When the Inwatec VORTEX mat roller was introduced in 2016, it was meant to fill in a gap in the market. Four years later, VORTEX number 300 is shipped to a customer in the US, and the model is now the go-to-machine in many big laundry organizations.
In 2016 the mat rolling machines on the market were either large, high-capacity pass-through machines or return-to-operator machines with a much lower capacity due to a lot of manual handling and waiting time. That changed overnight with the VORTEX, which has a unique, patented roll-over system that supports a safe and efficient one man-maneuvering:
“The VORTEX looked pretty much like the existing mat rollers in the market, but the rollover system allows one person to roll up to 400 mats per hour, and at the same time, it has a minimal footprint,” Inwatec CEO Mads Andresen explains.
The first VORTEX delivered is still running as it was supposed to, and according to the customer, the daily average is still 220 rolled mats per hour.
Over the years, smaller changes have been made to fine-tune the performance of the VORTEX, but basically, machine number 300 is made from the same recipe as the first one, and the roll-over system is patented in USA, Australia, and Europe. The most significant change is that since 2019 the VORTEX has been available in two versions. Today the VORTEX mat roller can also be ordered in a version with an integrated RFID scanner that allows the customer to register the mats that are being rolled automatically.
“We have had some requests from customers who wanted to keep track of their inventory with RFID readers. Now we have found a solution that works well technically without changing the other properties of the machine,” says CTO Claes Stanley, who at the same time announces that all future VORTEX machines will be ready for the RFID reader option.
“With the new design, the VORTEX can quite easily be upgraded if the customer needs it later, even if the RFID reader was not a part of the original order,” Claes Stanley continues.
Watch the smart return-to-operator mat roller in action:
At the Swiss Army’s logistics base in Sursee, the ODIN X-ray scanner is supporting the laundry personnel in detecting foreign objects in the soldiers’ clothing.
“Ammunition, such as cartridge cases for rifles and pistons, the famous Swiss Army knife, padlocks and occasionally a lighter that was forgotten in a sleeping bag – all of these foreign objects do not belong in the washing process. An Odin X-ray scanner from Inwatec makes sure of that. This foreign object detection system is part of the “security brigade” here and uses artificial intelligence. Odin has to work very precisely, because it just takes one single forgotten cartridge and the entire ventilation system could blow, resulting in tremendously high costs. In the past, it has happened that a complete overhaul of the flatwork ironer was needed because a padlock was hidden in a duvet cover. Camouflage applicators, which are feared for their stubborn spots, are also sorted out here.”
Positive results on the bottom line must be achieved concerning both people and the environment. That is the case at Berendsen, Denmark, where great emphasis has been placed on corporate social and global responsibility. They have adopted an ambitious CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategy that includes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).
One step into this strategy is the increased use of robots and automation at Berendsen’s new cleanroom laundry in Holbaek, Denmark.
“The whole project was largely driven by our desire to create the best possible working environment in production. Of course, the cost-effectiveness of the project is also crucial. Still, the working environment is the primary focus area, which is why we work with a three ROI rather than two, as normal with our investments,” says Operation Manager, Kim Thorsøe.
Avoiding heavy, repeated procedures
The total soil side sorting solution includes conveyor belts, a robotic separator, a UHF chip reader, an X-ray scanner, and a dynamic sorting system that allows for eight simultaneous sorting criteria such as washing temperature, color, fabrics and so on.
As an initial part of the project, Kim Thorsøe and his colleagues went through all phases of the production:
“We work hard to avoid undesired work processes, and here we found that the combination of robot and conveyor belt is a combination that can save our employees a lot of monotonous work that does not add value to the process,” says Kim Thorsøe.
“In a traditional laundry, the sorting of clothes requires the employee to perform the same lift sometimes over hundreds of times each hour. Obviously, it is interesting when we now have those tasks performed by machines. I also estimated that the conveyor belts save our employees from pushing the trolleys (carts) 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) every day. That energy and time can be spent significantly better on other tasks. ”
The machines benefit both employees and the environment
In addition to the robots and automation being able to save employees from hard work, Kim Thorsøe also points out that the new solution is also an environmental improvement.
“In the past, the right quantities and which wash programs to run was decided individually by the human operator. Instead, today, as all the clothing has a UHF chip, the robot sorts very precisely on washing programs and weight. That ensures that we always use the wash programs, amount of chemistry, and method defined to meet our requirements for environmentally friendly and financially sound production,” Kim Thorsøe continues.
In addition to the UHF scanner, the laundry passes an X-ray scanner that searches for potentially dangerous and unwanted items such as pens, keys, needles and the like. Garments that fail on one or the other parameter will not advance in the washing process before a manual check has been performed, but everything else passes on without human assistance needed.
“The new set-up in our cleanroom solves several logistical problems. We can fill up the buffer, so production runs unaided for an hour and a half, for instance, while the employees are on break or lunch — that way we can utilize the maximum capacity without it pushing the staff. Also, with efficiency enhancements, we go from three to two operators, and their functions will also be less rigorous than they were before,” Kim Thorsøe says.
Berendsen‘s product portfolio includes a wide range of services within the rental, washing, and supply of quality textiles and hygiene products, and customers are both public and private companies throughout Denmark.
Berendsen launched a new CSR strategy in September 2019 entitled “Together with a clean conscience”. Here, one of the long-term goals for Berendsen is to be Denmark’s best workplace in 2030.
Also, in December 2019, Berendsen’s efforts following The UN Sustainable Development Goals was certified by Bureau Veritas. Four main areas were selected:
• World Goal # 3: “Health and Well-Being”
• World Goal # 7: “Sustainable Energy”
• World Goal # 8: “Decent Jobs and Economic Growth”
• World Goal # 12: “Responsible consumption and production.”
Three weeks ago Mikkel Pavia Hansen joined us for a three months internship within his ‘automationsteknolog’ studies at UCL Odense. As an automation technician, Mikkel is about to become an expert in automating processes through programming and robotics. Therefore we are pleased Mikkel has decided for us to gain first practical experiences in software programming for Inwatec machines.
Mikkel is 29 years old and was born and raised in Odense. After finishing his HTX education he worked as a bartender and waiter in different places in Odense for more than five years before he started having issues with his knee. Affected by this he switched to a completely new field and started working at DD2 – the Danish Center for Strategic Research in Type 2 Diabetes – as an assistant for three months. When he then started his studies as an Automation Technician at UCL he continued his work at DD2 as a student worker. He was involved in everything imaginable from collecting record data, to updates of databases to the accommodation of new data as well as its extraction from various documents.
As one of his classmates has heard about Mikkel’s passion for programming he mentioned Inwatec as a possibly interesting company for the compulsory three months internship and that is how Mikkel’s attention was brought to our open positions. Three months in he is in the process of implementing an inverter control function from one project to another next to setting up a Raspberry Pi to scan barcodes via a USB-connected camera. Throughout his tasks, he is closely working together with our software engineer Tudor.
“I think it’s really interesting that there’s so much different programming required. I really look forward to the next few months working here, putting all the knowledge to use, learning a lot of new things as well and seeing what it’s like to work in this field.”
In his spare time, Mikkel enjoys playing badminton with his girlfriend twice a week and tries to improve his electronic tinkering skills on smaller projects. Since his late teenage years, he loves cooking and currently has a thing for ramen which is why a lot of his spare time consists of watching videos on how to make the different parts of ramen in order to cook it to perfection.
We are happy to have you here, welcome Mikkel!
Would you like to become part of Inwatec? Check out our open positions and send your application!
After generations of focusing on optimizing earnings laundries have focused more on the overall sustainability of their production over the past few years. Today, the well-being of the employees and concern for the environment are oftentimes entirely in line with the desire for better earnings.
This development is also being observed by Inwatec. CEO Mads Andresen in the past 10 years has visited laundries of all types around the world to identify their concerns and challenges.
“The laundries have always been interested in how robots, automation solutions, and artificial intelligence can improve efficiency and thereby the economy. But the trend of thinking sustainably is seriously reflected now. Today, the focus is also on creating good conditions for the employees and on protecting the environment,” says Mads Andresen.
Fewer washes save resources and reduce the impact on the environment
While robots are ideal for performing for the many unilateral movements and the heavy, dirty work in the sorting, technology can also help the laundries to avoid fault washing due to incorrect sorting or hidden foreign elements in the pockets of the garments.
That argument weighed heavily at Victor Vask in Denmark, where CEO Kenn Ivan Kjellberg has invested in an X-ray solution to avoid damaged garments.
“Our investment is primarily done for economic and labor law reasons. But there is also an environmental aspect to it as the X-ray machine can save us from throwing out 100 kilos of damaged clothing when we avoid pens in the machines. And that part is equally important to us,” Kenn Ivan Kjellberg emphasizes.
The same conclusion has been reached in Norway, where the dominant laundry player, Nor Tekstil, has focused on X-ray detection to ensure sustainability.
“Besides the obvious fact that we can free several employees from doing the hard work, there is the environmental component. The textiles are significantly more durable when we reduce the number of error washes. The production of cotton has a large economic impact; therefore, it is essential that we can use the clothes until they are worn out instead of replacing 80 kg because of an overlooked pen in a pocket,” says Ove Belsvik, director at Nor Tekstil.
The use of technology increases the quality of sorting
While the X-ray solution help removing unwanted items before the washing machine, automatic sorting with RFID scanners ensures that the individual piece of garment is washed correctly.
This solution is used at ALSCO Padova, where customers demand that the clothing be tracked through the process. This way, ALSCO can handle and sort 20,000 pieces of clothing daily in many different washing programs without the risk of operator error.
“We sort in the clothes in a system with 24 silos, and currently we run with 14 different programs for colored clothes and six various washing programs for white garments. With our new setup, where the clothes are automatically sorted with RFID chips, we ensure that the clothes get the right treatment required by the specific customer,” Production Manager Marco De Grandis explains.
At Fornet in Nantong, the desire was the same as at ALSCO, and here the machines also deal with different types of clothing.
“A fascinating challenge when we have to handle so many different types of clothes. We have over 30,000 different garments in the database, and we have mapped them with different sorting logic, so we have separate items for dry cleaning and get the right colors and textile types in the right washing machines,” explains Lei Pai, Manager at Fornet.
Faster approach to new technologies
The increased focus on sustainability has also made it easier for businesses to embrace technology in production plans. Several laundry organizations have introduced new technology in stages to get started quickly and to test the hypotheses in practice.
“Our solutions are modular, meaning that the laundries can begin with a stand-alone X-ray machine, and then add sorting, upscale with multiple lines or anything that is needed. The laundries can act quickly, and it fits well with the market today”, says Mads Andresen, who is attracting interest in Inwatec solutions all over the world.
“The industry has traditionally been quite reluctant to apply new technology, but today we feel that there is a great desire to act. There are global challenges in finding labor, the environmental problems are apparent to all of us, and finally, of course, companies like to make money. That equation is difficult to solve without automation,” concludes the Inwatec founder.
Read more about how automation optimized processes and improved the laundry’s environmental impact at:
The new decade will hopefully bring us many new employees. We already started successfully with Erik Stougaard Andersen who joined us on the 6th of January. He adds on more manpower to our technician team in the workshop and we are happy to have welcomed him as the first new employee in 2020.
Erik is 29 years old, was born in Copenhagen and then raised in Midtfyn. For three years he lived in Odense before he just recently moved back to Midtfyn to live in a multigenerational house together with his wife and parents. During his time in Odense, he became part of the maker space project called “The O’Town Garage” that started in summer 2019. The O’Town Garage describes itself as a community of passionate, talented and self-driven members that are committed to learn and to teach one another, to expand their horizons of knowledge in tech and art and bridge the gap between ideas and tools to make them real. With a new job, home and a baby to come, Erik has a lot on his plate, but he still contributes time and engagement as an active member, because he genuinely enjoys spending time there. When you ask him about some of the projects he has worked on at “The O’Town Garage” he passionately tells you about the CNC machine they created from discarded motors and old pallets. “The old motors were actually donated by Inwatec”, he proudly adds.
With his engineering background, Erik has worked as a maritime engineer at Maersk Line, assembled windmill components at Næsby Maskinfabrik and then temporarily maintained boilers at Chr. Møller A/S in Nyborg while he was also trying to start his own business with a slow horse feeding machine. Two of his fellow O’Town Garage members are Inwatec’s software engineers Alex and Tudor and so one thing led to another and Erik decided to apply after he heard a lot of positive stories. As his temporary contract was about the end the opportunity came at the right time. What he enjoys most is to work with his hands and head at the same time. When asked about his expectations for the new position he says:
“At first I want to learn as much as possible from the people around me. Hopefully, I will be able to give input as soon as possible and help with fixing underlying mechanical issues. Also, perhaps soon I can help with the development and improvement of existing machines.”
We are glad to have you on the team, Erik!
Would you like to become part of Inwatec? Check out our open positions and send your application!
We are inviting to our Open House & Friday Bar Event on January 24th, 2020 from 13:00 to 15:00 at Hvidkærvej 30 in 5250 Odense SV!
Being named “Robotics Company of the Year 2019” by the Odense Robotics CEO network is truly a cause for celebration and we would love all who are interested to join us. The #Laundrynerds are already looking forward to showing our newly built workshop, demonstrating our laundry robotics, and enjoying a cold drink with our guests at our bar.
Different garments require various treatments, and because of that, Alsco Padova has increased focus on traceability in their laundry. To overcome the most significant hurdles, Alsco has invested in more technology.
Alsco, in Padova, Italy, has customers from many different industries, such as food, automotive, and pharmaceutical companies. Common to all of them is that they demand high efficiency and traceability.
That's why the management at Alsco was very interested when they heard how technology could solve the challenges using X-ray, RFID reader, and automatic sorting says Tech Manager Assistant, Alsco Padova, Mario de Cristofaro.
"Our customers ask for better efficiency in the division of their clothes and traceability of washing procedures. And this is now possible with the system from Inwatec," Mario de Cristofaro explains.
Alsco traces every single piece of clothing from it arrives at the factory until it is delivered to the customer again. According to Production Manager Marco De Grandis, the new technology has given Alsco better opportunity to provide customers with the best possible service, due to the release of human resources for other tasks.
"Our biggest challenge has been foreign elements in the pockets. Especially earplugs, lighters, screws, bolts, and much more. With our x-ray machine, we find most of it, and the number of employees was almost halved on the soiled side sorting," says Marco De Grandis.
In addition to finding foreign elements, the new equipment ensures that all garments are washed according to the exact instructions.
"We sort in the clothes in a system with 24 silos, and currently we run with 14 different programs for colored clothes and six different washing programs for white garments. With our new setup, where the clothes are automatically sorted with RFID chips, we ensure that the clothes get the right treatment required by the specific customer," Marco De Grandis explains.
According to Marco De Grandis, 20,000 pieces of clothing are processed per day at the Padova laundry. Still, the plans for the future are higher, which is why the company is working on expanded use of automation solutions:
"As it is right now, our bags are emptied manually, and the clothes are separated manually. But we are working to optimize the system so the bags will be automatically emptied onto a conveyor belt from where it is processed mechanically. We will always need employees, but we hope that we can move most of them from the soiled side sorting to other positions in the laundry," Marco De Grandis says.
About Alsco Padova
Alsco (American Linen Supply Company) currently serves 355,000 customers at more than 180 locations worldwide
In Italy, Alsco is present with 12 operating offices, including 7 production sites, reaching over 5,000 customers per week
Access more information about Inwatec's soiled sorting solutions here.
Tuesday, December 12, Inwatec was honored with the award as ‘2019 Robotics Company of the Year’ from Odense Robotics cluster.
Inwatec was one of six finalists together with Blue Ocean Robotics, KOBOTS, Lorenz Technology, Mobile Industrial Robots, and Robot Nordic. Given the strong field, it was a very proud CEO of Inwatec, Mads Andresen, who went on stage to receive the price:
“I’m delighted to accept the award on behalf of the entire company. I am enormously proud to have been picked as the winner from such an outstanding group of finalists. At Inwatec, we strive to nurture talent, particularly students and recent graduates, as part of our ongoing growth journey. It’s hugely rewarding to support young people’s development and learn from their ideas. It is a real honor for all of us at the company to have our efforts recognized by companies in the Odense Robotics cluster,” Mads Andresen said from the stage.
The award is sponsored by Nykredit Bank. Lars Holm, Centre Director for Nykredit Bank in Odense, said:
“Robotics and automation companies in Odense bring growth to the region and create value for a range of industries worldwide. We are proud to sponsor the ‘Robotics Company of the Year’ award and celebrate the extraordinary contribution that Odense Robotics cluster companies make to our business community and our society.”
At the end of November, another young Laudrynerd joined our workshop team. Christian Birch is 19 years old and will stay with us for at least a year during his so-called EGU education, mainly helping with the assemblage of all our machines. He has a fascinating passion for steel and everything that can be created and build with it. Christian grew up and still lives in Torø, a small town outside of Assens, Fyn with his family that includes two dogs.
After school, he visited efterskolen, where he learned all about hunting and fishing in the first year followed by the very different field of blacksmithing in the second year. While he still likes to go out on fishing trips with his father, the second year of efterskolen had an important impact on his interests as it ignited his enthusiasm for steel. At the age of 18, he continued learning even more about it while gaining knowledge in welding at a production school. As this path of education is very focused on practical skills he could directly start learning by doing. Amongst other products ordered by customers he helped building furniture, e.g. shelves, made from steel and wood at the company he worked for at that time. During the time at production school, he got in contact with the wife of our Laundrynerd Hilmer, who is working there, and thereby got introduced to Inwatec. As Christian knew that his biggest interest lies in metalwork a trial internship at Inwatec seemed to be a good choice. Although his work at Inwatec mainly consists of an assemblage of various pieces and is therefore different from working with raw steel, Christian enjoys it very much. “For me, it is like building with LEGO but in real life and I enjoy it a lot,” he says.
We are happy about having Christian with us and are glad that he enjoys being surrounded by us Laundrynerds so much: “I am really happy to be here and I like the atmosphere at Inwatec. I can always find someone to ask questions and everyone is really helpful.”
In his spare time, Christian combines his interests in steel and the production of different products. He creates small knives that can be used for hunting activities as well as small bags for different items such as drinking cans and knives. Therefore he also needs to know how to work with leather and wood. When he is not in the garage working on new items he enjoys hunting trips with his father and is saving up for diving gear. Since he got his dive license, he is dreaming of going diving again.
Welcome to the team Christian, we are glad to have you!
Would you like to become part of Inwatec? Check out our open positions and send your application!