Danielle Uniforms Changes How One Famous Hotel Handles Garments

Danielle_Uniforms_1Companies have always struggled with labor expenses and waste involved with uniforms. Gary Perlson, owner of Danielle Uniforms, a company that launders uniforms in New York City, spent a couple of years researching uniform-dispensing machines for use in hotels that might help eliminate that waste. He traveled to Europe to find the best equipment solution.

“Currently in the United States, there are very few uniform-dispensing machines,” says Perlson. “The largest is White Conveyor, which needs to be manually loaded. But I found a system which is completely automatic: the Metalprogetti, manufactured in Ferusia, Italy.”

Perlson first discovered the innovative new system at a dry cleaning and laundry tradeshow held in New Orleans. When he asked if such systems were used in hotels, he was told that though 200 units had already been sold for hotels in Europe, one hadnt yet been sold in the U.S. for a hotel or for commercial use.

Perlson decided he would have this machine in the U.S., but he needed some time to work things out. It took more than two years to hammer out a deal. He and John Petrone, from the Waldorf Astoria, went to Italy to look at Metalprogettis facility. Perlsons son traveled from Arizona to meet them because he was coming into the business and wanted to experience this development. They went to Paris and then back to Italy, checking on many hotels and on the construction of the machine.

Power of the Chip

Perlson purchased a Metalprogetti unit and brought it to New Yorks Waldorf Astoria, where it now supplies uniforms to some 1,500 employees. Perlson says he was concerned that people at the Waldorf may not be as accepting of the machine as their European counterparts. But the overall response has been incredible, according to Perlson. “They are pleased with how well the clothes are now pressed, that the garments are no longer crammed into lockers, and that their clothes are right there ready for them all the time. Ninety-nine percent of those involved are ecstatic with the machine. We
were nervous at first with those who may be a bit afraid of technology; but again, this has been an overwhelming success.”

The Metalprogetti equipment utilizes computerized identification chips. In the uniform room, employees drop uniforms off into a depository, which is a small box. Then air blows in the box, enabling the chip to be read before the garment automatically
drops into a bin. Employees swipe their cards and use a touch-screen system to pick up the same item they have just dropped off in a simple, one-for-one transfer. One shirt is placed in the drop-off, and the employee picks up an identical clean shirt.

Periodically a driver picks up the bin so the garments can be processed. When the garments reach Danielle Uniforms for cleaning, the bin is placed on a screw conveyor. The driver then leaves. An automatic arm reads the chip, and the garments travel within five seconds to the person handling the cleaning, and afterwards the clothing is returned by driver to the hotel uniform room.

Inventory continually rotates back into service. The last unissued clothing item rotates out first. Messages to employees may be transmitted at this transaction time. These may include birthday wishes, vacation information or any other messages displayed on the touch screen in up to ten different languages.

“This is a tremendous help,” says Perlson. “Now theres no need to phone employees to dispense information. With NYCs heavy union involvement, this also helps in dealing with issues such as employees claiming they have no clean uniform as required and therefore they cannot go to work.”

Savings accrue from not using labor to dispatch uniforms manually. The chip saves the need to man a uniform counter. The conveyor system comes right to the door, so theres no need for freight loaders. The system improves accuracy of inventory control and cuts down on clothing losses. Technical support is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

“The few times we have needed help, the problem was fixed immediately,” says Perlson. “They log right on to your server and fix the problem. Whether it be from Fallujah 12 hours a day or Phoenix, Ariz., the other 12 hours, there is a tremendous force of IT people available to do any repairs or service.”

Two rooms at the Waldorf have been installed with the conveyor system. One of these has been running since mid-April 2010. The system covers some 1,500 square feet on the fifth floor of the hotel, the floor where employees formerly had lockers and received uniforms manually. Lockers were moved to make room for the carousel dispenser.

Perlson believes this equipment is the wave of the future. “It allows companies to save labor and prevents wasting uniforms.” He would
like to be the catalyst for bringing automation to the drop-off, cleaning and dispensing of hotel worker uniforms throughout the New York metropolitan area, across the entire East Coast and beyond.

Long, Strong History in the Clothes Cleaning Business

Perlson is the third generation of a family with many years in the dry cleaning industry. His grandfather, Irving Perlson, started a company called Regal Cleaners, which had 150 dry cleaning stores in Brooklyn. He passed his business down to his son, Al, who took over that business and ran it for some years, owning nearly 90 dry cleaning stores located all over the New Jersey and New York area.

Gary Perlson started his own company in 1977 with a handful of stores, including five in Hoboken, N.J. He eventually went to work cleaning doorman uniforms in a New York store that had been owned by his father. Then he expanded into a larger facility in Harlem before building his current Bronx facility, with over 20,000 square feet. This facility now supplies to the doormen at many hotels throughout the city.

The companys present name was taken from one of Gary Perlsons fathers stores of about 20 years ago. The current plant is close to the First Avenue Bridge with easy access to Manhattans many hotels. Between both operations, Perlson works with 200 employees.

A fourth generation of Perlsons is making its way in the industry. Garys son, Cory, now in his early 20s, started AZ Laundry when he was 18 years old attending the University of Arizona. He would wash, fold and dry clean clothes for college students and the medical school, some 6,000 pounds per week. After college graduation and the sale of his company, Cory joined his father in New York to begin a new division involved in the selling and renting of uniforms for hotels, hotel doormen and hospitals. These uniforms will be sold and rented through the Danielle Uniforms website.

Perlson has another business, Carnegie Linen, which services the sheets, towels and household items, including bedspreads, blankets and drapes, for NYC hotels.

Danielle Uniforms cleans doorman uniforms for approximately 400 buildings in the New York metropolitan area. It also cleans garments for 60 hotels with guest valet work. Danielle Uniforms delivers clean uniforms for doormen in various locations around New York City by van. Doorman uniforms are bar-coded and use an under-counter bag. Danielles truck drivers go out, pick them up, scan the bags in a similar fashion to what UPS does, and processes the garments upon arrival before cleaning them. After cleaning, theyre scanned and placed on the conveyor. When the orders are ready, they are extracted and bagged automatically before going back out on the routes. The following morning when they make their deliveries, drivers scan each order and have an employee at each individual building sign for the order.

“We have a full accounting of all the garments, from the minute they are picked up through the cleaning process, the marking process and the delivery process,” says Perlson. “The whole time every step of the way, there are checks and balances and no losses.”

Old, Familiar Problems Solved

The reason Perlson is so pleased with the Metalprogetti system for hotels is his reasoning that, to make money today, businesses must save money on labor and uniforms, as theyve both become very expensive. “Many times employees say theyve returned their garment to the valet, but they didnt,” says Perlson. “Instead they may have brought it home or tossed it into a garbage pail in the locker room after they concluded that a shirt was getting a little old. But that wasnt their decision to make. Employees also tend to take garments home without returning them the next day. Then they return to the valet and get either a new uniform or additional components.”

He continues, “But the new equipment
with the chip now allows for complete accountability from the cleaner to the employee turning in a soiled uniform. And when a uniform in better shape is needed, the chip is simply removed from the old garment and placed into the new one.”

The chip is able to endure 200 washes before replacement. Data information can be reprogrammed into the chip. For instance if an employee leaves and another one is hired, the dime-sized chip easily can be reassigned to another person. A patch placed over the chip holds it in place.

“As far as safety, one of the hotels brought up the issue of cancer and safety risks associated with the chip,” explains Perlson. “But the chip is activated by radio frequency and contains nothing harmful. The chip is scanned and the data placed in the computer.”

Providing Accountability for Uniforms

Whether it be uniforms, dry cleaning, laundry or mechanics, having a range of options remains critical for Perlson. “Business has changed these days, and flexibility is often absolutely necessary. For example, our businesses are now fully-organic cleaners. This affects both washed and dry-cleaned items of clothing.”

Perlson says the Metalprogetti system will work even for a hotel as small as 300 rooms. “You control the uniform inventory. Even if your operations only had several people working in the uniform room, by using this technology you no longer have the expense of those employees. The larger the property, the greater the savings, but still the goal is inventory control, accountability and money savings in the dispensing of uniforms.”

He says, “This is the only such system out there. Ive visited some 50 different properties involved with various types of equipment. But this is the only system with an automatic arm, which eliminates manual labor to the conveyor. This machine is going to save a lot of losses and create tremendous cost savings for hotels. This is about accountability of an integral production component in a companys identity its uniforms.”

Danielle Uniforms
874 East 139th St.
Bronx, NY 10454
(800) 507-0593