Innovation drives fresh success for global leader

A global leader in textile rentals, Alsco Inc. chose Abel® ERP to automate and manage a fast-growing business.  Alsco continues to partner with Abel on innovations to further cut costs, streamline reporting and optimize customer service in 13 countries across the globe.

A lot has changed since the linen supply industry began in 1889, when Alsco’s founder invested $50 in a part-time towel delivery service in the American Midwest. Today, the Utah-based company is a global leader with 350,000 customers and annual revenues over US$1.6 billion.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the past 128 years is the company’s ethos: “know your customers so you can deliver quality service and provide individual attention from the very first visit”.

“We’re in the image-control business,” says Cory Nielson, Alsco’s Director of Information Technology. “If we deliver one wrong tablecloth or a stained uniform it’s bad for our customer’s image and business. It’s essential that we interact with every customer to make sure they’re satisfied with our products and service.”

For Alsco, that means keeping track of millions of customer transactions a day – from picking up soiled uniforms at a factory in Brazil or dust-control floor mats at a Chicago skyscraper to delivering freshly laundered tablecloths to bistros in Berlin, Phuket or Parnell.

For years Alsco managed the transactions of their textile rentals and sales of hygiene products with separate systems in different countries. But by 2000, Alsco realized they needed a better way to view and manage their ever-expanding global operations.

In 2002, Alsco chose Abel ERP and began working with Abel Software to configure Abel so that Alsco could better manage their deliveries, scheduling and invoicing in multiple languages and currencies. This included capturing data from barcodes and radio frequency chips to track the location, ownership and life cycle of Alsco’s products.

“Too many software vendors say this is our product and this is what you get,” Cory says. “Abel was different. They offered a living product that provided us with the flexibility to evolve together.  They are really smart.  Abel understands accounting principles and manufacturing processes.  They took the time to find out about our business and they focused on us and how they could help our business grow.

“At Alsco, our job is to take care of the back-end of our customers’ business so they can operate as smoothly as possible.  Abel treat their customers the same way.”

In Alsco’s high-volume rental business, automation was especially critical – not only to ensure that customers consistently received the right items in the right quantities, but also to drive bottom-line savings in the production process.

As one of the key contributors to Alsco’s ERP requirements, Cory, said that Abel showed a collaborative approach from the very beginning, they helped us build key production metrics such as pounds-of-laundry-washed per employee hour and revenue per pound.  Abel ERP enabled us to automate the process of loading laundry and measuring environmentally friendly washing chemicals, which cut costs and improved quality control.

Alsco and Abel continue to work together to innovate and improve Alsco’s business by adding automation, more user-specific reporting, and greater functionality and flexibility.

More importantly, Abel ERP continues to be the reliable engine supporting Alsco’s significant growth.  Since 2002, Alsco has expanded to 170 branches worldwide, tripled the system users to 6,200 and doubled customer transactions to 2 million a day.

“We’ve always had confidence in Abel’s scalability to support our long-term growth and give us the global view we required for our operation across multiple databases, languages and currencies,” Cory says.

Alsco recently implemented Abel ERP for another significant project:  Managing their Head Office Corporate Financials.  The biggest driver for the change, Cory says, was Abel’s reporting flexibility and automation and integration to Alsco’s global Abel production systems.  Alsco officially migrated from Sun Financials (Infor) to Abel ERP in November 2016.

“Accountants are generally very apprehensive about change, and after only a few months they’re all surprised and delighted how much Abel ERP has simplified their lives,” Cory says.  “We’ve already reduced the time for closing our monthly reports from nine or ten business days to four.  Abel even helped us standardize and improve many accounting principles.”

Automation has delivered the statistical reporting Alsco wanted, gathering real-time worldwide data for dashboards and ranking reports that all levels of management and staff can run with just a click of a button.  Automation has also improved overall accuracy with accounting entries such as textile amortization and bad debt reserve, now using real-time data instead of historical data.

Abel also captures Alsco’s “tribal knowledge” – historical data once held only on spreadsheets.  “When staff come and go you can lose critical knowledge and process,” Cory says. “It was essential for us to bring all that information into Abel financials for everyone to use.”

Cory says Alsco has plenty more innovations in mind for its Abel’s systems.  The next big project is to work with Abel to provide a universal platform for a mobile delivery system. This will greatly enhance the services Alsco can deliver directly to customers around the world, but also streamline and simplify their entire information infrastructure.

“Our delivery people don’t just drop and run,” Cory says. “We empower them to interact with the customers and solve their problems.  The mobile delivery system will give them even more information and resources to do that.”

After working closely with Abel for 15 years, Cory says he and Alsco have come to rely on Abel’s collaboration, knowledge and support.

“Our relationship with Abel is the best we’ve had with any supplier,” he says. “We view them as partners.  We talk to them regularly and involve them in our planning.  They always work in our best interest and improve our business at a manageable cost.  Everything we do with Abel positively impacts our bottom line.”