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New Encyclopedia App Released at Clean 2017

App in hand A new web interface and mobile app for the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning puts the entirety of DLI’s vast stores of knowledge and research at members’ fingertips.

       

By Ian P. Murphy

Members know they can turn to DLI whenever they have a question about any facet of running a drycleaning business. After more than a century of helping operators succeed, the association has witnessed and handled nearly every situation a fabricare professional might encounter—and what’s more, it has researched and written about it.

DLI’s comprehensive reference, the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning, is the repository of that knowledge. Included in Silver-level and higher memberships, the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning is a members-only feature that contains the many thousands of articles, advisories, and other releases DLI has produced over the decades.

TABS, Not in Vogue, Counter Sense, Marketing Methods, Management Matters, plus exhaustive reports and advice on topics such as wetcleaning, drycleaning, finishing, shirt procedures, counter service, insurance, regulations, and more. It’s an indispensable resource for anyone and everyone involved in fabricare.

And it just got easier to use.

The original Encyclopedia of Drycleaning was a library of printed matter. More recently, DLI digitized its documents, put them on CD, and introduced a keyword search. Now, a new web interface and mobile app will allow member cleaners to access the entire DLI knowledge base at any time, from practically any location.

Why the change? “PDFs are slow to load, they only look good on computer screens, and the search isn’t great,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, DLI’s web developer. “The new Encyclopedia improves the speed of the search, its accuracy, and allows users to access the application on their phones and tablets.”


View an interactive timeline showing the evolution of the Encyclopedia over the past 20 years.

 

Streamlined and Searchable

The new, web-based Encyclopedia of Drycleaning and mobile app contain the same information as the original, but makes it easier to access. The first thing members will notice is that DLI has optimized its search function to incorporate all of the terms that drycleaners commonly use.

“We upgraded the search,” said DLI CEO Mary Scalco. “All of the information on there is the same, but sometimes the jargon or words used by our members are not necessarily the same words as we would use in the bulletins when we wrote them. A good example: ‘counter help’ or ‘counter person.’ We would call that person a customer service rep. Or we would call the spotter a ‘stain removal technician.’ In the app, we call them a spotter.”

“Let’s say you want information on perchloroethylene,” said Jon Meijer, DLI’s director of membership and marketing. “Most people don’t say ‘perchloroethylene,’ they say ‘perc’ or ‘perk.’ Another example? Still residues: Some people call them still residues; some people call it ‘muck.’ For every entry, we’ve introduced a whole series of search terms that are more specific to the way you might search a document.”

In addition, DLI eliminated documents that were out-of-date or repetitive to ensure Encyclopedia of Drycleaning users can get the exact information they want without having to sort through multiple documents. For instance, the resource purged entries on regulations that no longer apply, and consolidates dozens of articles on red silk. “The results are now a lot more specific,” Scalco said.

“With the old Encyclopedia, drycleaners had to know the exact term that was in an article in order to find it,” Gonzalez said. “And that’s a problem, because not everyone uses the same vocabulary when it comes to cleaning. With the new Encyclopedia, we’ve created an algorithm that matches synonyms for the terms you’re looking for, making it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.”

 

At Your Fingertips

The most revolutionary aspect of the new Encyclopedia of Drycleaning, however, is that it travels. Anywhere a drycleaning operator, manager, or staffer needs information, he or she can punch it up instantly. “Having a mobile app means that every employee in a plant can have the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning in their pocket at all times,” Gonzalez said. “When the store is busy, they can pull out an article to explain something to a customer or read about a cleaning process while working on a garment.”

Employees appreciate the app when they need to investigate a particular stain, garment construction, or other issue. As soon as they find the information, they can educate themselves and their customers almost effortlessly, and learn the things they need to know quickly. “There is something about having the information in your pocket that translates,” Meijer said. “Employees use the apps all the time.

“We’re all about tech at this point,” Meijer added. “You need to be ahead of the curve. The information doesn’t change much, but the way we deliver it has changed 100 percent. It’s mobile; you can use it from any smart device, whether it’s an Android, iPad, or iPhone. That’s the way people want their stuff delivered.”

“One of the downsides of the old Encyclopedia was that you’d have to go to the office to use it if it wasn’t wired directly into your point-of-sale system,” Scalco said. “When it’s right at your fingertips on an iPad, you can let your staff use it. Just like the stain-removal app, it’s right there when you need it. It makes it more flexible for your operation to use.”

Most of DLI’s garment analysis activity also happens in the virtual world now, Meijer noted. Since DLI’s knowledge base is so vast, members can usually snap a picture of the problem garment and offer a brief play-by-play of its failure, and the association can make an assessment and file a report without need for a box, label, and shipping. Similarly, DLI’s stain-removal app offers step-by-step instructions from any device.

Drycleaners will appreciate the convenience of the new Encyclopedia of Drycleaning when a problem comes up outside regular DLI office hours. “We don’t mind getting the information for you,” Scalco said, “but depending on the time zone, the mobile site will probably be more convenient.”

 

Another Value-Added Benefit

The new Encyclopedia of Drycleaning is just the latest of the many benefits that come with a DLI membership. Every day, the association continues to expand and develop valuable resources that drycleaners can use to operate in a more efficient, professional, and profitable manner.

“All of these things are packaged within certain membership levels,” Meijer said. “DLI is never going to nickel-and-dime our members; we’re going to provide long-term solutions. As a member, all of these things are included.”

DLI will soon introduce another innovation that will help drycleaners educate and attract customers: A service that populates member cleaners’ Facebook pages with informative and entertaining consumer-centric posts. “Our members can sign up for the service, and we will automatically post articles directly to their Facebook pages,” Meijer said.

“You don’t have to do a thing, and it will keep your Facebook page fresh,” he said. “You can add your own slant to it, too. Let’s say the article is on shirts; you will be able to add something to it: ‘By the way, we have a shirt special.’ Again, it’s in the tradition of trying to stay ahead of the curve.”

The Encyclopedia of Drycleaning is also designed to stay current. DLI beta-tested the mobile app and interface with actual drycleaners, and as more operations start to use it, DLI will track usage and refine the search results to be even more exacting. “As our members start to use it, they will provide feedback,” Scalco said. “It is not stagnant; we can add terms to it. The more people use it, the more it will improve.”

DLI expects the new Encyclopedia of Drycleaning to help drycleaners more often, too. “This application will add to what I call DLI’s ‘sticky’ benefits—benefits that members use on a daily basis,” Gonzalez said. “DLI wants to be a resource that’s used frequently to help drycleaners provide better service to their customers. We hope this product makes it easier for members to use the service, rather than have to load things slowly on a computer in the back of the plant.”

“It will make it much faster and easier to access the DLI knowledge base,” added Brian Johnson, DLI’s director of education and analysis. “Knowledge has always been our core benefit, and now, people can access it at any time. They can get that knowledge on their own, and on their own time.”


Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. He served as the editor of American Drycleaner magazine from 1999-2011.

Posted By Harry Kimmel | 6/6/2017 7:54:34 AM
 

 
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