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A coffee with…

David Lewis & Marco Giuntoli

You'll never complain about your laundry again

By Russell Harrison

 

Russell sat down with long term clients and friends David Lewis & Marco Giuntoli, owners of Zenith Laundry to find out how they have taken a traditional laundry business and turned it into a highly computerised and mechanised factory.

They now operate a tunnel washer that is capable of processing 5 tonnes of washing per day. This robotically feeds into 4 x 40kg dryers before ending up in presses and folding machines. This is the only factory of this type operating  in the region. Zenith hires and launders approximately 80% of all linen used in Great Southern tourist accommodation.

“You both have your own separate successful long term businesses, David with Sports Power and Marco with Lorlaine Distributors. How do you both manage this second business and juggle everything else in your life?”

We have brilliant staff in both businesses that we can trust and rely on. Our manager Irene at Zenith is the backbone of this business and without her things would fall apart. Our partners Mara and Clair give us a great deal of support and show a great amount of patience allowing us to spend the time when it is most needed in these businesses. In peak periods this includes some very late nights and weekends. We both bring different approaches and skills to the business which allows us to split the role. We each work in different areas. David spends more time on staffing and financial numbers. He is known as the calm one and the most level head of the two of us. Marco tends to be the fix it man for machinery and problem solving.

“You both have brilliant supplier and contractor relationships. How have you built these and how have they helped you deal with crises when they arise?”

You need to pick the right suppliers. Over time you develop personal relationships and a great deal of trust. Time and again we have found key people who want us to succeed and will go to great lengths to do just that. When it came to our new equipment, we found  that we didn’t have all the answers or even know the right questions to ask at times. We relied on the people we were working with to bring and maintain the equipment and have the systems working to full capacity.

When a crisis arises, stay calm and look for other options. There are always options.

“You have grown a typical laundry business into a highly automated and factory like operation. How have you achieved this and was it always the goal?”

Growing the business happened much more quickly than we had thought it would. The equipment became available and some of our key suppliers and trades gave great honest advice on the possibilities and benefits. We also had great advice from our accountant which gave us the confidence to take on the expansions and new equipment. As we are both local we can be on site whenever needed and are always contactable at any time by our staff if something is not going right. When the time is needed, we put the long hours in to get stuff done. We meet regularly with key staff to discuss management and maintenance issues and have an ongoing maintenance program that we strictly adhere to.

“We have talked about the expansion and new equipment but what exactly has been installed and done?”

We replaced our older washing machines and dryers with an automated batch washer and dryer units. This included cobbling together 12 different components to make it all work seamlessly, with some of the machines weighing up to 10 tonnes. While installing these machines we expanded our current factory building over the top of the existing structure to be more purpose built and to fit these huge machines in. All of this was done while we continued to operate with the old machines. This made for a lot of headaches when trying to wash and fold white towels and sheets with all the dust and debris from the building going on around us. Our busiest time of the year is the Christmas period. Accommodation is booked out and our linen is in peak demand. The 9 month construction and commissioning was not completed until 1 am just 2 days before Christmas. That marked the peak of our business stress levels.

“Having such a highly computerized and automated plant in Albany can come with its challenges, what are the key difficulties that you have encountered?”

Our local tradesmen are great and can fix a lot of the issues, sometimes very creatively. That said, we do need experts. Most of the experts for this type of equipment are based overseas but will respond very quickly and are always happy to assist. Mobile phones and Facetime are a great tool as we can video call someone and show them exactly what is broken or not working, instead of trying to describe something we don’t know about to them. Then it’s a case of installing the new part or software update as quickly as we can.

“How do you both define success?”

Marco: Finding, fixing and learning new things. I always feel I have succeeded when I have a problem or break down and finally work out the cause or issue and can fix it.

David: I don’t think success is a finite position, I think you have little successes every day and you need to enjoy them as they come up. I love being able to grab the next challenge that comes up, make it work and move on to the next thing.

“Finally, if you could give someone starting out in business a few pieces of advice what would they be?”

  • Talk to other business owners. It doesn’t matter if it is a different business as they often have similar needs. Learn from everyone
  • Know the really good advisers and expert contacts in your field. Do not be afraid to use them.
  • Be prepared to learn something new every day, you will never know everything.

 

Never sacrifice your health, family, or the health and wellbeing of your staff for the business’s sake. Look after these and they will look after you.

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