one, do your own due diligence. Don’t rely on any brochures. I would talk to people actually using it and also make sure that the company using it has laundry like you do. Are they doing primarily commercial or are they doing a mix of residential? So you wanna find out, are their needs the same as your needs because maybe they’re just doing towels or maybe they’re just doing a lot of sheets. You wanna make sure whoever you’re talking to has as similar experience as you do. That being said, I know a lot of people who I’ve got a lot of respect for, who are doing really, really well in pickup and delivery, wash and fold who are buying this machine. In a short period of time, there’s gonna be more and more people to talk to who are using it. My second recommendation is to, is to grow organically. I wouldn’t put yourself in debt before you have the business. I’d make sure you’ve got the business there and then this machine could immediately provide value to you. That way you’re operating more efficiently and you’re making money on day one. Don’t forget to click like and subscribe. And if you’re listening to the podcast, please leave a review that helps other people like you find the show. Thanks again and see you next time.