Automation is a key purchasing factor

20 April 2017

Manufacturers are confident that the positive mood of 2016 will continue this year and create the conditions for new investments by textile care businesses. Tony Vince reports

Finishing technology continues to develop. Multi-function, automated equipment is now widely available, partly through a decline in traditional craft skills and lack of operator training, and partly because garment design is becoming more complex.

To overcome these difficulties, businesses are turning to more automated finishing where machines do most of the work and staff are mainly responsible for the final touch-up of the garment.

The choice of equipment used is important. Drycleaners need to finish a wide range of garments and materials, though typically the most common items will be trousers, jackets and skirts and many cleaners now offer a shirt service.

Businesses remain cost conscious however. Today’s drycleaning and laundry machines may have many cost-saving devices but there are other factors that the drycleaner must look at. These range from energy efficiency, staffing and environmental concerns to the customers’ ever-rising expectations of the end result. Designer garments are becoming an increasingly important part of many drycleaners’ work. In addition, finishing wetcleaned garments takes longer and requires operators with more skills.

The degree of automation required depends on the individual outlet.

As an example, for small volumes, trousers can be pressed on an ironing table. Busier units will invest in a dedicated press and form finishers.

Drycleaners are slowly switching to automatic finishing machines, with the purpose of increasing their production and reducing their costs, to better face the fierce competition in the market, says Carlo Barbanti, president and managing director of equipment manufacturer Barbanti Carlo in Italy.

The move to automation allows businesses to train staff quickly while allowing them to finish a wide range of garments efficiently.

Customers generally look for first-class finishing in the shortest finishing times he says; pricing may also be a crucial aspect. Since the finishing process is always extremely time-consuming and expensive, he says that high-performance tensioning machines are essential to meet the above-mentioned requirements. The company also emphasises the energy efficiency of its finishing equipment. “We have always considered energy efficient performance a crucial feature for finishing machines,” says Carlo Barbanti. After designing the first energy-saving device for a shirt finisher in 2005, and implementing the idea for several other machines, his company has recently launched a new stand-by controls for its steam-heated tensioning machines, that automatically halts electricity and steam consumption when the machine has not been used for a given time and can restore pressure very quickly when required.

Barbanti Carlo produces a range of universal finishers, form finishers, trouser toppers, multiformers, collar and cuff presses, vacuum/blowing and up-steam ironing tables. One recent development in the Barbanti Carlo range is its model 435 shirt finisher, which has been recently equipped with additional features to allow the finishing of a greater variety of garments, ranging from regular shirts to small slim fit shirts and ladies’ blouses (up to European size 26 slim fit blouses).

The machine will be displayed at the Clean Show by Barbanti’s US distributor Hi-Steam and the company expects it to create a great deal of interest, especially in the American market, where regular shirts are usually pressed on hard-buck shirt machines, while small shirts and all blouses often represent a problem, since they cannot be processed on traditional shirt machines.

Customer requirements in the textile care industry today are for machines that are cheaper to run, provide faster operating times and produce a superior quality finish, according to Stella Fumagalli, marketing manager of the Italian manufacturer Pony.

She says that the laundry industry benefited from a stronger economy in 2016 and the expectations for 2017 are positive.

By contrast, the drycleaning sector continues to contract and the outlook is not going to improve.

“This fact affects the finishing industry, which is adapting to changes in consumer behaviour,” says Fumagalli.

She adds that a significant trend is the development of finishing machines for wetcleaning, with excellent quality and reduced working times.

“Automation is becoming a key purchasing factor for the laundry plant owner,” she continues. Finishing operations that were previously carried out manually by the operators are now performed by machines because of the lack of skilled personnel on the market. The quality provided by those machines becomes a distinctive factor among laundry shops, says Fumagalli. Pony’s latest equipment will allow unskilled operators to obtain excellent results and maintain those high quality standards.

With shirt finishing, for example, Pony has developed a full line of shirt finishers with both pressing and blowing systems, able to process a high number of shirts to an outstanding quality. These results are obtained thanks to small evolutionary devices able to guarantee excellent results in delicate areas, such as the button, the yoke, the sleeves and the cuff areas.It is definitely essential for industry professionals today to use energy efficient equipment, which can give high output still keeping production costs low, says Fumagalli. “Customers require superb quality at affordable prices as the general customer purchasing power has lowered in the recent years and all laundry and drycleaning plants have to adjust prices of their services accordingly.”

An effective example of Pony’s development of innovative solutions aimed at energy reduction can be found with its H.A.R.S. system (Hot Air Recovery System). This was installed originally on Pony’s Eagle tensioning shirt finisher says Fumagalli and, more recently, on Pony’s Twins double buck rotary shirt press. The Twins unit features Pony’s H.A.R.S. system together with Teflon-coated bucks. Used together, Pony says steam consumption is reduced and running costs cut by almost 50% when compared to its market competitors. Able to process 100 shirts an hour, the Twins double-buck press system has three pressing cycles – short, long and special (the latter excluding the rear buck) and features Pony’s full colour touch screen interface. The H.A.R.S. system also features on the latest version of Pony’s single buck shirt press unit, the Angel 2.0, which was unveiled at Texcare International in Frankfurt in June 2016. The system recovers hot air from the shoulder press and re-uses it for the finishing and drying of the most critical points of the shirt, so reducing times and guaranteeing a production of up to 100 shirts per hour with a considerable reduced steam consumption.

Like many Italian companies, Trevil’s focus is now on exports, which account for around 80% of sales. Trevil marketing manager Corinna Mapelli says that since Texcare 2016 in Germany, the market going into 2017 is quite fluid, with growing attention towards smart innovations that significantly reduce labour costs.

“Cleaners have realised that this is where they can realistically increase their margins. Trevil is at the leading edge, dedicating skills and competences to support the growth in volumes, turnover and profit,” she says. It is in these areas, reducing energy and labour costs, that she expects to see more growth. “Customers are increasingly aware and demanding, giving us a good volume of sales that leave us enthusiastic for the future.”

She agrees that while automation is required, it must not become too complicated for the operator. Accurate machine control is not, in general, a major purchasing factor in the finishing sector. Ergonomically-designed machines – controls that improve the comfort of the operator, reducing fatigue – together with greater energy savings and improved access to back-up maintenance are the most frequent requests that Trevil receives from cleaners, she says. “Automation is a must for anyone that want to grow,” she adds. “At Trevil, automation is a major focus of its research and development effort and investments, and that has been the case for the past decade.”

Despite increasing automation, Veit of Germany believes that there is also room for hand-ironing technology. In addition, there is more demand for energy-efficient systems for finishing and Veit has developed a large portfolio of high-performance technology, including its innovative 8326 Shirt Finisher as well as Brisay pressing machines that integrate smoothly into the tried-and-tested Brisay SC/VC trouser finishing series.

Founded in 1956 by Reinhardt Veit, the Landsberg-based company is a global player in industrial garment finishing.

“Innovation, precision and quality is what we stand for,” said group CEO Günter Veit. “Our customers‘ needs are always at the focus of our attention. For their benefit, we design module-based units, customised production lines and innovative services.”

Veit of Germany introduced a new concept in 2015, a technology that the company describes as unique in the industry – the usage-dependent “Pay Per Piece“ system for the Veit 8326 Shirt Finisher. The system is easy: Instead of buying the machine, customers pay for using it on a per piece basis.

Daily counter readings are automatically transferred to Veit by means of an online service platform and users are then billed monthly. Customers therefore pay only for how much they actually use the machine.

Finishing the highest possible number of shirts per hour was the focus when developing the Veit 8326 shirt finisher.

Several design details were improved while a new and easy-to-operate touch screen control with three storable programs provides greater control the machine.

The Veit Belt Drive allows precise tensioning without altering the garment shape and is part of the company’s “Smart Engineering” system.

The Veit 8326 finisher also features e-Motion moisture control that measures the dryness of the shirt and automatically switches off the fan as soon as the shirt is dry.

Veit’s 8319E shirt finisher is suitable for small to medium-sized laundries and textile care plants.

Shirts, blouses, smocks or chefs‘ coats can be finished quickly without creases by the high-performance hot-air fan. Garments such as jackets and coats can also be finished on the machine.

The two latest models in Veit’s 8363 Multiform series were especially developed for use on wetcleaned garments.

They can be used for coats and other outer garments with lengths of between 620 – 1,420mm (or 820 –1,620mm with the adapter).


Shirt finisher

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