Germany’s next generation of laundry nerds

14991329_1157403164343021_1530562211710798350_oThe next generation of the German laundry industry market is keen and up to explore further new possibilities and innovative solutions for their laundry businesses. That was proven when we at Inwatec together with our Danish business partners from Kentaur A/S and Beirholm had the pleasure of welcoming Arbeitskreis der Junioren’ lately.

Security, health and not physical work is nowadays, even more, taken into account since the demographic change plays a significant role, we learned. 

The Arbeitskreis der Junioren’ provided us with a lively exchange about their firms and problems in the German laundry industry.Hopefully, we gave back some of the inputs and innovative solutions for their businesses that they asked:

“Our first stop was at Kentaur A/S. They welcomed us very warmly and impressed us with their vision and philosophy”, told Philip from Textilfplege Mayer GmbH in Offenburg, who is presently one of the new board members in AKJ. 

“On the second day of our trip, we drove to Beirholm. They did not fail to impress us either. Similar to the Kentaur A/S it was kind of interesting to see how the Danish working philosophy is established everywhere”, added Felix Kabus from Textilpflege e.K. in Saulgau, a further board member of the AKJ.

 

Danish working culture

Walking freely around at the workshop of Inwatec, the visitors were allowed to take a closer look at the machines and see our take on how to use automation and efficient productivity to solve some of the issues in the laundry business. When asked, another observation on work culture was made from our German guests:img_20161112_110011

“Our problem is to motivate and keep our people in our house. Inwatec provides the employees with a fully equipped personal fitness room, which can be used by anyone anytime. The way of thinking how to contribute to a better working atmosphere by motivating and pushing their employees to a better overall result impresses us, especially in the IT field. In this area it is quite impossible to measure the productivity of each employee”, explained Felix.

“All companies we visited are providing additional services to their employees. It is inspiring us to think about our contribution to our team back home. Nonetheless, the demographic change plays in Germany a significant increasing role. Automatization and healthier working environment, especially when working with soiled garments, is one way to keep our employees. New technology with an ease of use and on the top preventing physical workforce is what we are looking for in our companies”, told Philip, while looking how the X-Ray machine is testing garments with different items automatically. 

Airport X-Ray is not optimal for sorting of garments

 The type of X-ray machines found in airports worldwide operates brilliantly at new02spotting unwanted objects hidden in pockets and bags. But without associated software to interpret the scans, the performance is wholly dependent on the human watching the screen.

That is confirmed by the Swedish company TvNo Textil Service, who have invested in an X-ray machine of the airport type to find pens and other objects such as needles and knives in the laundry, to avoid the classic ink damage to clothing and needlestick injuries among employees.

“Since we bought our X-ray machine, we have reduced the number of ink injuries by 50 percent, but it is evident that we would like to decrease it even more. We also note constant challenges with all plastic pens as they are not visible on the screen,” said production engineer Anders Ohlsson, when he, along with two colleagues from the laundry were visiting Hvidkærvej in Odense.

 

Display requires constant attention

TvNo Textil Service has no fewer than 12 men employed in the sorting line, and during each working day, 24,000 pieces of garment pass through the X-ray machine. And while Anders Ohlsson has no doubts about the efficiency of the human resources at TvNo, he acknowledges that operating the X-ray machine is an arduous effort:

“We constantly have a person seated in front of the display. There is nothing that gets rejected automatically, and it is of course quite demanding in the long run,” Anders Ohlsson says, while watching a new test of typical problems like pens, credit cards and markers from the TvNo laundry run through Inwatec’s X-ray machine to see if the object is detected and rejected by the computer algorithms.

“It is not only pens that give damage to clothing. Lip balms are also a challenge in the winter season. We can not spot them with our existing X-ray system, and that leaves grease stains on clothes when a lip balm passes the washing machines and tumble dryers. We have the means to remove the stains, but we do not always discover the issues before the clothes are returned to the customer, and then it’s too late,” Anders Ohlsson explains.

 

Costly mistakes can be minimized

new04Buying new machinery also requires investments in engineering, logistics and training, but the board of the TvNo laundry are acutely aware that the return on investment could happen reasonable fast, and that recognition has brought the three-man delegation to Odense.

“We figured out that we still spend approximately 25,000 euros a year just to purchase the replacement for clothes that are destroyed by blots. On top of that expense we have the administrative cost associated with it, “says Anders Ohlsson.

From Aleppo to Odense: Programme language sets no country bounds

It is almost two months ago since we wshazaelcomed our new laundry need Shaza Maher, 25, from Syria. Although, she graduated in Informatics and Technology and completed projects in Artificial Intelligence in Aleppo, today she is working in PLC and PC Programming at Inwatec in Odense.

“We here in Inwatec do not judge about where people are coming from or which origin they belong to. Do you know the programming language and are you able to work with it to do an excellent job, we hire you!” claims Mads, CEO of Inwatec ApS.

Shaza studied her Bachelor in Science in Informatics Technology at the University of Aleppo, and as with many others, she was looking for good opportunities to use her qualification in the market.

Her journey started in December 2014 when she left Syria and arrived in February in Kolding. Since then she studied the Danish language and completed an internship for four months at Markant Reklamebureau A/S in Kolding.

“Since I am here I realized how plans can be changed and can become even
better. I studied Informatics back home in Syria, very far from Denmark. But I am maintaining the possibility to use my knowledge in Programming and to work at a Danish company. I have never seen myself going this direction. And it works! I am very happy to be a part of the team at Inwatec and to meet future challenges to grow more and to learn more” says Shaza.

”For us at Inwatec, it is important to support beginners and provide an opportunity for their career. That’s how new innovative ideas are created and realized. We are happy to have Shaza as a part of our team. Her Danish skills are becoming better, and she is improving every day. It is quite interesting to see that the programming language is worldwide the same. Shaza studied in Aleppo and is now working in Odense, very far away from her home country. But this seems to be not an issue at all when it comes to programming. Programmers communicate with their language all over the world,” added Mads.

New Laundry Nerds writes his thesis project at Inwatec

Our team at Inwatec is continuously growing. One of our new laundry nerds is Rafael Moreno Aranda (27) from Spain who is going to write his master thesis in collaboration with us. Already one year ago, he visited our stand at the Job Fair Day at the University of Southern Denmark and showed much interest in our business.

“After the first semester, I already started to look for a good collaboration partner for my thesis. At the Company Dating Day, I heard about Inwatec and talked the first time to Sophie and Mads. They were very patient and helpful with my questions. From the very beginning I was convinced about the company vision and felt very comfortable”, told Rafael.

Rafael is currently studying his Master Engineering in Product Development and Innovation for two years. In his final semester, he decided to write his thesis in the field of machine and process concept development in collaboration with an engineering company. “We at Inwatec are always trying to offer students and newcomer opportunities to demonstrate their talent and to improve their skills. We believe that new people, especially students, have always a new and creative idea. We are looking for that! We need that in our business!”, added Mads, CEO.

“Together with Rafael we are going to focus on small item separation and sorting in the laundry industry. The idea is to separate small times, like mops for instance, by a robot when putting them on the conveyor. His responsibility covers all stages from product development from the product idea to the performance specifications”, explained Mads. The goal in such a niche business is to analyze new possible solutions and to invest to ensure market presence. The master thesis project will give him a good opportunity to look at this market and to gather new experience in this field.

“I applied and Sophie invited me for an interview, which was held by Mads and Finn. I introduced them my thoughts about the project and they shared theirs with me. We came pretty fast to a conclusion. I am very happy having this opportunity now. Since I am becoming an engineer, I am really interested in this market niche of Inwatec. The goals of creating a more effective and productive working environment in laundries lead to the questions what is going to happen with the operators? And if you look at them, they did not disappear it just changed the job. It is a different job which does not require physical exertion. In contrast, it is a safer and better working environment. Furthermore, I believe through this process an efficient separation might result in a better usage of resources like water, energy, and chemical washing products. These facts impressed me and I wanted to have a closer look by being a part of a project which combines my skills and knowledge”, told Rafael.

“We are looking forward to working together and we are already excited about the result!”, told Mads.

Innovation is a condition for growth

dsc03786In the Dutch laundry company Rentex Awé, there is no room for stagnation. Even when everything in the production line functions as it ought to, the family behind the business focusses on evolution and enhancement to keep the competitors behind.

“We work continuously on improving every part of the business, and that means we have to focus on three different tracks. First of all, we must work on how to raise the quality of our product. Secondly, we can better the productivity, and third, we need to improve the work environment,” explains Stef de Win when in Odense with his father, Erik de Win, to visit Inwatec and learn about the possibilities of further automatization of Rentex Awe.
 
“Since we seriously begun to work with automatization years ago, we redesigned the entire business line several times, and today the logistics looks completely different because of the progress in that field,” he describes.

Workforce happy with technology changes

Rentex Awe employs in the washing of work wear, linen and towels in the hospital sector, and each week 550 tonnes of garment and linen passes through the Dutch laundry in the small city of Elsloo, Limburg, where the company has its headquarters.
 
Until recently the soiled site sorting of 125.000 pieces of garment was done manually, but after investing in an x-ray machine from Inwatec, efficiency has had a boost and therefore the Rentex-directors now focusses on how to minimize the trivial and tough processes further.

“Robots do not need the micro breaks humans do. And even a few seconds of lacking attention a minute adds up to a lot of pieces of garment a day,” says Stef de Win, who enjoys the full support from his employees when it comes to changes in design and logistics:
 
“Many of these tasks aren’t very attractive to perform, why one of the positive side effects of the innovation and progress is that our employees like working with modern technology, and that way the changes also betters the work environment.”

Ink damage- and needle cuts – problems of the past

Since investing in the x-ray machine, some of the procedures formerly done became obsolete at Rentex Awe.img_20160829_085932
 
“Like a lot of other laundries, we had significant problems with batches of garments being destroyed by ink from overseen pens, but with the x-ray solution, we find 99.9 percent of the pens. That means that some of the procedures regarding handling, replacement and administration of destroyed garment isn’t needed on the same scale as before,” Stef de Win explains and proceeds to tell, that the same apply to damages caused by needles or scissors.
 
“When handling hospital garments we have had employees cutting themselves on needles. Primarily in the in-sorting but also when putting the washed clothes on hangers because the needles passed through the entire process. Since installing the x-ray, we haven’t had a single incident. Of course, this also improves the efficiency dramatically, when problems are handled automatically,” notes Stef de Win.
 

Progress requires innovation

At the recent visit to Odense, the Rentex-owners focussed on how all handling of laundry could be done entirely automatically, but both eyes and ears were open to new input, and Stef de Win has no doubt that it is necessary if the future of the company should remain bright.
 
“We think of innovation every day. It is an essential part of our business, and we are aware that all processes should be modified every few years to ensure the best production, the best working environment and the highest quality of our services,” he says.

Laundries are looking for comfortable and stylish working clothes

The Scandinavian design is worldwide in great demand, unexceptional when it comes to working clothes. This year at the international Texcare fair the company Kentaur represented its products in Frankfurt am Main. They are specialised in producing professional and working clothes.

However, the interests are not in just fulfilling the own expectation, moreover, the company is looking for specific products to realize both, the own expectations and the expectations of their customers.

“The leasing-solution is going crazy. Especially in Germany, where the number of industrial laundries is increasing and therefore the demand for working clothes as well. Instead of buying the working clothes, companies start to rent the working clothes and send them back for the cleaning and washing procedures. In the beginning the purchase rate was about 75 % and the leasing rate has been just about 25 %. These rates changed to 50 % purchasing rate and 50% leasing rate, and this trend is increasing”, said Bernt Dahl, the managing director.

The Japanese designer Masaaki Minamishima was hired at Kentaur for more new creativity and innovation. According to Bernt Dahl, this will push the trend further, especially through Europe it will grow. The working clothes are going to be equipped with all the important details to ensure an optimal working condition for employees and nonetheless the working clothes are stylish as well.

Design and functionality play an important role

kentaur-texcare2-01

“We contend that there are high interests for smart functionality, therefore it is very important to us, that all products are made of textiles which can be easily washed and cared. So even if we decide to use some leather materials, it happens under the conditions that it can be washed and cared in the same way as it will be for other textile materials. Our competences are especially strong in design and usage of textiles to maintain a good quality and an optimal and easy handling of clothes in laundries. This demand has increased since the last years”, told Bernt Dahl.

“The cooks are far ahead in this trend and the waiters are following. This trend development is going through whole Europe. According to our order books we can claim, that the Scandinavian design from Ireland is very sought in Italy and Israel. Our customers support this statement that this development is obviously visible and we do appreciate that”, told Bernt Dahl, who realized that the customers are not just existing in the food/restaurant area.

“We recognize as well, that the clothes and the cleaning are different in the south of Europe. Customers are looking for more joyful colours. Nevertheless, the functionality must be ensured. The old models are running out for the benefit of smart working clothes. The Scandinavian Design is catching up very fast, because the focus is on the functionality and the priority which relies on handling easily the working clothes”, stated Bernt Dahl.

Bienvenue to a new Laundry Nerd

As a consequence of the stunning success at Inwatec, we need to speak more and more languages to be able to support our customers in the best possible ways, and accordingly we will open a French phone number shortly.

Therefore it is our great pleasure to introduce our newest laundry nerd Raphaël Baetens, 31, who is born in France and happens to speak both Spanish and English on top of his mother tongue, French. 

Apart from answering this phone number Raphaël will be an important part of the Inwatec Sales
Team, and his primary focus will be helping the French-speaking customers moving on with Inwatec automation processes in their laundries.

In that regard, our new team member brings on a thorough understanding of engineering industrial design from a Masters degree in “Engineering Design and Management in Design” obtained in 2008 at International School of Design in Valenciennes, France. Since then he has been occupied making product design at prominent businesses like Leroy Merlin, Oxylan Group, Carrefour and Intermarche.

“I have a keen interest in technical projects, and I like the way Inwatec designs and assembly the machines. It’s good craftsmanship, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the innovative Inwatec team. I have a lot to learn, but I love to learn and hopefully I can also contribute actively to make innovations come true,” Raphaël states.

“We are pleased to add yet another laundry nerd to our team. Raphaël supplements Inwatec with some valuable technical skills and knowledge of how to make the best possible user-oriented design and then, of course, it’s an advantage that he can help us give the French, and Spanish speaking customers support in their languages,” Inwatec CEO Mads Andresen explains.

X-Ray Machine cuts labour costs in half in hospital laundries

claes Efficient X-Ray sorting machine leads to 50 percent staff reduction in hospital laundries; DFD Aalborg has experienced. For five years, none of the employees at the soiled side sorting has received a stab injury. Dirty laundry, sorted by the innovative X-Ray technology and RFID-Chips is not a future scenario – it already exists.

At “De Forenede Dampvaskerier” (DFD) in Aalborg, Denmark, there are no doubts for the division manager Morten Christensen, that the X-Ray technology is a must if a company still wants to play a significant role in the Danish laundry industry.

The manual sorting system at the laundry in Aalborg was replaced by a sorting system from Inwatec, which allows, with its X-Ray technology and advanced computer algorithms, to select and reject garments, when carrying foreign items before beeing sent to the washing machines.

“Following the costs, the X-Ray machine is a splendid investment. We have cut off our labour expenses in this business part. Since it was a development project, it needed some time until everything was installed and put in the right order. But it has resulted in savings of three headcounts each year. In other words, we halved our cost by using X-ray sorting of the garments”, said Morten Christensen.

X-ray technology secures the workplace

On top of the savings, no stab wounds have happened since the X-Ray machine arrived. In addition to the efficiency savings, Morten Christensen recognised as well, that the work environment at the particular department approved significantly. Securing the workplace were also a primary purpose of developing the machine.

“It is a success story, which builds on two pillars. On the one side, the injury caused by needles when sorting out pockets is painful and is provoking a direct stress for the employee. On top of that, it takes at least one year until the employee knows if any diseases are caught with the cut. In turn, this leaves the person constantly uncertain about possible consequences, and that results in psychical stress for the staff member,“ tells Morten Christensen, who have experienced 4-5 stab injuries at DFD Aalborg – fortunately, all these incidents happened in the past.

“We are rummaging in garments when they are rejected, but at least we know now on which piece we need to give more awareness. Since we started to use the X-Ray machine, no similar accidents and injuries have happened”, he declared.

Smoothly working prototype since five years

img_0615-1-01-01DFD in Aalborg was the first company which invested in an X-Ray sorting system from Inwatec and Morten Christensen does not hide his enthusiasm for having a prototype in his laundry. He mentions that it has given him a market advantage.

“The competitiveness of our business is a condition for further innovation and development. We are not allowed to stay and keep existing systems, if they probably may restrict us. Therefore, it is clearly a necessity for us to work together with Inwatec to develop this business,” told division manager in Aalborg, who also owns one of the first Mat-Rolling Machines from Inwatec.

The Mat-Rolling Machine was purchased in 2010 and a year later the X-Ray Machine was acquired as well. In accordance to Morten Christensen, the willingness for new investments and developments is existing, but the present Inwatec machines are well maintained, and updated with the newest software. In result, there are no other more efficient and productive machines on the market at this time which means there is no need for acquiring replacements.

“Our machines are a few years old, but they are still working perfectly. We need neither an X-Ray Machine nor a Mat-Rolling Machine right now, but we have some other machines on which we have to think about the replacement.”

Good remote-support is an important part of the full package


German DBL Staufer has its headquarters more than 1000 kilometres from Odense in Denmark where Inwatec is based. But the thought of a long distance relationship was no problem to the German laundry group when ordering a mat roller – as long as the support part was in place.

“It would have been an issue for us if the machines halts while we are waiting for a person physically to come from Denmark to Germany to fix the problems, but the way the remote-support works, we do not need to worry,” controller Mattias Schöll tells.

“We have used the remote-support a couple of times, and there is no doubt that it eases the troubleshooting.  When a problem arises, we can show it online with pictures, Skype, Facetime or the like. It only requires that it is the right persons that are connected,” Matthias Schöll explains.

“Our interface on the ERP-system initially did not work as it was supposed to do when connected to the mat roller, but we had the problem solved in collaboration between the Inwatec supporter and our IT-department. We also had a printing device added on the mat roller that did not function properly, but that was handled well on the remote-support as well,” says Matthias Schöll.

As a huge player in the German laundry business, DBL Staufer gets lots of attention from most of its machine suppliers, and Mattias Schöll admits that DBL Staufer also expects special treatment on the support.

“Most of our suppliers offer a combination of remote-support an on-site-support. I think that it is a natural www.carolin-tietz.depart of the service solutions nowadays. One of our very big suppliers has a hotline for the DBL-group alone. Then there is always one number that responds when needed. We do not demand that set-up from our smaller suppliers, but the more, the better,” he adds.

Matthias Schöll, who is the son of DBL Staufer owner Ulrich Schöll in the family run business, stresses that while good support is a huge part of the deal, it is not the most important part.

“We are considering to invest in a mat roller-sorting system from Inwatec, and the support solution needs to be good – but the essential thing is that price and quality of the product fulfil our needs,” he ends.

Danish fabric innovations draw attention at Texcare

Beirholm

Innovative textiles were in the spotlight at the Texcare International Fair in Frankfurt. A good example of this are the new Beirtex products from Beirholms Væverier in Denmark, and at the Texcare Fair the customer attention to the products was astonishing.
Not least because Beirholm could illustrate the possible savings on investments.

“Everything we invent must be done ultimately to give the laundries and their customers an advantage, and we have done so with Beirtex. In traditional yarns the cotton and polyester is mixed equally, to make the fabrics more durable”, says sales manager Per Nielsen.

With the new Beirtex yarns the company has managed to create fabrics which satisfies the desire for a higher proportion of cotton against the body, as more than 80% of the cotton is on the surface of the product. At the same time BeirTex® 50/50% P/C yarns are the ideal choice of material for the laundry.

Soft and durable

beirholm2“Thanks to the longer service life of the products and their potential to significantly reduce consumption of resources in the production processes. In short, our focus is Market-fit, Operation-fit and Manufacturing-fit products for our customers. If just one of these factors fail, the whole equation goes in zero,” concludes sales manager Per Nielsen, who had a very busy week showing the textiles to potential customers.

According to Per Nielsen, the quality of the new fabrics makes it possible for the laundries to increase the speed at the stations. Or even better: To think about the potential energy savings: 

“Our yarns are designed for high-speed industrial washing processes. Traditional woven flat fabrics can roll at 36 meters per minute, but Beirtex fabrics can run with up to 46 meters per minute if they have the right setup. Though, instead of turning up the speed, we suggest they lower the temperatures, because that way the fabrics last longer and the total energy consumption will be a lot less,” Per Nielsen tells. 

“We listen to our customers, and we challenge them. But we keep our ears open to get the latest information, so we can give them what they need to move their business. Eventually, their success is our success.”

Customers demand quality and long lifespan

beirholm3Judging by the numbers at the large Beirholm booth, where invitingly made beds and nicely set tables in soft nuances drew attention, the time has come for changes in the business, and Per Nielsen’s colleague, Bettina Clausen, confirms that:

“The market has changed because there is now a lot more focus on sustainability. The development has meant that laundries are even more responsive to the improvements than previously. The focus on quality and life span of the textiles are far greater than it has been previously. Whereas previously it was much about the initial cost, focus on product life and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) has become much more significant,” she adds.