X-Mas wish list

Donald Desrosiers

Its (already) time for my annual Christmas wish list.  For the past decade of two, I have, somewhat whimsically, used this column to dream up some products that I believe this industry needs.  These products don’t exist, but I wish that they did.  They are products that would make the world of washing and pressing shirts easier, better and more profitable.  I suspect that some of the products would be logistical nightmares to develop or simply not cost-effective and therefore will never be produced.  I hate to be so blunt, but that isn’t my problem.  I am just playing the role of the imagineer, not the engineer.  Several years ago, when the cost of hangers was spiraling out of control, I had a conversation with the owner of Unipress Corporation.  He and I talked about an idea that I had which was to incorporate a hanger-making machine into a shirt press.  The concept was that a motor would pull a wire from a spool mounted somewhere in the machine and fold the wire into a hanger as each shirt was being pressed.  I still think that it’s a pretty cool idea (he did too).  Logistically, however, he explained that the cost of a motor that would be required to pull wire of the required gauge would be prohibitive.  Still, I think that this would be a great idea.  Shirt presses do a lot more than press shirts these days, why not bend me a hanger as well?  These are the types of problems that prevent my ideas from turning into products.  Still, every year someone seems to misunderstand that my visions aren’t anything more than pipedreams.  I get calls every year… “Hey, where can I buy one of those?” 

Over the years, I’m happy to say, some of my suggestions, have turned into products.  Most notably are the productivity monitors on shirt presses telling you how many shirts per hour are being pressed and shirt back pull-downs to prevent wrinkles in the backs of shirts. 

This year, Santa will show up with a mask on, no doubt.  But that mask should not cover his ears and his eyes, so read this, Mr. Claus, and listen up!  I’ve got some important things to say!

Once again, I whine about folded shirts.  I can’t help but do this because we painstakingly press our shirts and then, with seeming reckless disregard, hack up the press job with a hapless fold job.  It’s even difficult to type that.  Interestingly enough, customers don’t complain about it very much, but in these trying times, it is more important than ever to under-promise and over-deliver.  Look under a rock and find a problem that no one is complaining about (yet), that’s how you will excel.  It seems like fewer and fewer plants have shirt folding machines, especially newly built plants.  Shirt folding machines are crazy-expensive.  In fact, everything related to folded shirts is expensive.  Most of the packaging supplies that you buy are for folded shirts; carry bags, shirt boards, shirt bags, butterflies, folded shirt poly bags, perhaps shirt boxes of various sizes.  A shirt folding machine has virtually no return on investment.  Heck, no matter what you upcharge for folded shirts, you are probably not even covering the additional labor for folding them, which takes  more time than it takes to press the shirt in most plants, let alone the additional supplies.  Trying to amortize the cost of a shirt folding machine is hopeless lest you charge much more for a folded shirt than you do now.  Enter the need for a simple folding device which is the next item on my wish list for 2020.  Yes, there is the lowly Flip-fold.  It has little more value than to fold Sheldon Cooper’s socks.  It is just too small.  You can use it too fold t-shirts, but I bet that you don’t.  In fact, you probably have one that you don’t use and that is perfectly understandable.  A Flip-fold has the right idea, but it needs to be the right size!  It needs to be the size of a 14-inch shirt board!  Then, it would be perfect.  This is not difficult to execute and there is a great need.  Santa:  You’re gonna need a bigger bag.

You know how they tell you that you can gauge how much longer your tire threads are good for with a penny?  There need to be a device on a shirt press that tells you when your padding is no longer resilient enough to keep buttons from breaking.  It seems like spent steel mesh or padding is the last thing that people think of when they suddenly start breaking a lot of buttons.  Sometimes they wait for me to show up.  They talk amongst themselves “We’ll ask Don why we are breaking so many buttons when he gets here.”  A few weeks go by, awaiting my arrival.  Button material is being pulverized into dust every day.  When I tell them that their steel mesh needs to be replaced, they sound surprised.  They order it.  It takes a couple of weeks.  More button dust.

Suppose there had been a device that disclosed the problem long ago?  It might be a sturdy needle-type device that is attached to the steam chest – let’s say on the collar/cuff press.  When the head closes, the needle penetrates the padding, but does not go all the way through to steam chest below the steel mesh.  Unless and until the padding has lost its resiliency at which the needle closes some sort of circuitry, indicting that the buttons are in danger.  (Hey!  I like that!)

Remember, I am the imagineer.  Someone else needs to be the engineer.  Step right up!

Happy New Year everyone!  2021 must be better that 2020!

“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.”


Don Desrosiers has been in the laundry and drycleaning industry for over 30 years.  As a management consultant, work-flow systems engineer and efficiency expert, he has created the highly acclaimed Tailwind Shirt System, the Tailwind System for Drycleaning and Firestorm for Restoration.  He owns and operates Tailwind Systems, a management consulting and work-flow engineering firm.  Desrosiers is a monthly columnist for The National Clothesline, Korean Cleaners Monthly, The Golomb Group Newsletter and Australia’s The National Drycleaner and Launderer.   He is the 2001 winner of IFI’s Commitment to Professionalism Award.  He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com and can be reached at tailwindsystems@charter.net or my telephone at 508.965.3163