Nails, screws, and tools have caused considerable damage to the washing machines in the German laundry Textilservice Liebhardt GmbH & Co. KG, Biberach in the past years. The investment in an Inwatec X-ray system dramatically changed that, and recently, Liebhardt’s machine was upgraded with new AI software to further reduce the error rate.
Interested in the X-Ray Machine Liebhardt uses? Find details here.
The Norwegian company Leko Matter, based in Oslo, decided to automate its mat laundry as much as possible in 2015. The result is a production where one employee alone handles 3.6 tons of mats each day. The mats are washed, rolled and sorted for about 3,000 customers.
“In the past, our drivers helped for more or less one hour to roll the mats. Luckily there’s no need for this anymore. The truck drivers deliver the dirty mats directly on a conveyor belt. Hence everything proceeds automatically from the washing and drying until the rolling of mats on our Inwatec Hurricane machine,” says Bjørn Leine, son of Leko Matters founder Bergtor Leine, and thus the second generation in the family business, founded in 1989.
Bjørn Leine has not doubt that the automation has been a success for Leko Matter, and for the same reason, the company is now thinking about further expansion of the system. “Our system can sort by six criteria, but we are in dialogue with Inwatec to invest in an additional sorting module so we can sort the mats into nine carts at a time,” says Bjørn Leine about the solution he and his colleagues have done in collaboration with Inwatec.
“The alternative had been to employ more people to keep up with the growth. Instead, we are saving a full-time job now, and I assess that the investment has paid back within two years,” Bjørn Leine continues.
“The projects we have with Leko Matter over the years gave us a lot of beneficial knowledge of the mat handling business and our company’s relationship has been a success from the very beginning”, Claes Stanley, Chief Technology Officer at Inwatec explains. “Leko Matter came to us with some specific requests”, says Claes Stanley. “Together we developed a modular sorting system that fits into their setup, and at the same time allows their business to grow even bigger.”
Emphasis on efficiency
“Leko Matter had a keen eye for the efficiency from the very beginning, and we are happy, that we have been able to meet their requests with our machines. Their setup is almost entirely automated. Only one person is needed to place the mats at the Hurricane Matroller. This process also allows to include a quality control of the washed mats,” Claes Stanley adds.
Where the original setup at Leko Matter allowed the Norwegian company to sort in six criteria, there is no upper limit on the number of how many sorting modules can be added. In the same way, it is possible to add RFID-scanner and a mat binding system to the mat rolling machine. “Today we have customers with similar setups all over Europe, in the United States and Canada. For Inwatec the partnership with Leko Matter proved that the value of understanding the customer is essential to ensure mutual success,” Claes Stanley states.
In Shanghai, China, the laundry company Fornet in 2015 established one of Asia’s most modern laundries where more than 10,000 pieces of garments are handled each day for both laundry and cleaning.
Such a significant volume needed extra attention from the beginning, and for that reason general manager Zhu Lijun was aware, that automation could play a part of the solution.
“We had identified the problem of emptying the pockets of 10,000 pieces of garments a day, and we realised that it was a hurdle that we needed to solve. I had read about Inwatec’s x-ray machine on the internet, and after a short dialogue, I went to Denmark to see the x-ray scanner in action on a Denmark laundry facility,” Zhu Lijun tells about the process.
Automation gives stability and efficiency
The setup in Shanghai that includes both x-ray scan of the garment and RFID-based sorting has now been running for more than a year, and Ms Zhu Lijun is certain, that she and her colleagues made the right choices from the beginning.
“Everything works excellent. It is a new laundry, and we have no historical data to compare with, but we’re sure that the automation is more efficient than a manual solution,” Ms Zhu Lijun reveals.
“Apart from helping us emptying the pockets, the setup also sorts the garments into nine different categories to pick the right washing or cleaning processes. In that part of the equation, there is no doubt that the machine makes fewer errors than a human would do, and the speed is also higher and with fewer stops than a person could handle.”
Long distance service via the Internet
Ms Zhu Lijun had no worries choosing a Danish setup for the laundry in Shanghai, and time has proved, that she did not have to worry about having a service department 8,300 kilometres away.
“We have had very few issues so far, and when the line stops for some reason, we have solved it online without problems. It hasn’t been that complicated,” Ms Zhu Lijun tells.
The German company MEWA Hameln has existed more than 50 years, but the business idea is all up to date. MEWA delivers work wear, mats, cleaning cloths and towel rolls in a full-service solution to more than 11,800 companies.
Recently a group of five persons from the MEWA headquarters in Wiesbaden together technical staff from the production unit in Hameln visited Inwatec in search for a machine that can improve the mat production.
“10 years ago we had a mat unloader that could help us get the dirty mats separated for cleaning, but unfortunately it wasn’t fulfilling our expectations. It’s our hope that the Inwatec-version will do so,” Julia Gerner, Group leader at MEWA Textil-Management, explains of the visit.
All in all, no less than 76.000 floor mats pass through the production lines at MEWA Hameln every month, and now MEWA tries to minimize the burden of the initial handling.
“It is heavy and filthy work, and we would very much like to have it automated in a way that both betters the ergonomics for the employees as well as the efficiency of the production and the quality of the final product,” Project Engineer Julia Kamenezkaja ads.
“We see ourselves as an innovative business, and we always have eyes open for implementation of new technologies that can improve the processes in our production line. If it were possible – and make sense economically – we would consider making the entire mat line fully automated,” says Julia Kamenezkaja.
Facts about MEWA Hameln:
Founded in 1951
300 employees work at the Hameln site that manages a total of 11,800 companies and generates sales of 54.6 million.
117,200 workers wear professional clothing delivered from MEWA Hameln.
Each month, 4 million cleaning towels, 76,000 floor mats and 6,300 towel rolls are processed and distributed there. Read more about MEWA here (external website)
Watch a short introduction about our mat unloader in this video. Get more details about the automatic mat unloader here.
Garments ruined because of forgotten pens and markers have been a big issue in the laundry industry for decades. More recently the demand of empty pockets has come from the food industry where the tiniest pieces can become significant problems.
“The recent years we have had more and more potential customers asking us specifically if we can offer them X-ray scanning of the laundry. It’s dominantly from the food industry, where even a small paper clip can be a huge expense if it drops from a rolled-up sleeve or a pocket into the production area,” tells Carl Heeley, General Manager at Johnsons Apparelmasters Hinckley office.
”These companies will do anything to minimise that risk, and when they ask for the possibility of scanning the garments for foreign elements. Of course, we would like to offer that shortly,” Carl Heeley added when visiting Inwatec in Odense to watch how an X-ray system could help solving the issues.
Fewer expenses to ruined garments
Apart from getting rid of unwanted elements in the washed clothes, Apparelmasters also wish to minimise the costs that occur because of garment destroyed when pens or markers are forgotten in pockets and not found until after washing the clothing.
“We have huge issues and expenses because of ruined garment. Every week we must replace 200 pieces of clothing. While the garments themselves obviously has a price, we also have expenses and a lot of frustration in the administration when we must search for replacements,” Carl Heeley admits before underlining that direct costs have less focus than giving the costumers the optimal product:
“Even though we expect huge savings if we introduce X-ray systems in our laundry, the main focus is actually on delivering better service to our customers, and this could be a game changer in a rather traditional business. If we can reduce the number of ruined garments, we will also be able to deliver the cleaned clothes as promised, and that would be a unique selling point for Johnsons Apparelmasters. We are not the only laundry that faces problems with ruined garments,” Carl Heeley says.
In the Danish laundry and textile services group, Berendsen, Clean Room business with washing, rental and maintenance of clean room clothing and accessories among other things, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and food industry across Europe has grown steadily in recent years.
Berendsen employs 800 people in clean room business in 11 laundries throughout Europe, and the volume means that the Director of Operations, Clean Room, Berendsen, Camilla Kondrup look closely at the next steps.
“Our primary motivations to invest in new equipment is that we are always working to enhance safety and quality in all our processes in Clean Room laundries, both in the handling of dirty clothes and equipment, washing and cleaning and packing and distribution,” says Camilla Kondrup.
Automatization for safety at working place
“We have business from the pharmaceutical industry, where they work with what we call the“hazardous liquids”. Although our employees obviously wear special equipment when they sort and handle the clothes, there is a particular risk profile by working with these subjects. Among others, our clients count pharmaceutical companies working with development of various types of virus,” remarks Camilla Kondrup, who for that reason is considering whether X-ray technology and automated sorting can reduce the risk factor in clothes management.
“Our employees handles a lot of garments from the pharmaceutical industry, so we have full focus on maintaining maximum security. In time, we could consider robots to do the first handling of the laundry on arrival and to separate the garments, and we could perhaps also take full advantage automating other processes– or the entire laundry operation. In the best world, we had no contact with certain types of clothing and equipment,” Camilla Kondrup continues.
In addition to the safety aspects of the work, Berendsen, like any other laundry, are working on how to further improve the quality of washing and handling of clothing and items in the future.
“When people are involved, there is always greater a possibility of errors than if sorting is fully automated and based on RFID-chips. If I must list the priorities of our investments, it is first and foremost about risk management. Next, it is about proper sorting. And finally, we are obviously keen on streamlining our processes with automation,” Camilla Kondrup concludes.
The type of X-ray machines found in airports worldwide operates brilliantly at spotting unwanted objects hidden in pockets and bags. But without associated software to interpret the scans, the performance is wholly dependent on the human watching the screen.
That is confirmed by the Swedish company TvNo Textil Service, who have invested in an X-ray machine of the airport type to find pens and other objects such as needles and knives in the laundry, to avoid the classic ink damage to clothing and needlestick injuries among employees.
“Since we bought our X-ray machine, we have reduced the number of ink injuries by 50 percent, but it is evident that we would like to decrease it even more. We also note constant challenges with all plastic pens as they are not visible on the screen,” said production engineer Anders Ohlsson, when he, along with two colleagues from the laundry were visiting Hvidkærvej in Odense.
Display requires constant attention
TvNo Textil Service has no fewer than 12 men employed in the sorting line, and during each working day, 24,000 pieces of garment pass through the X-ray machine. And while Anders Ohlsson has no doubts about the efficiency of the human resources at TvNo, he acknowledges that operating the X-ray machine is an arduous effort:
“We constantly have a person seated in front of the display. There is nothing that gets rejected automatically, and it is of course quite demanding in the long run,” Anders Ohlsson says, while watching a new test of typical problems like pens, credit cards and markers from the TvNo laundry run through Inwatec’s X-ray machine to see if the object is detected and rejected by the computer algorithms.
“It is not only pens that give damage to clothing. Lip balms are also a challenge in the winter season. We cannot spot them with our existing X-ray system, and that leaves grease stains on clothes when a lip balm passes the washing machines and tumble dryers. We have the means to remove the stains, but we do not always discover the issues before the clothes are returned to the customer, and then it’s too late,” Anders Ohlsson explains.
Costly mistakes can be minimized
Buying new machinery also requires investments in engineering, logistics and training, but the board of the TvNo laundry are acutely aware that the return on investment could happen reasonable fast, and that recognition has brought the three-man delegation to Odense.
“We figured out that we still spend approximately 25,000 euros a year just to purchase the replacement for clothes that are destroyed by blots. On top of that expense we have the administrative cost associated with it,” says Anders Ohlsson.
Find more information about our X-ray machine, specialised for laundry, here.
In the Dutch laundry company Rentex Awé, there is no room for stagnation. Even when everything in the production line functions as it ought to, the family behind the business focusses on evolution and enhancement to keep the competitors behind.
“We work continuously on improving every part of the business, and that means we have to focus on three different tracks. First of all, we must work on how to raise the quality of our product. Secondly, we can better the productivity, and third, we need to improve the work environment,” explains Stef de Win when in Odense with his father, Erik de Win, to visit Inwatec and learn about the possibilities of further automatization of Rentex Awe.
“Since we seriously begun to work with automatization years ago, we redesigned the entire business line several times, and today the logistics looks completely different because of the progress in that field,” he describes.
Workforce happy with technology changes
Rentex Awe employs in the washing of work wear, linen and towels in the hospital sector, and each week 550 tonnes of garment and linen passes through the Dutch laundry in the small city of Elsloo, Limburg, where the company has its headquarters.
Until recently the soiled site sorting of 125.000 pieces of garment was done manually, but after investing in an x-ray machine from Inwatec, efficiency has had a boost and therefore the Rentex-directors now focusses on how to minimize the trivial and tough processes further.
“Robots do not need the micro breaks humans do. And even a few seconds of lacking attention a minute adds up to a lot of pieces of garment a day,” says Stef de Win, who enjoys the full support from his employees when it comes to changes in design and logistics:
“Many of these tasks aren’t very attractive to perform, why one of the positive side effects of the innovation and progress is that our employees like working with modern technology, and that way the changes also betters the work environment.”
Ink damage- and needle cuts – problems of the past
Since investing in the x-ray machine, some of the procedures formerly done became obsolete at Rentex Awe.
“Like a lot of other laundries, we had significant problems with batches of garments being destroyed by ink from overseen pens, but with the x-ray solution, we find 99.9 percent of the pens. That means that some of the procedures regarding handling, replacement and administration of destroyed garment isn’t needed on the same scale as before,” Stef de Win explains and proceeds to tell, that the same apply to damages caused by needles or scissors.
“When handling hospital garments we have had employees cutting themselves on needles. Primarily in the in-sorting but also when putting the washed clothes on hangers because the needles passed through the entire process. Since installing the x-ray, we haven’t had a single incident. Of course, this also improves the efficiency dramatically, when problems are handled automatically,” notes Stef de Win.
Progress requires innovation
At the recent visit to Odense, the Rentex-owners focussed on how all handling of laundry could be done entirely automatically, but both eyes and ears were open to new input, and Stef de Win has no doubt that it is necessary if the future of the company should remain bright.
“We think of innovation every day. It is an essential part of our business, and we are aware that all processes should be modified every few years to ensure the best production, the best working environment and the highest quality of our services,” he says.
The Scandinavian design is worldwide in great demand, unexceptional when it comes to working clothes. This year at the international Texcare fair the company Kentaur represented its products in Frankfurt am Main. They are specialised in producing professional and working clothes.
However, the interests are not in just fulfilling the own expectation, moreover, the company is looking for specific products to realize both, the own expectations and the expectations of their customers.
“The leasing-solution is going crazy. Especially in Germany, where the number of industrial laundries is increasing and therefore the demand for working clothes as well. Instead of buying the working clothes, companies start to rent the working clothes and send them back for the cleaning and washing procedures. In the beginning the purchase rate was about 75 % and the leasing rate has been just about 25 %. These rates changed to 50 % purchasing rate and 50% leasing rate, and this trend is increasing”, said Bernt Dahl, the managing director.
The Japanese designer Masaaki Minamishima was hired at Kentaur for more new creativity and innovation. According to Bernt Dahl, this will push the trend further, especially through Europe it will grow. The working clothes are going to be equipped with all the important details to ensure an optimal working condition for employees and nonetheless the working clothes are stylish as well.
Design and functionality play an important role
“We contend that there are high interests for smart functionality, therefore it is very important to us, that all products are made of textiles which can be easily washed and cared. So even if we decide to use some leather materials, it happens under the conditions that it can be washed and cared in the same way as it will be for other textile materials. Our competences are especially strong in design and usage of textiles to maintain a good quality and an optimal and easy handling of clothes in laundries. This demand has increased since the last years”, told Bernt Dahl.
“The cooks are far ahead in this trend and the waiters are following. This trend development is going through whole Europe. According to our order books we can claim, that the Scandinavian design from Ireland is very sought in Italy and Israel. Our customers support this statement that this development is obviously visible and we do appreciate that”, told Bernt Dahl, who realized that the customers are not just existing in the food/restaurant area.
“We recognize as well, that the clothes and the cleaning are different in the south of Europe. Customers are looking for more joyful colours. Nevertheless, the functionality must be ensured. The old models are running out for the benefit of smart working clothes. The Scandinavian Design is catching up very fast, because the focus is on the functionality and the priority which relies on handling easily the working clothes”, stated Bernt Dahl.
Efficient X-Ray sorting machine leads to 50 percent staff reduction in hospital laundries; DFD Aalborg has experienced. For five years, none of the employees at the soiled side sorting has received a stab injury. Dirty laundry, sorted by the innovative X-Ray technology and RFID-Chips is not a future scenario – it already exists.
At “De Forenede Dampvaskerier” (DFD) in Aalborg, Denmark, there are no doubts for the division manager Morten Christensen, that the X-Ray technology is a must if a company still wants to play a significant role in the Danish laundry industry.
The manual sorting system at the laundry in Aalborg was replaced by a sorting system from Inwatec, which allows, with its X-Ray technology and advanced computer algorithms, to select and reject garments, when carrying foreign items before beeing sent to the washing machines.
“Following the costs, the X-Ray machine is a splendid investment. We have cut off our labour expenses in this business part. Since it was a development project, it needed some time until everything was installed and put in the right order. But it has resulted in savings of three headcounts each year. In other words, we halved our cost by using X-ray sorting of the garments”, said Morten Christensen.
X-ray technology secures the workplace
On top of the savings, no stab wounds have happened since the X-Ray machine arrived. In addition to the efficiency savings, Morten Christensen recognised as well, that the work environment at the particular department approved significantly. Securing the workplace were also a primary purpose of developing the machine.
“It is a success story, which builds on two pillars. On the one side, the injury caused by needles when sorting out pockets is painful and is provoking a direct stress for the employee. On top of that, it takes at least one year until the employee knows if any diseases are caught with the cut. In turn, this leaves the person constantly uncertain about possible consequences, and that results in psychical stress for the staff member,“ tells Morten Christensen, who have experienced 4-5 stab injuries at DFD Aalborg – fortunately, all these incidents happened in the past.
“We are rummaging in garments when they are rejected, but at least we know now on which piece we need to give more awareness. Since we started to use the X-Ray machine, no similar accidents and injuries have happened”, he declared.
Smoothly working prototype since five years
DFD in Aalborg was the first company which invested in an X-Ray sorting system from Inwatec and Morten Christensen does not hide his enthusiasm for having a prototype in his laundry. He mentions that it has given him a market advantage.
“The competitiveness of our business is a condition for further innovation and development. We are not allowed to stay and keep existing systems, if they probably may restrict us. Therefore, it is clearly a necessity for us to work together with Inwatec to develop this business,” told division manager in Aalborg, who also owns one of the first Mat-Rolling Machines from Inwatec.
The Mat-Rolling Machine was purchased in 2010 and a year later the X-Ray Machine was acquired as well. In accordance to Morten Christensen, the willingness for new investments and developments is existing, but the present Inwatec machines are well maintained, and updated with the newest software. In result, there are no other more efficient and productive machines on the market at this time which means there is no need for acquiring replacements.
“Our machines are a few years old, but they are still working perfectly. We need neither an X-Ray Machine nor a Mat-Rolling Machine right now, but we have some other machines on which we have to think about the replacement.”