The commercial laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing machine industry encompasses companies primarily engaged in manufacturing nonresidential laundry equipment. Coin-operated machines are classified in SIC 3633: Household Laundry Equipment.
333312 (Commercial Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Pressing Machine Manufacturing)
The largest product group in this industry is washers and extractors, which account for almost 40 percent of sales. Commercial dryers and presses make up about 16 and 11 percent of output, respectively. Dry cleaning equipment accounts for an additional 11 percent of production, while parts, attachments, and miscellaneous equipment represent the remainder of sales.
Hotels, hospitals, and contract laundry services that serve commercial and institutional customers were the biggest consumers of commercial laundry equipment in the late 1990s. Dry cleaners represented about 17 percent of the market. Government institutions, including the armed services, prisons, schools, and hospitals, bought about 11 percent of industry output; and 12 percent of production was exported.
Maytag Corporation introduced the first electric washing machine in 1907. Not until the 1950s, however, did commercial laundry equipment producers achieve widespread market penetration. The proliferation of hotels, hospitals, and government institutions during the post-World War II economic boom pushed industry revenues to almost $300 million per year by the end of the 1970s. Continued growth in demand during the 1980s, particularly in hotel and hospital markets, increased sales to $587 million by 1988.
The commercial laundry industry faltered in the late 1980s and early 1990s as recession gripped the U.S. economy. Sales plummeted to $480 million during 1989 and bobbed up to only $526 million in 1990. Although commercial construction markets remained sluggish in the early and mid-1990s, increased sales to institutional consumers helped some manufacturers stabilize their earnings. An increase in new construction in 1993 and 1994, moreover, partially renewed industry optimism.
Manufacturers in the mid-1990s were striving to boost profits by building machines that were more energy efficient, conserved water, and offered more features. Pellerin Milnor Corp., for example, introduced a valve that allowed commercial washing machines to reuse water. Speed Queen designed a line of commercial laundry machines that took more time, effort, and noise to steal. The machines also increased dryer airflow and allowed easier loading and servicing.
In 2000, the industry had $626 million in shipments, compared to $636 million in 1999. The cost of materials remained steady at $359 million in both 1999 and 2000. The number of employees fell from 4,204 in 1999 to 3,781 in 2000. Production workers in 2000 numbered 2,735, and they earned an average hourly wage of $14.29.
In the late 1990s, most of the businesses in this classification were medium-sized. There were 35 companies that generated sales between $250,000 and $499,000, and 45 companies that had sales between $1.0 million and $4.9 million. The smallest groupings were at the two extremes, with two firms reporting sales below $49,000, and six reporting sales over $5.0 million.
The largest U.S. company primarily engaged in the production of commercial laundry equipment in the late 1990s was Pellerin Milnor Corp. of Kenner Louisiana, with sales of $91 million and employed 900 workers. Unimac was second with sales of $40 million and employed 700 workers. Cissell Manufacturing Company of Louisville, Kentucky, was third. It boasted revenues of about $40 million and had 400 employees. Other major players included American Dryer Corporation of Massachusetts and Hotsy Corporation of Colorado.
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United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov .
Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies, 1999. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1999.