Industry Standards In Peril

We’ve talked about it before. Many operators debate its merit and analyze their businesses. Most choose to ignore it. It is called Industry Standards. What are your plant standards? Webster defines standards as “It presumes the enterprise aspires or achieves quality accepted as excellent throughout an industry.”

Now, in our particular industry, that would mean the standard as set by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute ions ago when it went by the name of National Cleaners Association. In the drycleaning, laundry, commercial, uniform and hospitality industries standards as defined by Kenney Slatten, would be more along the line of everything you do is relevant to the competition and social mores of today. In other words, true quality as seen by the public today is that one industry is the same as another. The reason being that the picture of quality is not so impressive when compared to yesteryear or the competition. Your version of quality looks pretty good compared to others but then they have dropped the standards so much that any version of quality looks good. We only look good because comparatively, the other business looks so bad.

Ah, but should we be defining quality? Of course not. That is why the institute set the quality standards as a guide years ago. My friend, industry icon Sid Tuchman said many years ago to me, “I still believe that we the operators set the standard for quality.” Unless my friend was referring to the standard of personal behavior on the counter, I still disagree with him. Don’t take it too hard Sid, I still love ya. The flat truth is that somebody or some institution had to have a group of people get together and decide what way to clean and process garments in order to achieve a certain quality level. We certainly cannot, each and every one of us, set the standard and if we have, that is why quality means zilch anymore! Needless to say that the big secret in our industry is that the public doesn’t know that it is all based on price.

And why shouldn’t it be based on price? You can’t do a couture level garment process for $1.99. That is as dumb in my southern opinion as spitting on the Alamo! My friends, I say again, the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) set the standards long ago in Bulletins that defined quality levels of procedure in four categories. They are:
• Couture level (high end highest quality work at the highest of high prices)
• High level (high cost, the highest except for couture level cost and procedure).
• Medium level (mid price and mid level quality)
• Low level (low or one price at the lowest range of quality).

One level is no better in my opinion than the other. It depends on what the customer wants. Unfortunately, most customers expect the highest level of quality at the lowest price. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here. So what we have today is that the lowest level of quality shines very well. It is because, my friends, in the one price category of service they really strive to do a great job by keeping well maintained solvent and decent finishing. But no extras. Do you see where the industry has gone? The low price – one price people shine like a new penny. Since customers don’t want to pay the price of our services, they think all industry stores are the same. But they shouldn’t be!

If the other category cleaners had not dumped their quality standards to the wind, we would not have such a fragmented industry that confuses the consumer. I will preach this message until the cows come home. The plain truth of good business management is that in order to manage something you have to measure it. How do we measure it? By following the Industry Standards and clean, spot and press these garments according to the price/quality level that you are charging so we don’t all look the same. But, as sure as moth grows on the north side of trees, I expect this message will fall to the wayside with some, because we don’t really want to manage our businesses like they should be and we let the customer tell us how to do things.

Please rethink your business plan and creed. Think about gelling your price with your quality level standards so you can actually make a decent percentage of around 18% net and enjoy yourself in this industry. As industry friends we are loyal and are thicker than fur on a squirrels back. So let’s band together and price/quality ourselves where we need to be.

My grandpa always said, “Anything worth doin’ is worth doin’ right”! Good luck and take advantage of all the services your national, regional, state and local associations can provide for you in education.

I’m headin’ to the wagon, these boots are killin’ me!

About Kenney Slatten

Kenney Slatten Training Company is a Dry Cleaning and Laundry Consulting Firm Specializing in Environmental Training and Certification. Kenney Slatten Training Company, or KSTC, is based in Texas with offices in Arizona and California. Kenney Slatten is a certified instructor/trainer for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), is actively involved in the San Diego Drycleaners Association, the California Cleaners Association, is an Allied Trade board member of DLI, the Executive Director of Western States Drycleaners & Launderers Association, a member of the International Drycleaners Congress, and a columnist for American Drycleaner and Western Cleaner and Launderer magazines. The Kenney Slatten Training Company provides the only complete environmental training and inspection process. Started in 1987, Kenny became the first instructor for California E.P.A, OSHA, and state regulations. Kenney publishes a 36 point plant requirement every year in trade publications which is his guide for plant training and certification. We are the only company that provides dry cleaning and laundry specific environmental training. Kenney Slatten is a third generation drycleaner/laundryman from Houston, Texas. His company, KSTC, can teach you the skills you need to have a successful plant. His wagon is found all over the country parked under a tree just waiting for the next call to come to your plant. He can be reached at (800) 429-3990; e-mail: or go to: www.