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

Meet us at PPdag on 3rd of May 2018

On Thursday, 3rd of May 2018, we will attend the 'Praktik og Projektdag', also called PPdag, at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. The event is specially made for companies to meet talented engineering students who are searching for internships, in-company periods, project collaborations, or student jobs. 

The event will take place from 12:00 until 15:30.

Why do we attend PPdag?

We think that a combination of high-level education and practical experience leads to the best outcome for both students as well as companies. We see it as our obligation to support young talents to gather practical experience and use their skills in the real life.

Inwatec has grown from 12 to 35 employees in the past two years, and we are not done yet - we know that we will need lots of new talented employees in future. And, we hope to find them at the University of Southern Denmark as well.

Actually, many of our Laundrynerds started their career at SDU in engineering. Just to name two: one completed her Ph.D. in Robotics and joined our team afterwards, another software engineer began working at Inwatec as one of our first student workers about 4.5 years ago and then moved into a full-time job directly after graduating. Of course, we could not be more proud that we managed to inspire great talents to use their knowledge even after graduation.

Could you be our next Laundrynerd? Come talk to us at PPdag!

HURRICANE – Mat Rolling with Cone-Correct

In the video, Simon Scheel Kaltoft, Project Manager at Inwatec, gives an overview of Inwatec’s Mat Rolling machine, called HURRICANE. It is the best performer compared to mat rollers on the market. The clean mats are loaded on the front side while getting the rolled ones out on the backside of the machine. Depending on the mat size and the experience of the operator, up to 450 mats can be rolled per hour.

The advantage of having a big inlet table on Hurricane is that the whole mat will be lying on top of the table. This ensures the possibility to see dust, dirty spots or holes in the mat. By pressing a button the mat can be rolled back to the operator to solve these issues. The Hurricane is designed with two belts on top. These are necessary to turn around the mats and to prevent coning. The cone correction feature is highly valuable as there is limited space in the transport truck.

The standard Hurricane can be upgraded due to several add-ons. Adding either an RFID antenna or a with sensor bar to the roll machine, makes it possible to automatically sort mats. Depending on the customers’ data are based it can be sorted either according to the length or width of the mats. Further, it is possible to add a binding machine. It wraps foil around the mat to keep them tight and well rolled. The binding machine can be extended by using a printer. Barcodes, text, logos or whatever could be benefitting from the certain laundry can then be printed on the foil.

The Hurricane allows an easy and safe use for the operator. Height adjustable legs make working on the machine more ergonomic. Every mat laundry can benefit from the Hurricane. Manual work will be reduced due to more efficiency while the mats are rolled in better quality.

100th VORTEX produced by Inwatec


At the beginning of May, we celebrated that Inwatec’s VORTEX number 100 left the workshop.

When Inwatec was established in 2009, leading focus was on how to make the most efficient and employee-friendly mat rolling machine on the market.

Until 2016 our products were large, high-capacity mat rolling machines with front loading and off-loading on the back. The design was simple, efficient and produced in a way that made maintenance easy for the customer. The machines were unique in the way that they used brushes instead of belts to roll the mats, but apart from that, they still looked pretty much as mat rollers from other brands used to do.

That changed in 2016 with the introduction of the VORTEX Mat Roller.

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 also is returned, rolled, and the design supports efficient one man-maneuvering.

Average of 220 mats per hour

“Of course, I’m incredibly proud that the solution was received so well. We have finetuned the machine a bit, but basically, machine number 100 is the same as the first one we delivered. It makes me no less proud that the first machine still steadily rolls 220 mats per hour on average today,” says CEO Mads Andresen on the anniversary.

Today the VORTEX is represented worldwide – and the distance to Denmark is apparently no issue to the owners.

“Obviously there are quite a few units in Denmark and Scandinavia, but most of the VORTEX’ is currently shipped to the United States, where the model is our most popular mat roller. The distance does not matter to the customers; it’s plug-and-play, the machine is built mainly with standard components, so it is easy for the customer to fix mechanical failures quickly,” says Mads Andresen.

“Changes in the laundry business do not occur overnight, but we see that our VORTEX mat rollers are very well known today. The lead time is getting shorter, and today we often have pretty big orders, when a laundry chain needs new machines,” Mads Andresen explains.

The newest Laundrynerds: Henrik and Benjamin

Meet the two newest members of our Laundrynerd-family: Henrik and Benjamin!


Henrik Østergaard Pedersen

Henrik Østergaard Pedersen is 34 years old and started at Inwatec’s project department in mechanical construction at the beginning of April 2018.

Originally, Henrik grew up near Viborg, in Midtjylland, Denmark. He worked at JENSEN Denmark for the last two and a half years in mechanical construction and now joined our team at Inwatec in Odense. Currently, during his first days, he is getting to know the product portfolio by reviewing recent big projects for laundries all around the world.

Henrik took his education as a ‘produktionsteknolog’ and ‘teknisk designer’, a production technician and technical designer. Before Henrik started the position in mechanical construction at JENSEN Denmark in Bornholm, he worked at Steens Furniture in product development.

At Jensen Denmark, Henrik also got to know more about Inwatec, as on January 1, 2018, JENSEN-GROUP, one of the world’s leading companies in the laundry industry, acquired 30% of the ownership of Inwatec ApS. Read more about it here.

With Henrik’s knowledge about the laundry business and his motivation, he is a real Laundrynerd from the beginning – a perfect match for Inwatec!

“So far, it has been great to work here. Everyone is very kind, helpful and easy going”, Henrik describes his first days at the office of Inwatec. “I am looking forward to getting assigned to a project and to be more introduced to the system.”

In his spare time, Henrik enjoys spending time with his family, cooking and playing music.

Welcome to Inwatec, Henrik. We are glad to have you on our team!


Benjamin Ejlebæk Enggaard

Benjamin Ejlebæk Enggaard, 21 years old, joined our workshop team as a student worker after Easter 2018. However, until his studies in engineering begin in September, he will support our workshop team full time.

Benjamin lives on a farm called Billeholm, which is located between the cities of Odense and Assens. He has been working on his father’s farm ‘ever since he could walk’, where he also extensively worked with farm machinery. Benjamin finished high school in summer of 2016 and afterwards traveled and did his conscription as a firefighter in the Danish civil protection. He also assisted in a car workshop for some time. Now, Benjamin aimed to gather relevant professional experience before he starts to study in the next winter semester and also wishes to continue working at Inwatec during his education.

Benjamin is currently supporting the workshop team on assembling five VORTEX mat rollers: “I have been doing service on farm machines of different kinds, but assembling new machines is new to me. It’s loads of fun though – kind of LEGO for adults”, Benjamin explains.

“Everyone is very kind to me. There is a very positive vibe at Inwatec, so though getting up at 5:20 am to start work at 6 is kind of rough, I’m looking very much forward to every working day.”

In his free time, Benjamin works on his father’s farm, likes to go hunting in fall and winter and is a great fan of Formula 1. When the Formula 1 season begins, he tries to follow the races closely.

In future, Benjamin wishes to also help to develop the machines. He is especially happy to be part of a “new, modern and fast growing company”.

That is great to hear, Benjamin. Welcome to the Laundrynerds!


Do you wish to be a Laundrynerd as well? Apply now!

Real Green is the new green

UPDATE: Post made for April Fools’ Day 2018 🙂

CEO Mads Andresen in front of the new green robot and sorting system

“The awareness of sustainability is steadily increasing in the industry in general, and in the laundry industry in particular.

It has long been one of our significant milestones in Inwatec that our technology in all ways to help laundries worldwide so that we can achieve a greener future together.

The Vortex Mat Roller is also among the redesigned models that are ready to ship.

Therefore, to highlight our green focus, we have decided that all machines in the future will be green.

“Green is the new green. In today’s world, if you want to be green, the only way is to make things green. Therefore we change the colour of all products from grey to green, and we are ready to take orders deliver the machines from today, April 1st, 2018,” Mads Andresen CEO of Inwatec tells.

Apart from the colour change, the Inwatec-series will soon be available in solar or pedal powered editions for laundries which are ready to go even greener.

You can see examples of the design of our new equipment on the pictures below. We do have some of the former Vortex-models in stock, and they can be acquired at a favorable price at a first come, first served basis. – Please contact us by mail/telephone and have your credit card handy.