Power Laundries, Family and Commercial

SIC 7211

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes firms that primarily operate mechanical laundries powered with steam or other means. Companies that primarily supply laundered work clothing on a contract or fee basis are classified in SIC 7218: Industrial Launderers.

According to Dun & Bradstreet's Industry Reports, there were 3,153 establishments engaged in this industry in 2010. Together these companies employed 23,062 people and generated $908.1 million in revenues in 2009. Almost 85 percent of establishments employed fewer than 10 workers, although those that employed more than 10 accounted for more than 61 percent of industry revenues. New York had the largest number of establishments in the industry in 2009, with 389, followed by California with 379, Texas with 291, Florida with 201, and New Jersey with 172.

The laundry industry grew steadily in the early 1990s as it underwent significant change. New technology altered the way clothes were laundered, dried, and finished, and laundry automation made for greater speed, efficiency, and productivity. Two major industry areas that gained attention in the 2000s were automation and environmental issues. The latter concerned the use of certain detergents deemed damaging to the environment, such as those containing phosphates, and the safe disposal of waste products. Phosphates, considered to be the most effective laundering compound, may accelerate algae growth in water while depriving the water of oxygen, so attempts were made to restrict their use. The impetus came from within and outside the industry. Some laundry managers turned to alternative products, anticipating future regulations against phosphates. One major development in this area came in 2002, as Southern California air quality officials approved a gradual phase out by 2020 of perchloroethylene (perc), the most commonly used dry cleaning solvent. Although some thought this would set a national precedent, by 2010 California was still the only state that had such legislation in place. Still, many in the industry sought to find other, more environmentally friendly methods of cleaning. According to a June 2010 American Drycleaner article, "Ongoing research and development is a testament to the industry's ingenuity, flexibility and importance, but the industry is still far from having a new 'solvent of choice.' According to a survey conducted by the publication, just over 50 percent of U.S. drycleaners continued to use the perc system as of 2009.

As power laundries grew more automated in the late twentieth century, industry observers anticipated a reduction in labor requirements. For example, despite a 7 percent surge in the labor force in 1992, a pattern of workforce reduction persisted into the 2000s. Employment projections for the "other services" sector were set to increase by 15.7 percent over the 2002 to 2015 period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with total employment for all industry sectors projected to increase 14.8 percent. Automation increased productivity and reduced the need for workers by cutting down on the number of manual tasks. For instance, networking of washers, dryers, and finishing machines eliminated manual handling of loads between different laundering phases. Computers also reduced labor requirements for office tasks, such as data entry. According to Laundry News, "Computer systems and automated machinery allow laundries which might have previously operated two shifts with 100 people to operate one shift with 70 people." Automation also reduced the number of accidents in power laundries and alleviated employees' health concerns. Laundry workers commonly suffer back injuries from heavy lifting, muscle strains from stretching, carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive motions, skin diseases from contact with heavy duty detergents and chemicals, and heat stress conditions.

According to American Laundry News, laundry services accounted for the largest number of outsourced contracts in the health care industry for the fourth year in a row in 2009. The top companies in this sector included Angelica Corp., Healthcare Services Group, Crothall Healthcare, Unitex, and HHA Services.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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