Facilities have plenty of things to keep track of when it comes to these programs. This includes challenges such as water type, machine issues, user issues, maintenance, pump problems and rewashes.

"Our service techs help identify and fix many of these problems, several of which are unrelated to the chemical product," says Cadell. "It's our job to use chemistry to reduce and eliminate the need for rewash and to handle problems with water type. In conjunction, we use machinery to make sure chemical dilution is correct and is simple for the end user to complete regular laundry."

In addition to attentive, proactive and responsive distributors, technology — like Internet of Things (IoT) — is also being increasingly relied on to manage this aspect of facility operations. IoT helps identify and address issues, collecting a plethora of useful information in the process.

"IoT is a powder keg of data and in my opinion, this is a key selling point," says Waite. "Some are better than others, but all offer benefits to the end user. This technology provides data that allows our customers to be more aware, and will help them in the long-term, providing data that can save them money."

It goes beyond alerting when the product is empty. IoT data can reveal how many pounds of laundry are being washed, with this information tied directly into the amount of product being used, says Waite. IoT-equipped machines can provide an early indication of when servicing is required, or if too much or not enough chemical is being used — all of which can be reviewed with a service rep during routine preventative maintenance.

Waite says Hill & Markes' customers are looking for IoT-equipped machines and that the company and its manufacturing partners are discussing it. Although Johnson says Brady Industries is not yet fielding a lot of customer-generated requests for IoT technology, for its larger laundries, it has become standard and is used almost exclusively. For smaller laundries, however, IoT is still too pricey.

"The major benefit for an operator is getting a real-time look at the dispensers that are in service," says Johnson. "You can see process times, error reports, as well as cost information. Our system also shows pump performance, including squeeze tube performance on systems using peristaltic pumps. IoT gives the service technician visibility into an account without being on-site. Managers of a service team can also use the technology to manage their technicians and routes, verifying service is being completed."

Cadell agrees that IoT dispensers are heading to laundry and that there's a space for them. However, he says, there are other technologies — such as true weight proportioning that helps to reduce per-load costs by ensuring every load is precise regardless of whether there is an issue with tubing, tip wear or clogs — that are "of greater importance."

Johnson is cautious since IoT dispensers are more expensive than traditional options. He stresses that it's important to determine if the customer will actually use all the data and features available before moving forward with an install.

"Otherwise it's like buying a brand-new Ferrari and driving 5 miles per hour around your neighborhood," he says. "It will be really cool, but it's meant to go 200 miles per hour around a racetrack."

Even so, Waite believes IoT is the way the industry is headed.

"Not just with laundry dispensers, but also with the machines," he says. "Laundry machines have come so far. They are more energy-efficient, self-cleaning and easier to hook up to. But what if the IoT was built into the machine and not dependent on a dispenser? I am intrigued by IoT. This technology is 100 percent the future of our industry."

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer from Long Beach, California.

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Creating On-Site Laundry Programs