Two new Laundrynerds supporting our production

Our workshop team has grown bigger again – we are happy to have Jesper (28) and Thomas (20) on board since August 1st! Jesper supports us as an electrician and Thomas does an apprenticeship as an automation engineer.


Jesper – Electrician

Jesper Lolk is 28 years old and grew up in Ringe, a town close to Odense on the island Funen.

Originally, Jesper was educated to be a ‘house electrician’. However, directly after receiving his diploma, he already started working as an ‘industrial traveling electrician’. In the past years, Jesper mostly worked in the food industry. There, he built various transportation systems for large-scale industrial butchering.

Much of his experience from his previous jobs helps Jesper to perform great work at Inwatec from the beginning as well.

Now, having worked as an electrician at Inwatec for a couple of weeks, Jesper sums up: “So far, most interesting for me has been getting to know Inwatec’s machines, experiencing how they are built, and seeing how much the machines are optimized all the time.”

“I like it very much. At Inwatec, there is a different work environment than I am used to, which is a very positive aspect of my work here. I am really looking forward to being a fully grown Laundrynerd soon and have many good experiences with Inwatec in future as well!”

In his spare time, Jesper likes to work and tinker with computers, including building and disassembling them. When the weather is good, he also enjoys going fishing.


Thomas – Automation Technician Apprentice

Thomas Johannes Mortensen is 20 years old, grew up in Svendborg, and recently joined Inwatec for his apprenticeship as an Automation Technician.

In the first half of 2018, Thomas completed a theoretical ‘basic education’ of 20 weeks, in which he gathered first relevant knowledge by performing experiments, creating technical drawings and writing reports. Now, he will be working at Inwatec’s workshop for approximately six months before he goes back to school again. In total, the education as an Automation Technician takes 3 to 3.5 years and consists of both theoretical and practical training.

Thomas appreciates the tasks at Inwatec being more applied and advanced, compared to the first part of his vocational education.

“In school, we did a lot of basic stuff, but here it is more complicated and with a purpose”, Thomas describes. “I am looking forward to learning, be on a team and do what I like – working with robots and machines.”

We are proud that with Thomas, we have a second Automation Technician apprentice on our team. Also, we are very glad to hear that Thomas likes working at Inwatec: “It is the best place I can imagine. I can’t wait to work with the machines even more.”

In his free time, Thomas likes to be with his friends and family and he is further interested in gymnastics.

Smart tracking reduces loss of articles

Mads Andresen, Kent Pettersson (CEO of KåPI Tvätt), and Morgan Olsson (KåPI Tvätt Production Manager)

At the family-owned Swedish laundry KåPI Tvätt in Bengtsfors, management has been actively investing in the fight against lost inventory. The chosen solution is to chip mark all current garments, and as part of that process, KåPI Tvätt has just invested in an Inwatec setup, which includes an X-ray scanner, a UHF Chip reader, and a sorting line.

“We continue to lose 20-30 percent of our inventory every year, and considering that we spend between 7 and 10 million Swedish kroner (680,000-970,000 €) to on the purchase of new fabrics, it goes without saying that it is a fairly large amount, we can save when we get the systems up and running. We expect the ROI to happen in a few years,” says director Kent Pettersson.

The system will initially be set up in such a way that all pieces without an existing chip are rejected and only returned to the circulation when they are equipped with chips and registered in the system. This way it is expected that the process can be completed in a relatively short time span, and from the first day there will be significantly better control of all inventory in use.

Fewer employees in production – better quality
At KåPI Tvätt, there are currently between six and ten people working to sort the dirty laundry, which includes towels, sheets, tablecloths and working uniforms from hotels, restaurants and conference centers.

Part of the explanation for the many employees is that KåPI Tvätt manages many smaller pieces of garments and that handling requires many hands. The expectation is that this part of the workforce in the laundry will be minimized significantly.

“We will only need 3-4 people with the new equipment. Fundamentally, it is expensive to have so many employees in production, and we are very aware of the efficiency as much as possible. For a while, we have been convinced that more automation and more robots are the way forward, and this is a logical next step for us,” says Production Manager Morgan Olsson, who, together with Kent Pettersson, went to Inwatec’s headquarters in Odense to have a closer look at the selected machines.

New technology is popular among the employees
Some of the tasks in the sorting disappear with the new investment, but according to Morgan Olsson, the employees look forward to the changes:

“They get a simpler working day, and they eliminate some of the dirty features. It’s not popular to be the one to check and empty the pockets. Especially in workwear, there are lots of screws, pens and similar items which have to be sorted out. It takes too much time, but that task will be improved with the new X-ray system,” he says, while Kent Pettersson agrees:

“We see ourselves as an innovative company, and we are leaders in the private sector in Sweden. It also means that we are following the progress, and our employees expect that,” says the director.

Artificial Intelligence and robots make laundries smarter and safer

The sophisticated picker of Inwatec’s Robot Separator calculates the best picking-point of the garments.

Many routines and procedures in the industrial laundries are both heavy, filthy and potentially dangerous, and on top of that, employees risk making mistakes when executing repetitive tasks.

That is why the now mature solutions combining robots, artificial intelligence and automation come into the picture.

Among the tasks which are most obvious to get rid of is the sorting and handling of soiled side garments. With modern technology it is entirely possible to obtain a setup where an absolute minimum of human interaction is needed:

The soiled garments can be dumped on conveyors where robots pick the items one by one to feed an X-ray scanner that detects unwanted items hidden in the pockets. At the same time, an RFID chip reader is registering the individual garment to decide how it should be sorted for proper handling further on in the system.

All those tasks can be achieved with employees only needed to empty the pockets on the garments that are rejected by the x-ray – and to ensure that the system is running as it is supposed to.

The X-ray system’s Artificial Intelligence automatically detects foreign items (e.g. pens)  and rejects the respective laundry article.

Endless opportunities

The challenge recently has been to make those robots smart enough to replace all these the human functions, but with artificial intelligence, it is now possible to let the computer analyze massive amounts of data and then find patterns that open new possibilities for the laundry business.

An example could be systems based on vision sorting alone. This is very useful in laundry businesses where the garments aren’t tagged because the items represent such a low value that the tagging doesn’t make sense as a business case.

Read more: The future is getting closer to Whangarei in New Zealand

The potential business cases in the laundry world that can be done with the help from automation, robots and AI today are practically endless.

As a rule of thumb, you can say, that if a typical person can perform a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or shortly.

There is no doubt that the human employees at the industrial laundries will perform jobs that are not as hard or fatiguing as today, and more focused on servicing the end users or creating value to the company in another way.

Programming support by two young talents

At Inwatec, we always strive to support young talents. Especially during their education, many skilled students are searching for ways to implement their knowledge. This summer, we are happy to welcome Mustafa and Laus to our team!


Mustafa – Software Assistant

Mustafa Hekmat Al Abdelamir is 15 years old and recently started as a programming assistant at Inwatec. He is attending school at the 9th grade of the Danish primary school system.

We got to know Mustafa during a three-day school internship in May 2018. Already from the start, he did a great job, which is why we offered him a small student position to support our programming team, starting in June. Currently, Mustafa is training the Artificial Intelligence of our X-ray system. He is labeling X-ray scans from the installed machines to help the machine learn new patterns.

“It’s great working here, the people are nice and the work environment is really good”, Mustafa explains.

In his free time, Mustafa likes to meet friends and play video games. Sometimes, Mustafa even does his own experimental computer graphics and plays around with 3D-programs. However, most fun for him is to spend “all nighters” with a bigger group of friends. Originally, Mustafa is from Southern Iraq but already moved to Denmark at the age of 4.


Laus – Student Assistant in Robot Engineering

Laus Skovgård Bigum joined Inwatec at the beginning of July as a student assistant and supports the software development for our machines.

Laus is 23 years old and was born in Roerslev, a small town outside Middelfart. He moved to Odense for his Bachelor’s studies in Robotics which he started in 2014. Laus is studying to be a civil engineer in Robotics at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and this fall, he will start working on his Master’s thesis, in collaboration with Inwatec.

“I like it a lot here. It is challenging in a good way and I learn so much from it. It will be cool to be a part of the fast development of the company and industry.”

Apart from his interest in robotics, Laus has a strong passion for both listening as well as playing music. He has been playing guitar, piano, and bass since he was eight years old, and regularly plays concerts with various bands.

In the past years, Laus already worked in different student jobs, such as at the university’s student service for IT and as a music teacher at an elementary school. Now, he is glad to be working in a field, which is more related and relevant to his studies:

“It is really cool to apply the knowledge from my studies. Although there are some practical aspects at the university, I feel like it has been primarily theoretical, so the work I will be doing now will take that knowledge into practice. I look forward to having a great time and learning a lot here.”


We regularly expand our team – find our open positions here!

Meet us at EXPOdetergo 2018

From 19 to 22 October 2018, one of the biggest international fairs for services and products of the laundry industry is taking place. We are happy to announce, that also Inwatec will be an exhibitor at the EXPOdetergo in Milan.

 

 

We are looking forward to meeting you at our booth E 21! You are welcome to bring your own items – no need to empty your pockets beforehand – and to test our sorting line including our robot and the X-Ray machine.

Additionally, you will have the chance to try out how efficient our VORTEX machine is in rolling mats and to have a deeper glance at a brand-new mat roller!

We are very looking forward to interesting and informative days at EXPOdetergo. Hope to see you there.

The future is getting closer to Whangarei

The future of the industrial laundry depends on robots and automation, and eventually, all the players on the market will need to go in that direction. So is the prediction from Steve Baker, General Manager of Apparelmaster Whangarei from the New Zealand city of the same name.

“We have to think of a business model that supports the investments, but I’m sure that the next important steps in our business are to reduce physical labor and automate internal logistics in the industrial laundries, pushing bins and trolleys around all day and carrying stacks of laundry from one place to another isn’t a great use of staff skills,” Steve Baker says.

Recently he traveled Germany, Belgium, Norway and Denmark together with a group of like-minded colleagues and representatives from JENSEN and Inwatec to watch how the newest equipment is being implemented in other laundries right now, and Steve Baker is confident that there is a place for improvement in his business as well.

“For us traveling from New Zealand to Europe to look at the large-scale operations is just like looking into the future and helps us to define and clarify our business decisions with confidence. It would be easy to become insular and miss out on maximizing our business opportunities if we stayed at home in the South Pacific and didn’t look to learn something from the finest laundries in the world,” Steve Baker tells.

New machinery gives new possibilities

“I have been following the development of the new technology with x-ray-scanners, robots, and automatic sorting at Inwatec for a couple of years now. In the perfect world, we would invest in a fully automated production line straight away, but we still need to make some calculations before doing so and measure the cost benefits equation for our size and scale of operation,” the general manager admits.

Apparelmaster Whangarei is located in the northernmost part of New Zealand, serving the area from the top of the island “Cape Reinga” to the northern edge of Auckland city and the customers are offered different solutions for workwear and hospitality linen rental services.

The 80 employees care for everything in the rental service that includes sorting, washing, cleaning and repairing as well as a door-to-door collection and delivery of the laundry to the customers. Steve Baker believes that he can use the available hands in better ways with the use of new technologies:

“Our company isn’t that big, as we produce 65 tons a week. But today we are working 10 hours a day, seven days a week, so an upgrade in our production facility will make it easier for us to take in new projects without doing costly nightshifts,” he says.

Physical tasks will be phased out

Apart from the possible upgrade in efficiency, Steve Baker is also very interested in how to make the working conditions at Apparelmaster Whangarei more attractive for the employees.

“The regulations in Europe are stricter than in New Zealand, but I think that we all have to find solutions on how to get rid of all the heavy manual tasks in the future. Fortunately, I think that the technology is coming to a point where it is possible.”

“We have a lot of physical work in our laundry, and it is hard and fatiguing. It’s not dangerous, but it wears people out, and automation and robots will be needed to make the laundry a better place to work,” he says.

Invitation to After-Work Beer & Open House 4.0 at Inwatec on 15th of June

We are inviting again to an open house and some after-work beers on the 15th of June at 15:00. Everybody is welcome!

Come by and visit the home of the #Laundrynerds, take a short tour around the workshop to view our machines in real-life, or just relax and have a cold beer and nice talks at the bar.

If you have questions, you can contact us via laundrynerds@inwatec.dk.

Do you have a Facebook account? Click here to view the event on Facebook and let us know if you are coming.

We are looking forward to meeting you.


You can find us (and our laundrylab) at Hvidkaervej 30 in 5250 Odense:

Towel feeding robot by Inwatec


We have now started development of a fully automated towel feeding robot. Building on the excellent work done by JENSEN. First robot prototype with use of artificial intelligence expected in 2018.

Feeding towels are hard and repetitive work. JENSEN has made a significant development work to automate this job with the JENSEN Evolution Cube. Inwatec will now add the newest robot technology and artificial intelligence to the solution, to make it more robust. This project moves the partnership between the JENSEN-GROUP and Inwatec to the next level.

“We are busy building the future in laundry automation. From day one it has been the idea that the engineers of Inwatec together with the engineering departments within JENSEN shall develop new solutions and services to automate all processes in heavy-duty laundries. We are sure that our next edition of the Evolution Cube will be a real game-changer that proves it,” says JENSEN-GROUP CEO Jesper Jensen.

“I see almost daily our LaundryNerds playing with towels, to see how we can find the corners, and feed the towels robust to a folding machine. There is no doubt that we need speedy robots, and 2D and 3D computer vision to solve this challenge. We see a breakthrough in using artificial intelligence in our machines today, with improved performance and reliability,” says Inwatec CEO Mads Andresen.

“Our Robot Separator is working better and better. We made the first prototype two years ago, and we have already five robots working every day in laundries. It has been a real challenge, and we thought that it was just a matter of finding the optimal pick point, and then grasp with an ordinary robot gripper. We could only achieve 60-70% success rate with this method! But even worse, too many double picks (5-10%). We also got the feedback from laundries, that traditional grippers destroy too many garments. The result was too low throughput. We realised that we had to develop a new gripper. We have been working on this since January, and the most recent test has shown pick rates of 97-99%, with way less double picks. We can’t wait to upgrade our existing robots with this new tool. We also have a pending patent on this new method, that is also more gentle to the textile.” says Mads Andresen.

“We will continue with our learnings from that process, and we have some pretty good ideas of how to develop a fast and reliable fully automated system that both separates and feeds. Towels come in all kinds of sizes and fabrics, and obviously, it isn’t a straightforward job to feed the folding machines, but the JENSEN team have got much experience also, and I think we are a long way down the road. So much I dare promise that the first prototypes will be assembled in our workshop in 2018,”

Inwatec’s firsts move into the laundries happened with the X-Ray Sorting System, and later a Robot Separator to further automatize the handling of the soiled textiles. More recently Inwatec has also produced a Stack Storage System for clean linen, and Mads Andresen reveals that Inwatec has many more innovations in the pipeline.

“Our motto has always been “We remove the dirty work”, and this is the first time we really remove the dirty work together with JENSEN,” says Mads Andresen.

Inwatec reaches Final Round of DIRA Automation Prize

We are happy to announce that Inwatec is now among the three last companies in the battle for DIRA Automationsprisen 2018 (The Automation Prize from the Danish Industrial Robot Association). Initially, 15 companies were nominated.

“It is a great satisfaction every time we hear from our customers reporting better work environment and higher efficiency with our machines. Robot technology and automation are especially useful at the industrial laundries where the machines can take over some really tough jobs, and obviously, that is our primary goal – to remove the dirty work. But this nomination is also a well-deserved recognition to everyone in Inwatec because they work hard and creatively to improve our solutions every day,” says CEO Mads Andresen.

An excerpt from the nomination:

Inwatec: For its robots, which allows removing manual processes in the laundries. It creates greater security for the employees and significantly increases productivity, as the robots and automation processes are optimal for the many heavy and repetitive processes that take place in the production at the laundries.

The other two contestants in the final are Inrotech and Linak, and the winner will be announced on September 11th at the Automation Fair in Brøndby, Denmark.

Read more (in Danish)
https://www.dira.dk/nyheder/?id=2296

Vraa Dampvaskeri focuses on innovation and automation

Robot technology, lots of automation and innovative use of all state-of-the-art technology in the market. Those are the ingredients in the recipe, which has secured the family-owned Vraa Dampvaskeri a position as one of the leading industrial laundries in Denmark. The headquarters locates in the northernmost part of Denmark in the town Vrå, but with branches in Aarhus, Fredericia, and Køge, Vraa Dampvaskeri services customers throughout the country as well as northern Germany and the southern part of Sweden.

According to CEO Jørgen Rasmussen, much of the explanation for the success of the company is that since the establishment in 1956, there has always been a strong will to invest in new technologies to make production as efficient as possible.

“Innovation and automation are in our blood at Vraa Dampvaskeri. For example, we have had our clothing tagged with chips since 1991, and in 1997 we took our automated sorting system into use. We have always been looking for improvements to our production line in general and especially in the field of automation,” says Jørgen Rasmussen, who recently invested in an Inwatec system, which will further improve the handling of the dirty laundry.

“The new automation options with a robot and an X-ray scanner have made us able to reduce the number of employees in the soiled site sorting, and it has enabled us to release some hands that we can use for something else. Regardless of how much we have automated over time, we have just become more people – now it’s just some other tasks they perform, “says Jørgen Rasmussen, who runs the family business with his two sons Thomas and Martin Rasmussen as well as daughter Stina Rasmussen who is CSR-manager.

Empty pockets a requirement in the food industry

With the new Inwatec-setup that connects to the existing sorting system, a robot separates the garments piece by piece before an X-ray machine checks for foreign elements hidden in the garments. If anything is found, the garment is automatically rejected for further inspection. This solution contributes to the fact that Vraa Dampvaskeri can also maintain its position as Denmark’s largest supplier of clothing to the food industry.

“We have a lot of customers in the food industry, where there is a strong focus on avoiding foreign objects in the clothes, and in this context, it was obvious for us to invest in an X-ray system that will enable us to meet that demand,” says Jørgen Rasmussen, who also has other gains by avoiding foreign elements in the laundry.

“When using the X-ray solution, we can reduce the administrative costs that come when undiscovered pens and the like ruins clothes. At the same time, it is important for our working environment to minimize the contact with the laundry, “explains the director about the solution.

 

Future solutions require data

Jørgen Rasmussen and his sons in Vraa Dampvaskeri are far from finished with the development. One of the next steps will be to utilize the possibilities for tracking the individual piece of laundry.

“Recently, we have started working on UHF-chipping the garments, which we do to get as much data as we can in the clothes cycle, and because it helps us to keep track of our inventory. This way we only need to invest in what we need,” says Jørgen Rasmussen, who see that the tracking gives further economic opportunities.

“Concerning the economy, collection and use of data is also an important part of the future laundry. When we make agreements with the customers that they should roll down the sleeves and empty their pockets, it is not always they remember it. When we track the individual piece of clothing, we can detect who’s forgetting this and, for example, send them a message that they’ll have to do better if they don’t want to pay for this service,” Jørgen Rasmussen adds.

The family behind Vraa Dampvaskeri: Martin, Stina, Thomas and Jørgen Rasmussen

Interested in the X-ray machine? Find more information about the ‘ODIN’ here