In the past five years or so the Laundry & Drycleaning Technology Centre (LTC & DTC) has seen considerable changes in the way it works.
The business, founded by Richard Neale in 1988 as a largely solo, technical consultancy with administration support, later evolved into a partnership but is now a limited company with a full-time team of five: Steve Anderton, managing director, Richard Neale, founder and director, Stuart Boyd director, Fiona Cawood, administration manager, and also Debbie Rutter a freelance textile consultant who works two/three days a week at the centre.
This team now brings a combined experience of 100 years involvement in textile related markets including textile manufacture, detergent chemistry and laundering and drycleaning technology. Skills within the team include not only the technical ones such as textile testing and fault analysis (for both laundry and drycleaning), but also administrative, commercial, training and mentoring skills.
"Any one of the team could run a successful solo operation," says Richard Neale, "but the combination of skills and they way they complement each other is what counts. This has allowed the significant changes of recent years."
The skills and services are now under the day-to-day organisation of administration manager, Fiona Cawood, who is often the initial contact for customers. She organises the workload’s priorities and can track the status of any project.
This more organised and commercial approach plus the broad range of skills has allowed the range of services to expand and the business to grow not only within in the UK but also internationally, particularly beyond Europe.
Anderton has considerable experience of the Middle East, while Boyd has worked with Chinese companies for many years.
It is Boyd who has brought the training side of the consultancy more to the fore and been a particular influence in the introduction of management training.
The company has a proven record in testing but has found that many laundries are not good at communication – delegating responsibility and motivating staff, hence a growing need within the industry for such courses.
Mentoring, with its focus on personal development rather than specific practical skills, is a recent trend, not just within the laundry industry, but generally. Again it’s a specialist area for Boyd who is a skilled and experienced trainer.
In addition to the personal skills within the group, LTC has an extensive library of resource material that has been built up over the years, including technical data and detailed records of past courses as well as research material.
"We were surprised to find how much unique material we had – it’s a tremendous asset."
Steve Anderton, as managing director, takes a special interest in developing the consultancy commercially and has largely led the move to export services as well as finding ways to market the services effectively for the customer.

Consultancy agreements
As one example of effective marketing, LTC now offers general consultancy agreements, a response to the growing requirement for flexibility within businesses and in working methods. "We sell a block of so many days that can be provided over the course of a year – the number of days can range from just a few to as many as 70."
The laundry will choose how those days are used – they can concentrate on one service, combine two or more different services, be taken in one block, or spread over a few months or the whole year.
"Customers like this arrangement as LTC gets to know their business," says Boyd. He adds though that the agreements are set up on the basis that LTC will remain independent, offering an impartial view and advising on this basis.
He stresses that: "Customers trust us to keep LTC’s findings, its advice and any changes implemented strictly confidential."
Another initiative has been to develop the services on an international basis, a move that started as a one-off but an area that Anderton is now proactively encouraging.
Such initiatives are clearly working as Anderton says that turnover is growing by 10 – 25% annually and has done so since he joined in 2008.
"We are seen as expensive but in terms of cost to benefits this is not the case."
He adds: "The people who see us as expensive are those that don’t use us."
Over the past two to three years, LTC has increasingly sold its services overseas and this export side now accounts for around 20% of turnover.
It has grown organically from the UK side. A company may have commissioned some testing of textile samples before purchasing, or asked for a report on a particular area and has then used LTC’s findings in discussions with the exporter or importer.
"The people who come to us look for our support so that they can make the best purchasing decision," says Neale.
This organic growth has now reached the point where LTC has been able to gain matched funding from UKTI (UK Trade and Industry), to develop this side of the business, which will include projects such as web development.
"To date, we’ve been very successful without active development but now plan to be proactive with the assistance of UKTI," says Neale
Growth will be carefully monitored. "We don’t want to grow so fast that we overstretch the business because we believe in offering a personal service to the customer. Everything is done by LTC & DTC," says Anderton. Asked if there will be a geographic emphasis to the projected export side, he says: "Historically, we have supported people and organisations that have sought us out but that is changing. We are now targeting North America, Europe and the Middle East."
Although the consultancy does have a drycleaning side, the export business will be centred on laundry services. These include:
Fault analysis on flatwork: An investigation into why a fault occurred with a report that describes the fault, analyses it, indicates responsibility and advises on future prevention or management.
Pre-purchase textile testing: Analysing samples for value – the results are not always price-related, says Neale.
This is the service that will probably lead the export drive. All the testing can be done in the UK and the report is then sent abroad. LTC already offers this service to two large international hotel chains but the service could be commissioned by a manufacturer, or laundry or hotel-end user.
Mill audits: LTC says this is "unique" as its audits are aimed at ensuring that the textiles the mill produces are commercially launderable. LTC will go out to the mill and look at processes to see if they are compatible with laundry processes. The service could be commissioned by the mill or by the laundry or an international end user.
Airline work: This is an expanding area. They need to have a product that will survive the procedures in the Cut Make and Trim (CMT) factory and a finished product that will survive multi-washing.
In the case of a finished product, LTC would devise a laundering spec that would go to laundries world wide.
These are just some examples of the services that would be on offer and will help the business to expand and in particular promote the export side.
This growth will be led by Steve Anderton, supported by Stuart Boyd with Richard Neale supplying the technical back-up from base.
Stuart Boyd says that LTC’s export business has great potential. The size of the country is not an obstacle but it does need a measured approach. "As we continue to work within China we find that generally, the problems there are similar to a lot of those we meet in the UK.
"The key factor is that both sides want to communicate, whatever languages they speak. There is a bond that exists between people that run laundries and that can translate anything, anywhere"
Hotel work will also be a vital part of the export drive. "We often get called in because the cause of the issue is unclear between all parties involved and we act as a neutral referee," says Boyd.
"We make objective experiments that can prove or disprove a theory," says Neale.
Boyd adds: "You must never make assumptions. Sometimes an experiment will not tell us anything.
"The timing of an experiment can be crucial because laundries are organic environments. You must always go in with a clear mind.
"Even if you’ve had a similar problem with a laundry nearby you can’t assume the solution will be the same. That’s what makes the job intriguing. Every problem is different."

GIVING ADVANCE WARNING: Richard Neale tests a fabric sample to assess how it will perform in laundry processes. Analysing the finish will give an early warning of potential problems such as cracked ice creasing