Inwatec moves into giant markets: The laundry industry excited about Funen technology

Original article: Fyens Stiftstidende “Inwatec slår hul på gigantmarkeder: Vaskeribranchen begejstret for fynsk teknologi”. Click here to read the article in Danish.

The Funen technology company Inwatec sends its first machines to a Japanese customer in the laundry industry this week. In addition, later in spring, a large fair in New Orleans is expected to open up new opportunities for the company in the United States.

Over the last five years, Inwatec has increased its sales 10 times. Especially in the past year, where Inwatec’s sales have increased by 35 percent.

The growth is visible in the company’s most recent accounts, which have just been published. The numbers are expected to remain or even increase this year as Inwatec is opening the doors to the Japanese and American laundry markets.

“We will send our first machines to Japan this week. And later this year we will be at the largest laundry trade fair in the US in New Orleans, which we expect to open the US market for us,” says Jørgen Jensen, who as the chief operations officer (COO) in the company is responsible for the employees and optimization of production in the company.

Big in the US
Inwatec is already big in the US in the market for mat rolling machines – they have sold more than 200 machines – now a new opportunity is waiting just around the corner.

Jørgen Jensen has had a central position in the 10-year-old company since he was hired one and a half years ago. Inwatec, delivering high-tech and innovative solutions with X-ray systems and artificial intelligence to the heavy duty laundry industry, is so busy that there has been a strong increase in focus on streamlining production and business while still continuing to hire new employees. Only within the last two years, Inwatec doubled the number of employees and is still growing.

– We entered the year with a historically large order after we increased sales significantly last year. We expect to do at least the same this year when we foresee a growth of up to 50 percent. It has been crucial to look at optimizing the internal processes to ensure faster production and improve the handling of increasing orders, he says.

X-ray and artificial intelligence
Five years ago the gross profit in the company was DKK 2.1 million. Within the new accounts, Inwatec has raised the top line from DKK 14.5 million in 2017 to DKK 20.5 million in 2018. The company is particularly successful with its high-tech sorting solutions for industrial laundries in hotels and hospitals. With the technology of X-ray and artificial intelligence Inwatec machines can handle larger amounts of dirty laundry faster and at the same time remove foreign items such as pens or needles.

– No one has to stand and sort the clothes manually anymore. Hence, employees manpower can be used otherwise. At the same time, sorting clothes is a job that it can be difficult to get employees for because the minimum wages increase and there is a poor working environment, so there is great interest in our technology in an industry that is otherwise very traditional, says Jørgen Jensen.

Get bigger orders
Inwatec has been established as an innovative brand in the industry so that it is increasingly getting orders with more machines for larger customers. At the same time, Inwatec is getting involved earlier in the planning phase.

– When we increasingly get larger orders, it means that we can look further because we know that we must deliver two or three lines to a laundry that has not yet been built, he says.

He emphasizes that Inwatec, with its use of robots and machine learning, is pioneering in a tradition-based industry where there is minimal competition.

– Therefore, it is also important that we constantly develop ourselves so that we can maintain our leading position, he says.

New partner and investments
The increased sales are thus due to both the development of existing and innovation of new products. At the same time, massive investments have been put into new employees, which can be seen in the cost of wages that has increased from DKK 10 to 15 million.

Also, at the end of 2017, the company got a new global partner and co-owner. The internationally operating company JENSEN GROUP that sells traditional machines for the laundry industry, took over 30 percent of Inwatec in December 2017. The other two owners are CEO Mads Andresen and Lars Hansen, who is the principal shareholder of the robot company Egatec. He lives a longer stone throw from Inwatec in the same business area of Odense.

The arrival of the JENSEN GROUP leads to even more orders, as Inwatec has thus gained access to 100 sellers in JENSEN’s global network of retailers.

– JENSEN GROUP wins by coming out with the latest technology in the industry when they are out with customers, and for us, it gives access to their customers, says Jørgen Jensen.

– It has of course also meant that last year we invested a lot of time and hours in teaching their salespeople in our products so that they can sell it, he says.

As stated, the company is reinvesting much money in the development of products, new employees and sales work. Nevertheless, the bottom line had also increased from DKK 2 million to DKK 2.3 million in 2018, and at the same time, the company also increased the number of apprentices to three.

From uni to laundry: new talent for our software team

We are happy to welcome Anders who will add another piece to the growing Inwatec puzzle as a Software Developer.

Anders Falk Riis is 25 years old and comes from Nykøbing Mors on north Jutland. He is now supporting us as a Software Developer to further enhance our machines and technologies. As he likes playing Counterstrike in his spare time, he also enjoys being part of Inwatec’s quite successful company team. Another hobby of his is diving.

Anders just finished his bachelor’s degree in Robotics in summer 2018 and is now looking forward to applying his acquired knowledge to practical tasks and projects at Inwatec.
About his new position he says:
“The most interesting part is to use my knowledge from university and apply it to real applications. It’s my first time to work at a company with such a good business environment.”

During his time at university, he had the chance to take a semester in Thailand where he was working as an engineering assistant. One of his tasks was the communication-setup between a universal robot and the laboratory equipment. He then took the opportunity to start his bachelor project about neural networks for a bipedal robot. His work ended up being further developed together with a Thai Ph.D. student and was finally presented to the royal princess of Thailand. Although Anders himself could not be there for the presentation it is definitely something to be proud of.

At Inwatec the first project was already waiting for Anders. For a client in France, he works on new internal services, such as design and setup, for PLC’s as well as on the programming of the exit conveyor for the whole system that will be set up.

After two weeks his first thoughts about being a Laundrynerd are: “It’s amazing, good colleagues and best of all companies.”

We are glad to have you on our team! Welcome, Anders!

Would you like to become part of our team? Check out our open positions here.

VORTEX – small footprint, great impact

With its return-to-operator layout and the very small footprint, the VORTEX can be used in any laundry environment.

Since its launch in 2016, the demand for Inwatec’s VORTEX has increased steadily. In May 2018, we celebrated that machine number 100 left production in Odense, and a little more than a year later, we will see machine number 230 be packed in a container heading towards its final destination.

Despite the immense success with the VORTEX, we have decided to alter the design a bit, and after a lot of testing, we are now pleased to announce that we soon ship the first upgraded VORTEX machines from Inwatec.

The newly added feature is that the VORTEX mat roller can be ordered in a version with an integrated RFID scanner that allows the customer to register the mats that are being rolled automatically.

Update as a response to customer needs

CTO Claes Stanley is always involved in improving Inwatec’s mat rollers and their efficiency

“We have had a number of requests from customers who wanted to keep track of their inventory with RFID readers, and 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,” he continues.

The VORTEX is characterized by a remarkably small footprint in relation to the production capacity. Because of the patented roll-over feature, the machine is loaded from the front, where the mat is also returned, rolled, and the design supports efficient one man-maneuvering.

View more information about the VORTEX here. Feel free to contact us for more information regarding the new RFID option.

Strong support for our production by two new Laundrynerds

We are glad to welcome Janek Eriksen and Martin Lefevre Sørensen, who both recently started on our workshop team.

Martin Lefevre Sørensen is a trained electrician and marine project manager and is now supporting us in both electrical as well as technical matters in the development of our laundry robots.

40-year-old Martin lives in a small village Verninge, which is just 10 kilometers from Inwatec together with his wife Gitte and their two boys Lucas (6 years) and Marcus (4 years). In his free time, he likes to spend time with his family and friends. His hobbies are doing all kinds of sports and hunting.

Martin points out that he is “always ready for new challenges” and is already looking forward to the projects he will be working on in the future.

For the past five years, Martin was a Project Manager at a company specialized in electronics for marine customers. He worked on various projects on vessels and at production sites of offshore wind parks, such as MHI Vestas and Bladt Industries.

Apart from that, Martin worked at one of the largest North European construction companies for eleven years. Martin’s main focus was sea trials with Maersk’s new buildings. In addition, he worked as a service engineer globally.

In between these two positions, Martin gathered experience as an electrician at a Funen local electric installation company.

Martin tells: “I have heard good things about Inwatec from former colleagues, and when I saw Inwatec was hiring, I sent my application. I began working here 1st of February!”

After one month of Inwatec, Martin draws a first very positive resume of his new job:

“It is interesting to work at a company where there is a great focus on developing the business, and being a part of that journey is what motivates me.” He continues: “I am looking forward to working within the automation and robotics industry – because it is the future.”

Janek Eriksen, 29 years old, started as a technician in our workshop on the 11th of February, and is currently mainly supporting the assembly of our mat roller VORTEX.

Janek grew up in Tommerup, a small village close to Odense. He is a trained moped mechanic and Janek still has a passion for repairing two-wheeled vehicles.

From 2010 until 2014, Janek worked in a small company that repaired and sold mopeds and bicycles. He mostly worked in the workshop but also supported their shop in selling and customer counseling.

In 2014, Janek then switched to a curtain fitter producer, also specialized on fire and smoke curtains, glass facades, and climate curtains for greenhouses, where he worked until he applied for the open position at Inwatec.

Janek explains: “Already for a long time I wanted to try something new. One of my good friends then told me about the open position at Inwatec.”

After a quick application process and an interview, Janek started in mid of February: “Now, I am a fitter at Inwatec and build cool machines!”

“I like the mood at Inwatec. All the people are nice and helpful and everybody takes good care of each other,” Janek sums up his first weeks at Inwatec.

Welcome, Martin and Janek! It’s so great to have you on our team.

Close cooperation benefits customers all over the world

Mads Andresen together with Nikolai Jensen (Head of Strategic Partnerships at JENSEN-GROUP) after the first year of partnership

In December 2017, Inwatec and JENSEN-GROUP announced that the two companies had entered into a partnership, with JENSEN-GROUP acquiring minority participation in Inwatec. One year later, it is clear that this new relationship has benefited both parties.

“Our cooperation with the JENSEN-GROUP is fruitful in every way, and the first year has confirmed that both parties have been strengthened by the agreement. Inwatec’s focus is on developing robot and automation solutions for the laundry industry, and for us, the cooperation has given opportunity to maintain a high cadence in the development of new solutions,” says Inwatec’s director Mads Andresen.

“JENSEN-GROUP has a worldwide sales and service network, and therefore we can now offer the closeness and fast service that is needed when dealing with complex solutions that improve and change the workflows in the laundries. We can give the customers additional security because JENSEN has a solid network all over the world,” explains Mads Andresen.

The two founders of Inwatec Lars Hansen and Mads Andresen with Jesper Jensen (CEO of the JENSEN-GROUP) in December 2017

Global interest in laundry automation

At JENSEN-GROUP there is also satisfied with the results from the first year of the collaboration. So says Nikolai Jensen, who as Head of Strategic Partnerships at JENSEN-GROUP, is responsible for increased collaboration and coordination between the two companies.

“There is undoubtedly increased interest in automation at most laundries worldwide. Whether due to increased labor costs, or the need to optimize production, many of these challenges can be solved by Inwatec’s products. Therefore, our sales team is able to offer increasingly holistic solutions,” says Nikolai Jensen.

“There are still many manual processes in the laundry industry, but the cost of labor and utilities is increasing globally. I’m convinced that we will see the first fully-automated industrial laundries sooner than we think”, says Nikolai Jensen.

More space needed to keep up with orders

Thanks to the new collaboration, knowledge of Inwatec’s solutions are being shared around the world by JENSEN-GROUP’s sales team. More and more laundries are now installing Inwatec systems to handle automated soil-side sorting of garments.

“A good example of our increased reach is that we have, among other things, obtained new customers in Japan, and we had not got that without JENSEN’s network,” says Mads Andresen, who can at the same time report on another exciting outcome of the collaboration.

“We are really, really busy with both development and production. We have almost continuously active job vacancies for engineers and software developers, and because we get new orders all the time, we must also soon start an extension that doubles production area in our headquarters in Odense, Denmark,” Mads Andresen concludes.

Watch the video about the start of the partnership from December 2017

Laundrynerd in Training – Our first Data Technician Apprentice

Meet Anne-Sofie Fisker, our third apprentice in total and our first one in the field of programming!

“It’s great at Inwatec. I have great colleagues, I get a lot of guidance and the environment is just perfect for me”, Anne-Sofie concludes the first weeks of her apprenticeship.

Anne-Sofie started her apprenticeship as a data technician at Inwatec in January 2019. This line of education takes 4.5 years and consists of an alternation of 20 weeks at the company and 10 weeks at school.

“It’s very practical here at Inwatec, that’s how I like it. And luckily, it will be at school too”, Anne-Sofie explains.

Anne-Sofie is 24 years old, grew up in Esbjerg, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Southern Denmark. After she finished her studies, she first worked as a physics teacher, but soon started looking for a way into her passion – programming!

From Physics to Programming

In her bachelor’s studies in Physics, she worked much with mathematics, statistics, and data, which often was rather theoretical and only little applied. Until in one of her courses, Anne-Sofie was taught to write her first code and how to work with Java and Python. This experience immediately sparked her interest in programming. As she says: “That was so invigorating!”

“I changed from physics to the data technician apprenticeship because I thought that university was just a bit too theoretical and too far from reality. You know, I am a giant nerd, I sit in front of computers all the time, and I wanted to use that less consumer-like and more engineering-like”, Anne-Sofie smiles.

In her free time, Anne-Sofie likes to watch movies and play video games. What she, however, likes most is ‘educational coding’. She taught most of her current knowledge about programming herself by researching and training online.

“I honestly really want to learn to code. So, whenever I get an idea, I want to bring it to the working table. For example, I developed some Google Chrome browser extensions. One of them was an acronym finder.” She continues: “I really like to toy around with file handling as well, and everything that can help to solve daily problems with data management.”

Certified Apprenticeship Places for Data Technicians

Our three apprentices! Anne-Sofie, together with Anders and Thomas who are taking the Automation Technician education

When Anne-Sofie was searching for apprenticeship places, she stumbled over Inwatec and found our job postings for both a senior programmer and software student assistants.

“That senior programmer position was exactly what I want to work with when I have some more experience. And I knew Inwatec was open to students. So, I hoped that they would be open for me combining these two openings I found.”

Looking back at the time when she was searching for an apprenticeship place, Anne-Sofie describes: “Many of those companies who are certified to have apprentices didn’t want any! I have sent out so many applications until I finally found Inwatec.”

Inwatec’s COO Jørgen Jensen admits that before Anne-Sofie applied, he did not know much about the data technician apprenticeship. But once he did, he made sure to act fast to be able to take an apprentice in this very relevant education branch for Inwatec:

“We had a job interview two days after we received her unsolicited application and after that, we directly went to talk to a representative from the metal industry’s educational department to be approved as an apprenticeship for data technician students. Already on the following day we received formal approval and were able to sign a training agreement” Jørgen Jensen describes.

He continues: “What I want to point out most is that the process of being approved as an apprenticeship employer has been super simple and has demanded very little of our time, so it should not discourage anyone from hiring an apprentice!”

Anne-Sofie’s first weeks at Inwatec

Only two weeks after her application, Anne-Sofie is already ‘getting to know the code’ of Inwatec’s soiled side sorting machinery! She will be supporting the programming team mostly on the SortManager, Artificial Intelligence data processing, as well as work on programs that are used internally.

Anne-Sofie explains that with now programming on real machinery and projects being sent out to customers, she is pressuring herself a little more compared to when she was coding at home for fun:

“I am sometimes a bit anxious to implement my code because it can crash real machines, and not just an internet browser. But I am happy that I am under supervision – like that, I cannot break anything”, she laughs.

From day one, it was made sure that Anne-Sofie was involved in daily processes and discussions about current projects:

“The programming team is really nice to just ease me into all these tasks. It’s a lot of helping and taking it slow on one side, but on the other side, I am already writing code that will be implemented. That’s very cool! Most interesting for me so far is being included in discussions on projects that are shipped out. That I actually have an impact on what is going to happen.”

Although for many people, ‘machinery for laundry automation’ and ‘systems for textile handling’ might not sound that exciting, Anne-Sofie is thrilled to work on the code for these. She already is a real Laundrynerd!

“I think that the vision-part and the data analysis here is very cool. But also just keeping track of all these garments, the counting, the X-ray scanning – that’s all so interesting. One thing trumps the other!”

We are so glad to have you on our team now, Anne-Sofie. And obviously, we are very proud to hear all those compliments for our people and systems. We are really looking forward to the next 4.5 years with you as our apprentice!

Modular Robots are created during Flexible Working Manners

Ann-Sofie and Anders are currently writing their thesis, together with Inwatec, to finish their bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Their project is practical-oriented, just like their whole study program at SDU in Odense.

Anders already did his internship at Inwatec and discovered the opportunities to further work on the challenge, they are now dealing with in their thesis. Anders says: “We selected Inwatec as a collaboration partner since I already experienced how easy and satisfying it is to work with the company.” The students are free regarding their work location and can switch between the office, the university or any other place they feel most productive.


Modular setup and simple aesthetics

Not only student projects are organized flexible, but also Inwatec’s systems are flexible and scalable due to their modular design. Ann-Sofie is fascinated: “Every robot can be connected to make the handling of laundry articles as intelligent and reasonable as possible.”

In case you are now curious to learn more about our modular setup, check it out here.

The students are working on improving a major part of one of Inwatec’s robots. They are constructing a component and calculating several aspects like carrying capacity or overall costs. Ann-Sofie and Anders target to back up all their decisions with analyses. “Our focus is to reduce space and material while providing increased safety,” both students agree.

Anders is impressed by the simplicity of Inwatec’s machines: “Although we are dealing with innovative robotics, the systems are build up straightforward and the functionality stands in the first place.”

Bringing in a breath of fresh air to never stop improving

Inwatec attaches great importance to bring a breath of fresh air into their development processes and to constantly improve their machines. “We are really free to implement our own concepts and our colleagues guide and support us whenever needed, but they would never restrict our ideas,” tells Ann-Sofie.

“We are provided with all essential information and data, helping us to really understand all processes and giving the opportunity to get the best out of our project –for Inwatec as well as for ourselves,” adds Anders.

We wish you the best of luck to finish your thesis project and we are sure you will rock the upcoming presentation!

Smart People – Smart Robots

Benedicte and Mads are studying towards a Diplom within Integrated Design at SDU in Odense. They are trained to take the challenge and develop new products, less emphasizing on detailed calculations but more on knowing the overall strategies and approaches including different perspectives and departments. They are educated to be generalists, being able to gain more specific knowledge within one area if required.

Their final project is not a theoretical thesis but more a practically oriented report that should include, engineering, design, and economic aspects and should be conducted in a company ensuring hands-on experience. Important in here is to justify decisions and methods. Within their practical project, they should develop their idea to a final concept.

“My main goal is to make the laundry robots smarter.”

Mads started as an intern at Inwatec and took Benedicte, his fellow student, on board. At Inwatec they had the opportunity to build up process stages of a new robot and to test their concept via different prototypes, that are simulating the single steps of the future machine. Mads is certain: ” My main goal is to make the laundry robots smarter.”

Benedicte is happy about: “The atmosphere is really positive and we were included in the team from day one.” In the very first week, the students got the possibility to visit two laundries and to gain a deeper insight into the industry, the needs, and potential pain points.

“Inwatec is a great company to write the project with. They understand student’s needs and they are interested in putting the educational requirements as a priority,” says Mads. The students hence were also able to conduct tests, that were not primarily Inwatec’s needs, but were required by university-rules.

The robot, they worked on, was requested by a customer. Very important for the students was to get a real-life scenario and to obtain actual data. These criteria were definitely fulfilled and the Inwatec supported them from the very beginning to the end of their project. They additionally had their own office space to freely develop ideas.

Benedicte and Mads really enjoyed working with Inwatec. Whenever they had questions or issues, colleagues provided helping hands. A programming specialist supported the two students during their whole project and programmed the necessary codes to make the testing possible.

Trust and freedom lead to innovative robots

“We could test our ideas by building up prototypes in original size and we were also supported in buying material,” says Mads. Also, a modified version of the existing machines was included in the testing phase.

Benedicte adds: “It was a great feeling that everyone in Inwatec trust in our work and that we were treated as experts in our field, although we are still studying.“

In the end, both agreed: “It is a pity that we just have one semester and that this time is of course not enough to develop our idea to the very end.”

Mads furthermore starts to work full time at Inwatec from February. He is looking forward to joining the Laundrynerds as Project Engineer with tasks across sales, sales support, construction, installations, and development.

Good luck to both of you with the final project and your future career life!

Nor Tekstil’s specialized laundry for hotels is a success


In May 2018, the Norwegian Nor Tekstil celebrated the grand opening of a new laundry in Oslo. This laundry was built specifically to handle hotel laundry, and it's inauguration was accompanied with high expectations.

Half a year later, CTO Ove Belsvik acknowledges that the concept has proven to be an excellent idea:

"We think long-term, and we wanted a very modern facility based on innovative technology, and we feel that we have gotten that in Oslo. We had several laundries, and we wanted to move our hotel production to a single plant to make it more efficient. Here we do not wash for hospitals or other customers, it is exclusively hotels. In this way, we are able to specialize the production lines," Ove Belsvik explains.

The brand new laundry in Oslo includes an Inwatec Stack Storage Solution, which keeps the washed and ironed linen in its buffer before packaging and shipping. With this setup, the production can be streamlined as much as possible.

Continue reading below the slideshow:

At the same time, the new setup was designed with a wish for improved workstations for the employees, and Ove Belsvik is pleased that this part of the solution also has proven to be a success.

Nor Tekstil is Norway’s dominant player in the laundry industry. The company serves a significant share of Norwegian hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes, as well as a large number of customers in the offshore industry and other firms in the industrial sector.

"The stack storage solution from Inwatec has had a significant impact on employees. We work with HES (Health, Environment, and Safety), where we look at ergonomics and workflows, and we have significantly less stress now. It's no longer the machines that regulate the pace. When we have a buffer in front, the manual handling at the packing station is done at a reasonable pace, and we've got significantly better ergonomics for our employees. It is very positive," says Ove Belsvik, who is certain, that the set up in their new laundry will set the standards for future laundries:

"We are convinced that what we have built in Oslo is the future. We also see that after half a year of operation we have had excellent results with the combination of our five ironer lines and the stack storage," he ends.

Find more information about the Stack Storage here.

Investing in youth means investing in the future

It is so important for us to work together with educational institutions in Odense and the surrounding area. Especially as it is no empty phrase to say that the youth is our future. Of course, we are also always proud to show how exciting it is to work in our field!

At the beginning of December, we had the pleasure of welcoming another enthusiastic student in his school internship: Bjørn, a 14-year-old student from the Egholmskolen School near Copenhagen. He stayed with Inwatec for a week and got to know various aspects of our work, such as mechanical engineering with 3D drawings, PLC software engineering, and the construction of our control cabinets.

“I have already done two more internships, one for three and the other for two days,” explains Bjørn. In an aluminum workshop, Bjørn programmed an old drill to cut a shape into the aluminum. At the Teknologisk Institute in Odense, Bjørn had the opportunity to test a Nao robot, a programmable humanoid robot, by writing a few lines of code.

We are pleased that Bjørn has also liked the challenges at Inwatec: “It was very interesting, but also a bit difficult because there were some things I had not done before; only the programming of the RFID unit is actually a bit similar to what I already knew before,” says Bjørn.

During the five days, Bjørn worked with various experts in the different fields at Inwatec and it was a pleasure to see that his excitement grew with the time he spent with us. We wanted to give him a comprehensive overview of the tasks of robotics engineers, mechanical and software engineers, and our technicians in the workshop.

Bjørn explains: “It was just cool, I think it was a good variation between working directly with the machines, 3D drawing, and programming in my internship.” He is already planning a technical education after completing his ninth grade, in order to be able to work even more with robots, controls and similar in the future.

From experience, we can say that internships can also turn into further collaborations! The most recent example is the 15-year-old student Mustafa, who completed a three-day school internship at Inwatec in May 2018. One month later, Mustafa entered our team as a student assistant and is supporting our image classification for training our Artificial Intelligence for a few hours each week since then.

We are glad that you enjoyed the time at Inwatec as much as we enjoyed having you with us, Bjørn! In addition, we are confident that the internship was not the last time we worked together.