Lively CLEAN Show Atlanta in turbulent times!

Innovations in Digitization, Robotization, IT & Automation


Saturday, July 30th, 10.00 am sharp, representatives of the five associations and Messe Frankfurt opened the CLEANSHOW in Atlanta as usual by cutting the red ribbon. The last two years during Corona, other international trade shows for the industry were cancelled and/or postponed. But the CLEAN show was the first international meeting point for the PTC industry again after such a long time of only Zoom & Team meetings. For the first time organized by Messe Frankfurt, with a wide range of educational and trainings sessions provided by the associations, good programming and excellent facilities. However the business has changed considerably. After two years of global Corona, economic difficult times, high cost increases and a severe lack of labor also in the US. Most US visitors (rarely foreigners) left their families and employees at home, came for business and specific info and went home satisfied, as confirmed by the majority of exhibitors.

Extensive Program

After a long three years, The Clean Show 2022, North America’s largest show for laundering, dry-cleaning, retail textile cleaning and textile service was opened again. There were good number of visitors at the show floor (except for the 4th day), well attended educational sessions, not only in the early mornings as before, but also during the show hours on a wide variety of topics. Sessions on the latest trends in business ownership, strategy development, commercial and marketing philosophies, digital tools and management support systems, hygiene issues, working conditions, etc. For retail B2C and industrial B2B professionals, skilled and experienced trainers provided clear answers for the difficult market circumstances the industry currently is facing.

 

Lack of labour biggest concern

US Market trends

The US economic and marketing situation is different from the EU and Asia, however there are many similarities as well. The impact of Corona was timewise different, the governmental measures came later as in the EU, but the severe setbacks in market demand for retail and hospitality were comparable, after two years of struggling. Dropdowns of 60 -70% in turnover, limited governmental support, lay-offs of personal, etc. When finally after this period market demand was restored, high increases of cost and a lack of labor prevented many companies for levelling the loss in a short time. Especially for the smaller companies, like in Europe, Australia and other Asian countries, including China, the effects of these disruptive, unforeseen market trends were extremely difficult and resulted in a shake-out of many retail companies.

Market Consolidation

Though market demand overall restored, the consolidation which has started already some longer time ago, was speeded up. Laundries and retail textile cleaners need to adapt to new market circumstances and requirements, new service demands of b2b clients and consumers. The current business models need to be adapted. Marketing and IT professionalized upon extended and deepened knowledge. The educational sessions and suppliers at CLEAN provided the necessary tools and management trainings to learn and share these vital elements for future business.

State of the Art processing

Some cleaning technologies were adapted and specialized, offering an improved performance for specific applications. But in this area no breakthroughs were introduced. In IT and Automation however, as well as robotization, real innovations were introduced by international software companies, IT specialists and leading manufacturers like Kannegiesser and Jensen, as also by Dutch companies like ABS, LCT and last but not least, Laundry Robotics. The trend of integrated processing and steering is not new, but the tools and machines/equipment to organize this accurately, effectively and much more efficiently, has made progress beyond expectations. Innovative breakthroughs, for textile service companies in hospitality and to some extend also in healthcare were introduced by especially Laundry Robotics and also Kannegiesser and Inwatec/Jensen. The Dutch robot innovations Robin and Roy of Laundry Robotics, in the us marketed by Chicago under the branding of Genesis Care Hospitality, were real time, demonstrated and could be filmed, discussed and witnessed, also upon invitation, in a nearby industrial laundry or on a web application. Spectacular, revolutionary breakthroughs.

The demand of laundries for robotization and automation is overwhelming. However, the manufacturing numbers are limited, because of a lack of components, as with all machines and equipment currently. Hence, only limited numbers of robots can be delivered in a short period of time.

Marketing

Innovations in software applications for special (precision) marketing activities in retail were introduced, including
education and training programs, amongst others by Maverick and Puritain. The need for retail textile cleaners to acquire more knowledge and expertise in these areas, is eminent. As is the need to scale up to a next level of operation to specialize and improve process and service performance for a wider range of textiles and textile related products.


And, last but not least the need to activate a dynamic program of online communication on social media combined with traditional media to become more successful and profitable. The “Mom & Dad” model will become more difficult every year, except for specific target groups. The omnichannel model (a combination of a variety of sales and precision marketing), focusing on specific target groups, seem the way to go forward.

Bio-Packaging

At the last CLEAN show in 2019 in New Orleans, there was a great debate on the need for bio-degradable packaging materials. This disappeared almost completely. Partly because material development did not deliver practical, affordable solutions which could be processed on existing equipment, partly because the cost for these materials simply were too high. At this year’s Clean Show only one supplier (Organix), offered an acceptable and practical solution developed in Germany/The Netherlands. Though, also for this material the costs seem still (too) high. The emotion for sustainability in market demand, needs to become more intense for customers to be prepared to pay more money for it. Public opinion in the us is gradually shifting in this direction, but apparently this needs more time.

Overall

Overall this CLEAN show will be remembered as an excellent initiative in difficult times. A promising Kick-Off, demonstrating a clear need for PTC professionals to communicate also personally (once and a while). The industry has a great potential. Difficult times will not stop by the current cost increases, lack of materials and lack of labor in the industry. The changing political environment (demonstrated by the visit of Mrs. Pelosi to Taiwan) results at least in augmented uncertainties and risks in the business climate. The future will be a dynamic one in the US and globally.
The next edition of the Clean Show is planned in Orlando August 2025.