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Courage

We find ourselves again in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse goes. Congress has forgotten how to lead; our government seems to be intent on confusion instead of solid policy. So what do we do when we find ourselves living in interesting times? We can be very cautious, hold tight to our present position, basically put our head in the sand and hope that when we pull it back out all will be right in our world again. Or we can decide for ourselves that we are not participating in the paranoid press that surrounds us and push ourselves and our companies forward and thrive.

It takes courage at time like this to make those decisions. Let me tell you a story:

Many years ago, a man decided to make a difference in his life, and the lives of his wife and children. He had been working in the rat race of a big metropolitan city, traveling, fighting traffic, struggling with the conflicting motivations of his business partners. This man decided to leave the security of his business, separate from his partners, uproot his family from their home and move 700 miles to a new city, start a new business and work for a better life for his wife and children. Courage! He worked hard, at first out of the garage, loading a van with a variety of sewing machines, button feeders and parts, and heading off early Monday, returning sometime late on Friday, hopefully with an empty van. Hard work, determination, and courage to do what he knew needed to be done were his motivators. He knew he had to succeed.

From humble beginnings his company started to gain reputation. You always knew that he stood behind what he sold, was always there for the customer. He knew you provided service, service, and service. He worked in the garment industry, an industry that is normally the first to go down in a recession and the last to recover. Just because someone in Washington said we were in a recession did not mean he could ease off any. His children did not stop eating, they did not stop going to school and college, and his family still needed the roof over their head. So he decided not to listen to the experts telling of a recession, he just worked harder.

Years later, after battling through the recessions, Washington thought they finally got the last laugh when they changed the laws and exported our garment industry first to the Caribbean and later across the globe. They took his industry out from under him. Now in his mid-50’s, he found himself facing another challenge. Once again, he showed his courage, he crossed over into the a new industry, and with nothing more than his determination and imagination and vision, started over once again.

How many of us have this courage today? To start over again, underfunded, during a recession, into a new industry that has never heard your name? And to make matters worse, he had convinced his son to join him, with that new family also depending on the business to survive. But he had also done an excellent job teaching his son what was important; hard work, determination, and the understanding that you have the choice to participate in the recession or not. He taught courage to his son as well.

The business grew, from half of a two car garage filled with sewing machines and feeders, into a manufacturing plant. Once again, as the company grew, he showed courage. He felt his time leading the company had come to an end, that it was his son’s turn to lead. He realized for that to happen, he had to leave, physically remove himself from the company he built. How hard is it to hand over the keys to the business, your “other” child you built and walk away? But with his personality, it was the only way. He knew he had taught his son well, knew it would be in good hands and properly cared for. So one day he packed his desk and moved away, keeping the phone close for advice when asked, but stepping away from the company he created.

After so many battles, so many years of hard work and dedication and devotion, he lost his last battle to cancer on August 1. Through to the end, through all the pain he suffered, he never once gave up. All his life he showed courage. How many of us walk with courage each and every day? How many of us face the hurdles and road blocks that life throws at us, determined to keep our head high, moving forward, knowing we will succeed? Courage.

I miss my father.

Leonard Frushtick, May 11, 1931 – August 1, 2011

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More than Steam Tunnels

I have to say that the first half of the year has been an exciting fast-paced growth filled 6 months. With the Clean Show behind us and the second half of the year in front…you will be glad to know that Leonard Automatics is doing very well.

But when you think of Leonard you most likely think of steam tunnel finishers and how we can help your overall finishing department. Although this is our core business, it may interest you to know that we are in many different markets reaching a worldwide audience. Why is this of benefit to you? Through this diversification we have managed to grow through the recession which shows the strength and focus of the company. Additionally, we are able to stay out of the “pigeon hole” so to speak technologically while cross migrating learned practices throughout our varied product lines. This self-refining practice ads fresh perspective and spawns continuous improvement and innovation.

For instance, did you know that Leonard is a major supplier to the garment manufacturing industry? We manufacture curing ovens and heat setting equipment for the seamless and wrinkle free markets. Customers like Nike, Under Armour, L.L. Bean, and Victoria’s Secret are just a few of the names that you may recognize. With extremely accurate airflow and heat distribution, Leonard has become a preferred vendor for many of the major brands. The level of control within these processes is critical, and we have been able to implement those same controls and tolerances into your steam tunnel. These markets are not located in the US anymore…places like Asia, the Middle-East, India, South America, etc. are where these pieces are going.

Leonard Fabrication & Design is a division of our company that markets and provides manufacturing, engineering, and technical expertise in the world of industrial fabrication. From private label equipment and parts to, automotive parts for GM, race car parts for NASCAR, medical furniture parts for Kewaunee Scientific, water park equipment, and everything you can think of around and in between, Leonard is designing and manufacturing. We are also involved in designing numerous types of specialty equipment for the likes of BMW as well as others working with their fabrics and providing the services they need to present an attractive and consistent product to their customers. Pushing the envelope of design is an everyday practice within this division and only makes the products that you purchase better.

If you were are the Clean Show, then you saw that we have added two new pieces to the Leonard family! These items take the Leonard name and reputation into a side of the laundry business that we really did not have a significant presence…the flatwork portion. With the introduction of the Leonard Stack-N-Store multi-lane draping stacker and the LTF-2000 small piece folder we are able to reach and support more of the industry than before. These pieces were very popular at the Clean Show and look to be excellent additions to our family of equipment.

Leonard is expanding and growing in a very challenging business climate which will ultimately translate to one of strength, reliability, and dependability as the economy improves. We are working hard to bring you the products and services that you need. Service globally while manufacturing locally…Leonard is here for you!

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Unconscious Competence

Does what you do make a difference? Is there any room for improvement? What are our most valuable assets? I would hope that everyone would answer yes, yes, and our people. One of the things that we discuss regularly in our “management” team meetings is how we can become more effective, not only for you but for Leonard as a whole. If we can reduce our costs, increase our efficiencies, enhance the product offering, and minimize errors…we will both ultimately benefit from this. So we have coined a phrase from a book and program that we have gone through as a team called “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, PH.D., the phrase is “Unconscious Competence”.

This concept was so refreshing for our team that I wanted to share it with you. What this means is that you are so competent at what you do you really don’t have to think about it, it just comes naturally. Simply put, it is near-perfect performance in an activity. Now I am not suggesting that we are near-perfect in every activity…but this is what we are striving for every day.

I am sure that you have a lot of this going on in your facilities today with the different functions that your partners perform. They are simply very good at what they do day in and day out. But is there room for improvement? We focus many times on our failures with little regard for our success, trying to get significantly better at what we are not very good at. The new mindset is that you will be more productive if you focus on strengthening your talents rather than on fixing your weaknesses…although practice is very important and it certainly does make better. We need to foster a work environment that will encourage our teammates to excel. Provide the programs that will stretch their abilities, learn new things, and make them think outside of their department.

A clear understanding of the company’s vision and goal’s is a terrific place to start. Everyone needs to be in alignment if we are all going to row in the same direction. On the job training programs are the most common but highly effective. Enlisting the help of your vendor’s at times can be an excellent resource. Belonging to and attending different association training programs can be of great benefit. Cross training is vital to the success of our fast paced production and service based businesses. Online webinars are excellent tools for training. The bottom line is that we need to always be pushing for continuous improvement and providing the tools and opportunities for that.

The next time you have a team meeting you may consider thinking about your unconscious competence, it may just change the way you look at your people, your process, and your customers.

Thank you for what you do for our industry, and thank you for considering Leonard Automatics.

Dan Farnsworth
VP Sales & Marketing

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How To Properly Tune Your Steam Injection

Steam injection is an integral part of the productive process of a steam tunnel finisher. The steam injection serves several purposes that will relate directly to efficiency and effectiveness. Too little steam will affect your garment quality; too much can affect the garment, your surroundings, and your wallet.

Steam injection brings the garment fabric up in temperature quickly and humidifies the fabric to begin the wrinkle release process. Too little will not provide the needed energy and moisture; too much can take it the other way and ultimately waste precious energy that you have worked so hard to produce.

When installing a new steam tunnel finisher or reviewing the operation of an existing one there are two pressures that you must be aware of, incoming steam pressure and the actual injection pressure. Incoming steam pressure should be no higher than 125psig and no less than 80psig. The actual injection pressure should be in the 5-40psig range. We typically set up new systems at 20psig and then review the quality of the garment being produced and ultimately adjusting up or down as the need dictates. The simple fact of the matter though is this, you do not want to utilize more steam injection than is necessary to produce a quality garment. If you are, then you are wasting steam that you have already purchased.

To set your steam injection at the lowest possible pressure and still produce the quality that your customers deserve follow these steps: First note the incoming steam pressure on your steam tunnel finisher gauge which should show full line pressure from the boiler. Initiate the steam injection system and note the steam injection pressure; if you are using a common gauge the pressure should drop considerably. Now, while the steam injection is operational reduce the injection pressure by 5psig and then review your garment quality. You should have some type of valve prior to your steam injection supply lines that will allow you to do this…if not please call us for help. When you reduce the pressure review your garment quality. If the quality did not suffer due to the reduction in steam injection pressure, then follow these same steps again. Continue doing this until you see a detrimental change in the garment quality, then simply raise the pressure back by 5psig, review the quality again, and you should be set. This will allow you to use the very minimum to produce the best quality.

There may be some side benefits as well to reducing your steam injection pressure, you may see less condensation in the system, your exhaust system may contain better, and your heating system may work a little more efficiently due to the reduced moisture in the system.

Regardless of the benefit, you will be operating in a more efficient manner without having to sacrifice the quality of the end product. If you have any questions please feel free to call Leonard!

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Work on the company not for the company

Leonard Automatics, like all of your companies had to navigate through the recession. We have an obligation to you, our customers, as well as our employees to survive economic downturn and to keep the company strong and viable. To accomplish this goal, you have to step back sometimes, and do something that too few of us actually ever do; work on the company instead of in the company.

We find ourselves pulled each day into working in our companies; we have daily obligations to our employees, management meetings, customer communications, troubleshooting issues that arise, putting out those daily fires. We have to work with government agencies, insurance companies, the banks, and of course our partner vendors. Our daily calendars are full of activities that are working within the business. And each of these activities are vital to keeping our business functioning.

In difficult economic times we need to step back some, elevate our game, and work on the business instead of in it. This is the time to look at the total company, understand our strategic position, that special “thing” we do better than our competition and focus on how to grow the company. In order to do this, we need to view our company differently than we do from our normal daily activities. What can we do to not only survive, but also to excel, grow, and strengthen the company? How do we plow through the bad times and make it into the smoother waters that we all know are ahead?

The fact that we know smoother waters are ahead is an important concept. It is the fact that there are opportunities out there that we need to focus on to succeed. It was during this last recession that Leonard Automatics saw opportunity instead of only darkness. As we discussed in the last letter, Leonard invested during this dark time. We updated our capabilities in manufacturing and engineering, and built a new factory. We took advantage of the opportunity to change our position and open up possibilities.

We are excited by what we were able to accomplish during the dark times. We have been able to make significant improvements in our construction methods for our existing equipment. We have improved our efficiency, and more importantly, remained strong for you, our Leonard family.

At the upcoming Clean Show in Las Vegas, Leonard will be unveiling the next phase in our company’s future. You will see new designs of our existing equipment, as well as entirely new products to the Leonard line. We have recently unveiled the first steamless tunnel finisher. Our new patent pending design can significantly reduce your water and energy consumption without impacting tunnel performance or finished garment quality. We have always searched for ways to make your operation more efficient and dependable while keeping your costs down. And in this world with ever increasing energy and water costs, who would not like to reduce those costs?

We will also be introducing new machines at the show. Stretching from our traditional tunnel finisher foundation, we have ventured into other facets of the laundry business. We have been able to engineer and produce this equipment because of our investments during the recession.

Leonard Automatics is very excited with our future. Our investments made during uncertain times provided a valuable springboard for new development and new growth. We have found more ways to provide our customers with services and products to help improve efficiency and productivity. Come and visit us during the Clean Show. Allow us to show you how we worked on our business. We think you will be impressed.

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“Propane is propane.”

All of us at Leonard Automatics would like to thank you for taking the interest in our news letter! This will be a quarterly report that will keep you informed as to what is new with Leonard Automatics, the innovations that will positively impact your business, and provide helpful tips that hopefully will improve your process and save you valuable resources and or dollars in the end.

Certainly business has changed over the years; however, one constant remains the same…our expectation for outstanding service. Not only do we as consumers expect excellent service, but also it is an integral part to our business success. I once heard a propane sales person say that “propane is propane, all that really matters is service”. I guess that is true when dealing with commodities, but it is crucial when dealing with complicated integrated systems. Price certainly matters, but more than anything, you must deal with the organization that will give you the best opportunity for success and not just in the immediate but well into the future.

Leonard has worked diligently and taken advantage of opportunities over the years to assemble a team that can provide the needed expertise to help you reach your goals and beyond. We have several team members on staff that each has over 25 years of “hands on” laundry experience from both the operational side as well as the vendor side. Our next team member in line has 15 years…so as you can see, we focus on our people so we can better focus on you. Whether you need help with a steam tunnel finisher replacement, full finishing area design, overall audit of your operation or training then Leonard Automatics has the expertise you need.

Not only that, but also Leonard is reinvesting in the industry. As a family owned small business and equipment manufacturer, we understand the impact that we can have in your facility. We are members of numerous trade associations and cost groups. We present at the TRSA Maintenance Management Institute as well as the Production Management Institute. And we are continuously upgrading our manufacturing process; we built a new manufacturing facility 2 years ago, just purchased a new laser cutter and press brake, focusing on research and development, taking every advantage we can to keep your costs in line while improving the products we provide.

Simply put, our focus is on you, our teammates, and our equipment. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible…without our teammates this wouldn’t be possible…and without innovative, efficient, effective equipment this would not be possible.

Thank you for what you do for our industry, and thank you for considering Leonard Automatics.

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Production Tip #1

When it comes to steam tunnel finishing, one of the items that routinely gets overlooked is the conveyor system that transports your garments from garment loading, through the steam tunnel finisher, and then to sort.

Regardless of what brand conveyor you have, the most popular and widely used of these is a chain style with an upright pendant that pushes the hanger along on the conveyor tubing or a “cactus” or “helping hand” chain that actually carry’s the garments through. Regardless of the type of conveyor you have, these systems are critical to maintaining acceptable production rates.

All of these systems provide positive garment spacing at approximately 3” garment center-to-garment center. Steam tunnel finishers are designed to operate optimally with the conveyor fully loaded, this will promote the most efficient and effective airflow and heat delivery with the least amount of loss. So it is important that you inspect your conveyor chain to see if there are any broken of missing pendants. Every missing pendant will represent lost production opportunity as well as increased inefficiencies in process. We have seen operational conveyor systems with as many as 20% of the upright pendants missing; if you are operating the conveyor at 1,000 garments per hour, you will be effectively missing 200 garments per hour of productive opportunity. That’s almost one operator’s worth of lost production! Not to mention the loss in airflow and heat which is like throwing away profits.

I read a quote one time from the Ignorance is Bliss School of Planning that went something like this: “The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by a period of worry or depression”. Routine inspection and servicing of your system can prevent costly down time. Please contact the manufacturer of your conveyor system for a recommended PM schedule, proper lubricants, best practices, etc. A full inspection of your system should be conducted on a monthly basis though.

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Now is the Time

The past couple of years have been challenging for all industries; customers scaling back, banks making credit harder to come by, the news each and every day casting a negative view. As business owners and operators, we have not had much to celebrate these past two years. Or have we? This may depend on how you viewed the past two years, and how you see your future opportunities.

Leonard Automatics moved into our new facility in the summer of 2008. As we all know, the depth of the recession was to continue on for many months. In fact, even though it is “over”, we are all still weighed by the slow recovery. Most everyone, myself included, said “what a bad time to move into the new factory, expand capacities and capabilities, and take on new debt.” Trust me, my team I spent a lot of nights questioning such a move.

However, as the dust from moving cleared several things became very clear. The move into the new factory and the purchase of new, more efficient equipment was having a direct impact to our bottom line even amid reduced revenues from the recession. In fact, given the more difficult environment of reduced sales, our increased efficiencies were in fact fueling our survival. The difference came from reducing our cost structure and improving our ability to deliver better quality equipment more effectively. We were able to reduce labor and material costs and offer our customers savings to help drive sales. We were even able to retain our workforce to be in a strong position when the economy began to recover.

Leonard Automatics was also able to start working in new markets due to the improved technology of our manufacturing equipment, thus expanding markets to increase the strength of the company past our traditional customer base. Our success in these new markets actually allowed the company to purchase additional equipment this summer, adding to our improved capabilities and further improving the overall quality of our products.

There are many good reasons to stay the course in a recession. We always hear that “cash is King” during hard times. While this may be true, it is more important to keep in mind the opportunities to improve operations and infrastructure. Can a new piece of equipment reduce our operating costs significantly? If the equipment has the right return on investment, it can actually add cash to your operation to help make it through the difficult times.

What a wonderful time to invest in equipment. Virtually everything is on sale today. Equipment companies are looking to move product and have been willing to provide discounts to keep factory floors operating. Installation and rigging crews are hungry for work and offering great deals on installation costs.

Banks actually need to make loans to business, and with interest rates at all time low your cost is reduced which improves your ROI and overall cash flow. Instead of staying the course, this is actually the best time in years to be reaching out and investigating how to make all of our companies function better, more efficient, use less energy, and improve quality.

Leonard Automatics decided this was a great time to invest in our company, to take advantage of “deals” in new equipment, to firmly position ourselves as the economic recovery begins. In our case, the payoff was huge! Perhaps it can be for your company as well.

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