Two mat rollers with additional sorting and a big “sombrero” from Inwatec has helped Berendsen Finland while they have tripled their mat production capacity. So tells Kim Nordberg, who as Country Director at Berendsen Textile Service OY, who is in charge of the 60 people working at the facility in Tuusula, half an hour’s drive from the Finnish capital, Helsinki.
“Inwatec was our natural choice when selecting the supplier for the new mat line set up, due to former experience with them,” Kim Nordberg says.
The solution included a new HURRICANE mat roller, and a CYCLONE – Mat Carousel (they call it “The sombrero” in Tuusula). The new machines were placed side by side with the existing TORNADO Mat Roller.
Kim Nordberg explains: “Before, we had five persons working with the mat handling in two shifts. Today we have seven people, but we are only working in one shift, and we still managed to triple our production capacity!”
At the Tuusula plant, two persons are unloading the clean mats on the Inwatec Mat Carousel. The carousel serves as a buffer for the four persons responsible for rolling the mats and unloading the tables of rolled mats. Finally, two employees pack the mats, so they are ready for the routes.
“We used to run the production from 5:00 to 23:00, and now we are doing everything before 15:00 or 16:00 in the afternoon. We have a better working environment for the employees, and it’s better for the company as we are less vulnerable, having two CBW’s up and running. If we have break-downs, it’s easier to catch up the same day as we do have more free hours,” Kim Nordberg explains.
As in other parts of the laundry world, new employees are hard to find – and to keep – in Finland. And also, for that reason, Kim Nordberg is always keen on improving his plant.
“65 percent of our staff at Berendsen Finland have been working here for five years or more. But we always want to improve. We are always open to new solutions where we can improve productivity and employee satisfaction. If we are offered machines that help us in that regard, I’m all ears,” Kim Nordberg underlines.
Manually inspecting the pockets of work clothes is a costly and time-consuming process at many laundries. This was also the case at Victor Vask, which services the Danish island of Bornholm. Therefore director and owner Kenn Ivan Kjellberg did not hesitate when he found an alternative.
“We had a heavy process of the soiled side sorting, and we wanted to avoid putting our hands in all the pockets of the laundry. It takes an incredibly long time to check your pockets, and at the same time, we need to avoid employees getting hurt by needles, scissors, or other sharp things that hide in the pockets. We have been close, but we can avoid that with the new setup. Today we scan the garments before we sort them,” says Kenn Ivan Kjellberg about the X-ray scanner that Victor Vask bought from Inwatec in Odense.
Costly errors can be avoided
Victor Vask’s customers include, among others, Bornholm’s regional hospital, home care, dairies, the fishing industry, defense, and civil defense. This means that the pockets on the workwear can hide dangerous objects, but also otherwise harmless items that can damage the clothes in the washing process.
“We are terrified of pens and permanent markers in our pockets. It can quickly cost DKK 10,000 (1,339 €) in replacement value to replace the damaged garments, and on top of that, we have administrative costs and expenses for re-washing. Overall, I would estimate that an overlooked ballpoint pen could easily cost us DKK 11,000 (1,475 €),” estimates Kenn Ivan Kjellberg.
The laundry owner cites three parameters as the decisive factors for Victor Vask acquiring an X-ray machine:
“Our investment is primarily done for economic and working environmental 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,” he emphasizes.
Technology paves the way for developments
Victor Vask’s X-ray machine is fed manually, and the garments are manually sorted once they have passed through the scanner. Kenn Ivan Kjellberg says that the current laundry production does not make an investment in automatic sorting profitable for the present, but that it is a possible upgrade in the future.
The director states that he and his colleagues always keep an eye on the development potential of the market. That was the reason why he approached Inwatec director Mads Andresen in the first place.
“At Victor Vask, we like to invest in new technology that improves production and working conditions. When I read about Inwatec’s solution, I contacted Mads to find out if we could benefit from it. It was in the fall of 2018. Shortly after that, we received a visit from Inwatec, and I visited Odense with two employees who tried to operate the machine in real life. They were also very positive, and that made it easy for us to decide,” says Kenn Ivan Kjellberg.
Unifirst Corporation, one of North America’s largest workwear and textile service companies, identified the Inwatec VORTEX mat rolling system as a solution to increase productivity, improve workflow efficiency and enhance safety for team partners.
According to Mr. Kevin Forcier, UniFirst Industrial Engineer, the Inwatec Vortex outfitted with a new RFID reader, proved to be the right option. “This system has surpassed our expectation,” says Forcier. “Overall, productivity has increased significantly since installing the new equipment.”
Forcier contributes this impressive result to the patented rollover feature that eliminates manual steps for UniFirst operators and allows more mats to be rolled in less time.
RFID reader supports better logistics
As a company committed to leveraging technology, UniFirst required the VORTEX mat roller be designed to read and identify mats outfitted with RFID chips. According to Forcier, this was an essential component for UniFirst to achieve their goal of improving workflow by reducing time-consuming tasks in the mat rolling process.
“We are now able to integrate RFID chips in our mat rolling automation system,” says Forcier. “This process improvement eliminated extra handling of the mats by our team partners.”
Inwatec made timely adjustments to the VORTEX system to include this innovative feature. When the new setup was available, UniFirst conducted a successful test of the VORTEX mat roller in a pilot facility.
More than 20 VORTEX systems have been shipped to UniFirst plants across North America from Inwatec Headquarters in Denmark.
“It is a smart investment,” says Forcier, “mat rollers are a workhorse at our facilities and every day we improve our workflow and job satisfaction with the VORTEX system. The days when associates have to process one mat at a time will soon be a thing of the past.”
“At UniFirst, we also strive to best utilize the skills of our team partners,” comments Forcier. “Ultimately, improving work processes leads to higher job satisfaction. When production steps are streamlined, UniFirst team partners can quickly flex to other areas in the plant that need support and acquire new skills.”
This approach appears to be producing the desired result. Earlier this year, UniFirst was named to Forbes Magazine’s prestigious list of “America’s Best Large Employers” for 2019. This recognition is the direct response of UniFirst team partners who were surveyed and said they would recommend the company to friends and family as a great place to work.
Congratulations and thank you for partnering with Inwatec on this exciting project.
Watch the video below to see the functions and capabilities of the VORTEX mat roller with an integrated RFID reader. Click here to view more information about the VORTEX.
The public laundry in the Swedish city of Alingsås, located 50 kilometers outside Gothenburg, has been through a significant automation process this spring. The goals were to improve the working environment and to increase productivity.
“The management of the laundry has decided that we must work long term and invest in the laundry. Initially, it is about the working environment for our employees, but of course, the economy is also an essential factor as well,” tells manager Malin Schiller.
The new soiled side sorting setup at Alingsås includes four robot separators and two x-ray scanners, and up to 6.000 pieces of garments can be processed every hour with a minimum of human interaction.
“Before, we had 12 people examining the clothes at the light tables. They turned the clothes inside-out and examined all pockets to check for foreign objects. Now it’s handled by the machines, and we have only one operator on the task. The machine finds out by X-ray whether there is anything in the clothes or not,” Service Manager Cora Magnusson explains.
According to the service manager, most of the time was used on performing redundant pocket inspections.
“It is only 2-4 percent of the clothes that has something hidden in the pockets. It can be anything – things from care, phones, money, and so on. But most of the pockets are empty, and now the machine ignores those clothes in the process. It means that we have a safer and faster delivery now,” Cora Magnusson tells.
The extra hands are now allocated to other tasks in the laundry, and the daily routines are changing in a rotational schedule to keep the workload as low as possible.
Cora Magnussen adds: “Now it is less tedious, so it is better for ergonomics, body, and health. Getting to work is more fun when you have varied tasks.”
Laundry employee Sofia Wangvald agrees on that assumption. She has been working at Alingsås both before and after the new setup:
“We become more like mechanical engineers than wear workers, as we were when we checked all the pockets and all the clothes. The machine scanning the pockets is the most significant development that has happened at the laundry in the five years I have been here. It is an excellent investment for the future,” Sofia Wangvald tells.
According to manager Malin Schiller, there will be more investments in the future.
“Investing in the picker and x-ray scanner is a starting point for our continued development in the laundry. You could say that this is the first phase, and we are working hard to move towards more automation where possible,” Malin Schiller reveals.
Interview with Pernille Lundvang, Laundry Manager at MidtVask in Aarhus
MidtVask in Aarhus, Denmark, is a publicly owned company which only cleans for the public and especially for the hospital industry.
Here, laundry manager Pernille Lundvang also sees the necessity to improve efficiency for lowering prices – and thus stay in the fight for public tenders, which are the only ones the laundry are allowed bid in on as a publicly owned company.
For the same reason, the 150 employees, which are distributed in almost 40 nationalities, are very keen about the introduction of modern technology in the company, which was named Denmark’s Best Workplace in 2018.
For example, MidtVask has invested in Inwatec’s Soiled Side-sorting-system that automates the handling of dirty garments coming into the laundry.
“We have a goal of being among Denmark’s healthiest workplaces. That is why automation and, among other things, the Soiled Side Sorting-system from Inwatec is something that really moves us in the right direction. It removes needles and removes scissors, so there is no risk of cutting. At the same time, we avoid a lot of unilateral, repeated work. So it helps to better both our competitiveness and our working environment and health,” tells laundry manager Pernille Lundvang.
“There is often someone who asks if the employees are not afraid of the strong streamlining we are doing with Inwatec. No, on the contrary. If we do not optimize all we can, we will lose our work. Automation and robotics are the only way we can be competitive and ensure that we have a workplace in the future. So from all colleagues we have a great thumbs up – that’s what we have to do,” says Pernille Lundvang, who can also see a swift ROI on the system.
“We have saved two employees compared to our old setup. So it’s a machine that has an ROI of fewer than three years. It’s excellent. At the same time, our products are made with care and care for the people who work here. It is not only to raise efficiency and to lower the prices. Our customers also really like to do business with us because they know that we focus on being a workplace with great emphasis on being diverse and because we have a good working environment,” she underlines.
The handling of small laundry items such as mops or rags is a time-consuming process that requires thousands of hands every day in laundries around the world. However, this should change soon.
Today there are an increasing number of automation solutions and special robots that free employees from the most monotonous and repetitive tasks. This also includes the handling of small textiles.
At the Danish laundry company DFD, one of Inwatec’s bag handling and packing systems was recently installed, which is mainly used for their very successful Viima cleaning products. Viima comprises cloths and mops that allow chemical-free cleaning with water only. With 4,500 weekly deliveries in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, the laundry’s logistical requirements are high.
However, this is not the only reason why DFD in Odense decided to invest in automation solutions for the packaging of these special wiping cloths:
“The primary objective is to ensure the best possible hygiene for Viima wipes and at the same time to find a solution that enables us to save time and manpower,” says Axel Bonnevie, Managing Director of DFD.
Rising willingness to invest in automated solutions
The ways of handling smaller articles vary from laundry to laundry, but the willingness to invest in automated solutions is on the rise all over Europe. Man-hours are among the most significant expenses in most companies, and on top of that, demands to employee safety and proper hygienic handling of the garments are getting stronger and stronger.
The DFD laundry in Odense specializes in and optimizes the handling of Viima products, so the company has a great deal of expertise to ensure that customers from across the Nordic region have access to specialized and certified washing and advice on which solutions exactly meet their needs. Customers include professional cleaning companies, the food industry as well as pharmaceutical and medical companies. The basis of the DFD service solution is that the customer receives exactly the number of units required whenever needed.
“Our Viima cleaning concept consists of various products made from a completely unique and patented composite fiber, which offers some cleaning advantages. This means more hygiene and quality, minimum consumption of water and detergents and better ergonomics for the user than with conventional cleaning systems. Viima has also received the EU Environmental Award for its environmental friendliness. We then invested in the Inwatec machine, which separates the Viima wipes and packs them in plastic bags, so that we can supply a fixed number of wipes in one bag in a particularly hygienic way, as there is no manual handling,” says Axel Bonnevie.
Quality assurance in Viima’s concept means that all units can be tracked and monitored via an RFID chip – right down to the individual Viima cloth. This places high demands on logistics when mops and wipes have to be packed and distributed in an area stretching from Denmark to Norway and Sweden.
Modularity to fit every need
“The machine handles up to 2,000 laundry items per hour with RFID reading and more than 3,000+ without an RFID integration. The operator easily changes how many items that go into each bag, so it is no problem to change from one type of product to another”, explains Mads Andresen, CEO of Inwatec.
Because of the different needs of industrial laundries, Inwatec has developed a modular setup that can be combined in all sorts of ways to fulfill the exact wishes from the customer.
“The packing module itself is of course standard together with the unit that separates and counts the articles that go into the bags, but on top of that we have several other options to choose from,” Mads Andresen further elaborates. “The most common add-ons are label printers and RFID-readers that keep track on inventory and therefore help our customer send out the correct invoices. The RFID-reader also provide extra security because incorrect laundry items are automatically ejected into a reject bin,” adds Mads Andresen, who also points out that versatile software with simple menus makes it easy to change the settings.
If the small textiles are not chipped with RFID, the system can be equipped with a camera identification module which can sort by color or pattern.
The fact that DFD has gathered the know-how about their Viima products in one place makes it possible to put technological investments in future solutions on the agenda.
“Our aim is to be experts for our customers’ customers so that we can advise them on which solutions are the best. For example, we cannot have certifications and logistics solutions that are explicitly aimed at the cleaning sector in all laundries, but we pool our expertise in specific areas. This also means that we can make targeted investments in machines that solve the special tasks we have in the individual laundries. As with the Inwatec machines, which were developed in such a way that they can sort and pack Viima products,” says Axel Bonnevie.
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.
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.
As technology evolves, business opportunities arise for industrial laundries.
An example of the development is found a mere two-hour drive outside of Shanghai in the city of Nantong, where Fornet Laundry Service has a production facility for an unusual customer who runs an internet clothing rental service.
The rental company addresses private customers who can choose which clothes they want to wear in the coming days with an internet-based subscription solution. When the garments need to be washed, they are returned to the rental company, and then the customer can choose another dress, a different pair of other trousers, or something else.
To make the solution profitable and to keep the stock as low as possible, the returned items must be registered, quality assured, sorted, washed and pressed, so everything is ready for the next customer who has ordered it.
This is where Fornet Laundry Services comes into the picture, and in order to secure a fully integrated process the Fornet laundry is located in a building between two warehouses of the rental company.
Simple workstations provide high quality
Among the early investments was an Inwatec RFID sorting system that ensures that the clothes are sorted correctly before washing.
“It is 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 them mapped with different sorting logic, so we separate items for dry cleaning and get the right colors and textile types in the right washing machines,” explains Lei Pai, Manager at Fornet.
In the unpacking area, the operator unpacks the returned parcel, checks for defects and wear, scans the barcode to update the system, and then attaches the RFID chip with a rubber band. The chip and barcode are then paired in the system database and that way all relevant data on the individual piece of clothing is preserved and processed correctly.
Fornet is using HF-RFID chips, as it is the most suitable in terms of workstations spacing to avoid reading the wrong chip as it could happen with UHF.
“The customer has focused on keeping the workstations as ergonomic as possible, and also the HF-RFID solution made it economically viable to put scanners up at all tables in the unpacking department. That way everything is checked, scanned and marked correctly when the units are put on the conveyor belt that leads to the sorting for further processing, and we can maintain high production capacity without sacrificing quality,” Lei Pai states further.
Manual handling with an automatic twist
The initial quality control is carried out by employees, who will, among other things, handle damaged garments. There are no plans to do alternate that part of the setup, but when it comes to the rest of the process, Fornet will automate as much as possible.
“Sorting is very labour intensive, so it’s a big win that we can handle it automatically. We have 13 bins with static sorting to ensure that the same type of garments ends in the same place. If we move the positions we risk more human errors,” says Lei Pai, who in early September had a trouble-free grand opening of the laundry with a lot of interested guests.
“We have launched production with an existing inventory, where all garments were not mapped optimally in relation to how it should be washed. However, we are well prepared to adjust that on the run and with all the new garments that come in, we know how to get all parameters correctly set up, and our logic in the sorting can also be optimised accordingly,” Lei Pai tells.
Good service and openness
Fornet Laundry Services operates several laundries around China, and since the company previously purchased a larger Inwatec system with x-ray and RFID sorting to a department in Shanghai, there was no hesitation in sending a new order to Denmark when the project in Nantong was to be implemented:
“We were in Denmark to see a system in a hospital, and we realised that it was a great idea for the laundry in Shanghai. The solution has worked as we wanted, and we also had an excellent dialogue about this project too,” says Lei Pai, stressing that the distance from Nantong to Inwatec in Odense is irrelevant.
“When we need support for the technology or software, it’s always on time, and we were completely confident in choosing Inwatec again. There was no doubt,” says Lei Pai.
A new plant with an increased focus on effective automation solutions and staff safety was put to the test to the utmost when a fire put a sister company out of service. From one day to another, the number of uniforms for washing increased by 60%.
In 2017, Koncernservice Vask in Nykøbing F., Denmark, a laundry servicing three regional hospitals in Sjælland, decided to focus on automated handling of garments where it is possible. The solution was implemented following a public tender, including a combination of Inwatecs Robot Separator, X-ray scanner, and an UHF-RWS sorting system.
The installation was finally implemented in spring 2018, and according to Thomas Petersen, Production Manager, no one has regretted the choices that released labor for other tasks in the laundry, while at the same time doing the work with the soiled site laundry more efficiently and less risky for the employees.
“The working environment has become more comfortable because we have a simpler workstation where the dirty clothes enter the system. One person can actually manage all the handling, but sometimes we have two on the job because some of the jerseys have to be reversed, “says Thomas Petersen.
Involuntary test of capacity
The plant is designed for a capacity of around 1400 uniforms per hour, and with 10 hours of daily operation, it met the requirements for production. However, the requirements were soon to change significantly.
Shortly after the installation, the plant at Nykøbing F. Hospital came for an involuntary test when a hospital laundry in Holbæk burned down and went out of service. This meant that the laundry from Holbæk laundry had to be handled and washed in Nykøbing F.
Instead of the usual three hospitals, the list of clients grew to 6 hospitals, and from one day to another 60%, more uniforms had to be handled. The challenge was solved by extending the opening hours of the plant.
“Usually we work from 6:00 to 16:00, but after the fire, we’re working from 6 am to 11 pm, and with that setup, the production of uniforms for all six hospitals can be handled thanks to the Inwatec solution,” says Thomas Petersen.
Automation and X-ray provide speed and security
In addition to proving that the system could also handle unforeseen problems, Thomas Petersen is above all pleased that the original designs are resolved as expected. Not at least, his employees no longer have to have their hands in all the pockets.
“The X-ray solution finds almost everything, and we do not have to fear any cut injuries, so we have hardly any challenges in that area. Previously, we had four people who checked and emptied the pockets on the dirty laundry, but now we can do with one and a half, where one also helps to turn the shirts. That station is right next to it, so it’s easy to switch between tasks, “says Thomas Petersen.
“The robot separates about 1,400 units per hour, after which they are passed through the chip reader and X-ray before they are automatically sorted into eight categories. One bin is reserved for uniforms with items in the pockets. They are rejected in the first bin, after which they can be reviewed further before they are returned to the system with empty pockets,” says the production manager who display a whole bucket of pens, scissors, name tags and a lot of other unwanted items as proof of the daily catch.
In addition to sorting the laundry so that it is ready for washing, the handling also ensures a higher quality in production, as the number of errors is the sorting is kept to a minimum.
“We have allocated a bin to the readings where the chip is not recognised or where two chips from different washing categories have been registered together, so we do not mix the laundry. Therefore, in our plant, we have six divisions for uniforms. We sort all white pants together, all dark clothes collectively and so on, but it is not something we are bound to if we need to change our production,” says Thomas Petersen.
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.