“When my husband and I started here, I knew less than was useful about most aspects of the care of textiles of any sort, outside my own domestic day-to-day and home requirements. I had only a peripheral awareness of the huge organisational commitment which a professional laundry business demands of its owners, managers and staff,” is how Howie described their decision to become professional launderers and becoming embroiled in the myriad details of a service business which has, almost literally since then, taken over most waking moments of her life.
The tiny community of Brompton-on-Swale is located in North Y orkshire, very near Catterick and at the entry point to Swaledale and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is a very rural district full of scenery and agriculture and not very generously populated. By necessity most businesses, and all businesses which provide essential services such as commercial laundry must travel far and wide to secure and deliver their wares and offerings.
“Because of our location we service demand across a huge area of northern England from the east Coast to the Lake District and from the industrial W est Riding of Y orkshire to Northumberland. Our current fleet of three delivery vehicles is fully occupied on most days each week,” continued Howie, describing the impressive growth of her fledgling enterprise.
“When we took over the business it had been managed as an in-house support service to its owners’ commercial activities and there were two permanent staff involved here. We now employ 14 people on a full-time basis, six days a week, one is involved as supervisor and the others are all involved directly in all stages of production including the three full-time drivers for the two Sprinter vans and our one seven and a half tonne truck.
“We have found all our staff from the surrounding area and none had any prior experience of commercial laundry work. We open at 6am each morning and usually try to close at 6pm in the evening. Our staff work flexible hours and they are here for their contracted hours to suit the workload in their designated production section.
‘We focus our main service effort on the hospitality sector and we are providing laundry services on a contracted basis to quite a number of the many hotels, guest houses and B&B establishments which are a feature of the countryside where we operate.
“Increasingly we try to deliver a superior quality service in terms of delivery times and variety of service we offer and we have begun to supply high quality linen products on a rental/hire basis to select customers whose own business’ marketing efforts are focussed on top quality leisure- break accommodation.”
‘We are still very new in the laundry service business, but our customer focus is definitely on offering our prospective customers a high-quality service across every aspect of our supply of service to them. We have very many competitors despite our location - which is some distance from any major towns or cities - and there is no doubt that we, as a new arrival on our competitors’ established territories, must try to succeed by being more flexible in our service offering, as well as delivering the highest quality in textile presentation.”
“We are very fortunate that we occupy almost 20,000 square feet of space here and we can therefore plan to expand in an organised manner. We seem to be in a constant state of installing and moving the production machines to more efficient positions and as the business volume grows, our capacity, we hope, will grow to meet the demand.
“We have had enormous assistance in the last three years from all our machinery and chemical suppliers. Our ongoing requirement for additional technical and practical knowledge about every aspect of the laundry profession comes very often from our supplier’ s representatives as well as from fellow members of the National Laundry Group (NLG) and from colleagues in the Textile Services Association (TSA). Without their assistance and skill we would not have been able to make the progress which we have achieved since we began our operations in Brompton-on-Swale.”
“Laundry operations depend on many factors to perform efficiently and the importance of chemicals is a very significant component in delivering processed textiles which are not only visibly clean and well pressed, but also have a superior ‘handle’ and ‘feel’ - attributes which are of critical importance to our customers which always plays a part in their own professional presentation to their guests.”
“In this regard Ecolab Textile Care has given outstanding service in terms of technical advice and training in the correct use of Ecolab chemicals and, in addition, they have given a great deal of onsite practical assistance, by showing us how their products work in production and how we could achieve much better results from our daily processing loads.
“Of the many improvements which were delivered to our laundry by Ecolab, perhaps the most beneficial was Oxyguard 40®. W e tested this programme in many loads over several weeks and we were very agreeably surprised by the results we achieved. These test results were verified and confirmed by a very well-known textile testing house based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Among the most satisfactory outcomes was the radical reduction, by a factor of more than 26 per cent, of the total quantity of rewash items from the loads which we processed.
“In addition we saw an immediate increase in the general quality of the processed linen and especially in the brightness, whiteness and in the softness of the fabric handle in the processed bed linen. W e were all convinced that the introduction of Ecolab Oxyguard 40® low temperature wash programme, is a really effective new development for our laundry and especially for our customers who have given the linen quality, which we now deliver, their enthusiastic endorsement.”
This was an interesting and informative visit to the Brompton Laundry Company to review its operations. W e can confirm that, in our opinion, this new business exemplifies how Brompton Laundry Company is keeping its promises to its customers and is now blazing a trail of quality service across the north, which is its chosen service delivery ground. This enthusiastic team, led by Fiona and Charlie Howie, is setting standards which are building a strong business future and an equally strong customer base.
Published by Irving Scott for Laundry and Cleaning Monthly, October 2017