If you live in New York City, you’ve likely seen one of vans operated by FlyCleaners: They’re boxy, blue and sporting an underwear logo.
They also run on a well-oiled supply chain that has turned the laundry startup into one of the best executors of “on-demand” that we’ve seen so far.
The way the FlyCleaners service works for users is dead simple: If you can’t be bothered to make a laundry run, download the app, adjust to your personal cleaning specifications, and request one of the “Fly Guys” come pick up your stuff, either as soon as possible or in another time slot.
If FlyCleaners picked up your laundry before 11 p.m., your clothes will be available by as early as 7 a.m. the next day. Once you’re notified your clothes are washed, all you need to do is schedule a drop-off the same way you requested a pick up.
After you give a FlyGuy your laundry, they schlep it to one of FlyCleaners’ partner laundromats, which charge the startup a wholesale cleaning rate.
The magic of FlyCleaners is that the pickup and delivery windows are both super-quick and quite specific.
One Business Insider editor described it as impressively exact.
Although the process seems simple to the user, it is incredibly complicated and tech-heavy on the backend. Max Adler, who heads up operations at FlyCleaners, told Business Insider that company has mastered its on-demand acumen thanks to a constantly evolving calculation.
“Our special sauce is our ‘instant algorithm,'” Adler says. Of FlyCleaners’ 20 non-delivery employees, six are developers, working to make the company’s algorithm better and more efficient every day.
Right now, the company has 100 drivers and 30 trucks, and the algorithm helps determine which drivers should deploy for which pick-ups. When a FlyGuy is on duty, he or she will get pinged with drop-offs or deliveries in real time, with the algorithm both figuring out how to group sets of deliveries in the most logical way and also what specific route drivers should take to get to each destination.
FlyGuys and gals use the FlyCleaners app on a company-provided tablet, which will automatically route them using a GPS system that takes into account New York City traffic, weather, and special events (FlyCleaners works off the API of another mapping application, but made its own modifications). Meanwhile, the end user will be able to track that driver’s progress in real time.
When we tried FlyCleaners, our estimated pick-up time was 20 minutes and drop-off came in 20 minutes. Compare that to a four hour window for Google Shopping Express deliveries or the three hours it took one former Business Insider employee to order a bag of chips through the delivery app WunWun.
While the algorithm is major driver of the impossibly fast service, FlyCleaners can also achieve peak speediness because of the way its trucks are configured. When the company first launched little under a year ago, it was using rented vans loaded up with Ikea bins in the back to sort people’s clothes.
Today, the company’s big fleet uses proprietary shelving, custom-made laundry bags, and barcode scanning to make sure the process of getting things into and out of the truck is quick and flawless. Drivers will usually have about 50 or 60 orders on the vehicle at any given time, so sorting through them quickly is essential. Anyone who uses FlyCleaners can also leave any special instructions within the app.
FlyCleaners operates from 6 am to midnight, seven days a week, and has washed over 500,000 pounds of laundry so far, according to its website. Prices are comparable to drop-off locations in Manhattan: $US1.25 per pound for laundry and between $US4.50 and $US12.00 for dry-cleaning. Right now, FlyCleaners only serves Manhattan below 50th Street or a few places in Brooklyn.
“We are making sure to keep up with the demand and expand as quickly as possible while still maintaining our quality and that ‘wow’ factor with the instant, on-demand delivery,” Adler says. “It’s a really personal business — people are literally trusting us with their dirty laundry. It’s been a wild ride.”