In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 on March 8th, we interviewed Julie Stuyven from LDL Group (Belgium). Julie has a leading position in the commercial laundry industry and works since several years with Alliance Laundry Systems on a daily basis. Julie provided important insights on the importance of female leadership and the challenges the laundry industry is facing.
HELLO JULIE, CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELVES AND YOUR COMPANIES?
Julie Stuyven: My name is Julie Stuyven, I am 31 years old and I started in 2013 in the family business LDL Equipment (as the only female at the time). A temporary summer job in my father’s company quickly led to a permanent position with the LDL team. LDL Equipment specializes in the distribution of industrial washing, drying and ironing equipment for anyone who washes at least once a day. This means that we can offer solutions not only for laundromats and laundries, but also for a hairdressing salon, B&B or a private sauna, as well as for a hospital, residential care center, fire station, prison or other. We distinguish ourselves through our personal approach, our expertise in the field and our strong BeNeLux service team. With our hands-on mentality, it is our goal to support our customers, but above all to unburden the laundry. LDL has a turnover of €14 million.
WHAT ARE THE FEMALE INSIGHTS YOU ARE BRINGING TO THE BUSINESS AND WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND RESULTS?
Julie Stuyven: Nine years later I can proudly report that the LDL team has now gained six women. I note that the female touch has become clearly visible in our organization. Attention to the visual and the user are two points that have gained importance in recent years. Where previously the (washing) machine was central, now much more importance is attached to the user of our machine. We do this in concrete terms by taking into account the arrangement of the machines, the loading height of the machine, the ease of use and various other points. The biggest challenge for the future is to give the customer experience even more depth so that our users can be relieved even more. I am thinking of the automatic integration of IoT, for which Alliance has already put a lot of effort into it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES OF THE LAUNDRY BUSINESS FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS?
Julie Stuyven: Dirty laundry is an endless story. We will always have to do the laundry. Our biggest challenge will be to continue to respond ad hoc to our rapidly changing society. This depends on payment options, socio-economic developments (ordered today, delivered tomorrow) and connectivity.
HOW IMPORTANT WILL CONNECTIVITY BECOME FOR LAUNDRY INSTALLATION IN VEND OR OPL ENVIRONMENTS IN YOUR OPINION?
Julie Stuyven: Today we can monitor how well we sleep, how many steps we take per day and so on. Then why not how much we have washed and which programs we use the most? Connectivity will only gain in importance. However, we must watch out for the pitfall of providing too much information with too little added value. What is important to our customer? Since this is not the same for everyone (OPL vs. VENDED), we need to present the information in a streamlined way.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE NEXT GENERATION WILL DO LAUNDRY EVERY DAY AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE VEND BUSINESS?
Julie Stuyven: In my opinion, the aspect ‘property’ loses importance. This means that we no longer have to own everything. The sharing economy will become increasingly important, also in view of current ecological interests and concerns. It is my feeling that the communal washing place will become more and more established and that we will integrate a ‘vended’ application in multi-housing complexes as a concept. Connectivity plays a very important role in this (reservations, digital payments). The ‘Netflix’ principle can work as an inspiration here; instead of ‘all you can watch’, ‘all you can wash’.
HOW IS YOUR COMPANY ADAPTING TO A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD? HOW MUCH HAS YOUR BUSINESS CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC?
Julie Stuyven: We note that the importance of hygiene and commercial laundry equipment has gained in value. The machines are used more intensively than before; this is because we have to clean surfaces much more often, no longer use towels twice and so on. The demand for an industrial setup has increased as a result. In addition, we also see that more and more attention is being paid to energy costs, resulting in higher sales of dryers with residual moisture measurement. In short, hygiene and ecology are two aspects that have gained importance and which I suspect will continue to be these requirements.
Julie, thank you very much for your participation!