Setting higher standards

13 March 2020

Developments in tunnel technology have opened up new opportunities for tunnel washer manufacturers. Tony Vince reports on developments ahead of Texcare International in Frankfurt.

Since their introduction in the late 1960s, tunnel washers have become progressively more reliable. Today, the design of tunnel washers – also known as continuous batch washers – is being advanced both by equipment manufacturers and by resource systems specialists, adapting products to make more efficient use of resources.

One thing is clear: flexibility, efficiency and sustainability are key to success in the tunnel washer sector. It is certain that they will feature at Texcare International in Frankfurt this year.

In Europe, laundry operators and manufacturers are embracing the Smart Laundry concept – also known as Sustainable Measures For Industrial Laundry Expansion Strategies (SMILES) – to investigate the development and implementation of sustainable technologies for water and energy savings and CO2 reduction of industrial laundries. The laundries are employing steamless or less steam technology by the use of directfired hot water heater to heat the water to the required temperature facilitated with increased efficiency.

Girbau Industrial provides industrial laundry products including tunnel or batch washing systems, as well as largecapacity washer-extractors, tumble dryers, high-volume flatwork ironers, feeders, folders, stackers and conveyor systems. Dani Arcarons, product owner tunnel washer Girbau and colleague Gil Casanovas, industrial solutions manager, both agree that tunnel washer technology is in a very advanced stage. One way to reduce energy costs and gain efficiency in industrial laundries is through steamless systems, says Arcarons. “The energy used by flatwork ironers, dryers or other hot spots in laundries can be reused to heat the water. In this way, steamless systems can achieve a significantly reduce of production costs and the environmental impact.”

New developments focus on the creation of accessories to adapt the tunnels to the new washing processes, says the Girbau team. Market opportunities, in this sense, are marked by the needs of customers.

“Therefore, Girbau is sharpening its efforts to obtain optimal washing results even with low temperature washing processes.”

This development of new technologies allows tunnels to be more complete and with advanced functionalities, particularly in software and touchscreen capability. In the case of tunnel washers, operators want versatile machines that can adapt to different types of process and can be programmed easily, quickly and intuitively. In this context, touch screens and the usability features that manufacturers have developed allow this easy, quick and intuitive programming of advanced features “At Girbau we are committed to offering solutions with a high degree of customization, accessibility and, most importantly, usability. Accordingly, we facilitate the programming and management to the user doing the technology more intuitive and user friendly.”

For Girbau, water and energy conservation are at the top of many of its customers’ wish lists. “The industrial laundry sector is aiming its efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its professional activity and develop more sustainable machinery, technology and systems,” says Arcarons. In some areas, energy and water are becoming more and more expensive and sometimes.

“Girbau is working hard on the development of new products, industrial solutions and new services to improve efficiency in laundries. For that, it is necessary to provide more efficient equipment and recovery processes, like steamless systems, to reduce the energy cost and be more eco-friendly.”

Girbau is committed to ‘adding value’ through its customer service and continues to accompany clients in their laundry businesses. “From being the product suppliers to service providers is a priority for the company. In order to face new low-cost competitors, we are increasingly changing from engineering to relationships, dealing each customer as unique,” says Arcarons.

Girbau’s customer service teams, leaded by customer owners, are focused on providing quick support to the clients. “With remote access and equipment monitoring we can predict and solve most of the problems that could appear.

After a new tunnel installation, our special and customized ramp-up assistance service makes our customers get used to the new functionalities. In this way, Girbau provides a comprehensive service, from designing and planning the project to providing machinery and high-tech solutions.

Girbau is pioneering the future of Middle East laundry with its involvement in the creation of the Golden Sands state-of-theart automated hospitality laundry in Dubai with a maximum throughput capacity of 150 tonnes a day.

Golden Sands processes linen for Dubai’s most prestigious hotels: 310,000 items washed daily, a 30% increase in the life of linen (thanks to better treatment of linen with Girbau machinery), 200 deliveries and collections a day and a maximum throughput capacity of up to 150 tonnes a day.

Through Newmatic and its Middle East subsidiary, Girbau has turned a business set up in 1996 into a fully-renovated new laundry with five full production lines.

At Golden Sands, practically all the processes are automated from when the linen comes in to when it is collected. There are only three points where manual tasks performed by operators intervene.

Lorries unload clients’ linen onto circular conveyor belts. A team of operators selects the items and places them at the 40 selection points provided.

The preselected loads are lifted up to a bag rail system with capacity for 200 50 kg bags each. From the bag rail system, the load is carried automatically to one of the five TBS-50 Hygien batch washers. This is another of the features of the laundry that reveals Girbau’s long-term focus on its clients’ businesses. While Golden Sands currently only washes hotel linen, it is equipped with Hygien tunnels that will allow it to handle hospital linen on any of its lines if it decides to do this in the future. After washing, the linen goes through one of the five SPR50 presses to extract the water.

Laundry automation

Gerda Jank of the Jensen Group agrees that the trend has been towards efficiencies and ease of use. “We still see a high demand in laundry automation and laundries investing into tunnel washer technology to raise their productivity,” she says. “We also realise that our customers focus more on hygiene, both processing the linen as well as keeping the machines in a hygienically perfect condition.That is why we have developed our UVClean-system which also keeps those areas of double drums clean that are not permanently flushed by water. With UVClean bacterial growth is prevented without any supply of chemicals.”

Jensen also reports a high interest in collecting and logging production- and process-data – for example, processrelated data of batches treated in a tunnel washer to monitor the wash process and to prove that specific requirements were fulfilled.

“With our new UniQ-series of tunnel washer we offer an extended portfolio with regard to batch sizes and can offer very customised solutions,” says Jank. “With our second brand “Alpha by JENSEN” we offer very price competitive solutions. The Alpha-tunnel TW5 is designed for simple applications and positioned as a level entry product to develop new market segments. In these markets we are not competitive with the high-tech Jensen portfolio.”

Software-automation is playing a very important role for Jensen’s customers, not only for tunnel washer technology. “The operation of a tunnel washer should be a simple as possible and our machine software assists with clear HMI-visuals, simple machine setups and clear warning messages,” says Jank. For more extensive management information, Jensen offers its GLOBE-system, a very comprehensive BIand ERP-tool for the laundry industry.

Top-notch service support from the supplier is certainly another success factor both for the laundry operator but also for the supplier. “Availability, reactivity and reliability are key. With our Jenassist, we provide an online access to our machines in case of problems and a Jensen expert can trouble shoot the equipment by a safe remote connection. This reduces downtime of machines and increases the productivity of the plant. Also automated preventive machine checks can be executed at regular intervals.”

Greif Textile Mietsysteme is a regional market leader in rental laundry for the hotel and hospitality sector, as well as being a full-service provider in textiles rental systems, offering workwear, dirt collection mats, laundry room products, and bed linen.

Greif West in Langenfeld, situated between Düsseldorf and Cologne, has been the company’s base in North Rhine- Westphalia since 2009. With 90 employees, it handles 22 tons of laundry a day. With this volume, the laundry’s Jensen Senking Universal SL batch tunnel washer and the Jensen SEP 50 SL medium-pressure water extraction press play a big part in helping Robert Zirny, operations manager in Langenfeld, to supply customers with firstclass laundry.

Even before the decision was made to purchase new equipment, one Jensen press was in constant operation and, after decades of reliable service, had finally allowed to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

The complete reuse of the rinsing and pressing water is part of an SL machine’s basic design. To do this, the batch tunnel washer and water extraction press are connected to form a single unit and the extracted water is fed back via a pipeline directly into the rinsing zone. By doing away with a recovery tank, heat losses are also reduced and valuable energy is saved. “Sustainability is not a tiresome eco issue, but rather an ingredient for a successful concept,” says MD Markus Greif.

The patented washing process of the Jensen batch tunnel washing system in the SL version, with 100% recovery without tanks, is especially designed for laundry types with high hygiene requirements.

The Jensen Senking Universal SL delivers first-class hygiene and has already been used for a number of years at the company’s Augsburg base. By eliminating recovery tanks and using only one or two central pipelines, dirt and bacteria buildup are avoided. All pipelines are also made from stainless steel, effectively preventing corrosion and contamination. The amount of maintenance required is much less since there is no need to carry out the regular and often difficult task of cleaning tanks. This means that laundry processing is made much faster.

Washroom equipment

This year, Lavatec was chosen to install major washroom equipment for the new Metro Detroit Area Hospital Services laundry. Lavatec was selected as the washroom provider for the state-ofthe- art laundry, which was expected to be operational in spring this year. The 12-compartment, 220-pound tunnels, paired with Lavatec’s latest Lavaspeed presses, will feed 16 Lavatec TT745G natural gas dryers.

With its solid reputation for building industry-leading continuous tunnel washers, Lavatec presented its 12-compartment, 220-pound LT100 at last year’s Clean Show in New Orleans.

Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec, agrees that developments in tunnel technology have opened up new opportunities for tunnel washer manufacturers. “With creative waterflow designs, the ability to wash multiple products, and the designs with drain and fill ability, tunnels are more flexible than ever.

Lavatec has developed virtual tunnels that are capable of producing more pounds or heavier soils in a smaller footprint. Not only have tunnels become more diverse, pressing and drying technology can influence a tunnel’s throughput as it has become more efficient to maximize a tunnels capacity.” Lavatec has developed the new LavaSpeed presses that allow for faster pressing and greater time under maximum pressure. This allows for the potential of lower pressures being able to accomplish the same reduction in moisture content, but without the higher stresses from a higher pressure press and keeping costs lower.”

Software capability is key in terms of the speed and data that a tunnel system can collect and use. “Touchscreens being a graphic use interface, the durability of a touchscreen system have may have improved but do not think they have improved the performance of the tunnel. This technology allows for somewhat easier operator input, but it has not changed the tunnel’s efficiency,” says Ware.

Water and energy consumption is key to lowering the operating costs of a tunnel, but when water consumption is dropped too low, this can have negative effects on the tunnel’s ability to provide high quality linens. “We should remember that the tunnel washer provides an environment for mechanical action, temperature and water flow,” says Ware. “The washing process occurs through the chemical vendor. The wash liquor and parameters in which the product is washed is determined by the skill and knowledge of the chemical vendor. While everyone talks of lowering water consumption, it is the discussion with your chemical vendor that determines the washing process.”

Continuous batch washer

Batch washers have been around since the 1960s. Pellerin Milnor Corporation began development of its first continuous batch washer in the mid-1970s and introduced its first tunnel washer at Clean 79 in Chicago.

Milnor introduced its Mildata computer system a decade later, providing a management network for laundry or textile plants. Finally, in 2009 Milnor took tunnel washing a step further with its PulseFlow Technology. With intermittent counterflow and RecircONE pump arrangement, PulseFlow CBW washers deliver superior wash/rinse quality with minimal fresh water consumption – as low as 2.5 L/kg (0.3 gal/lb). Today, Milnor’s CBW models are designed for a variety of washroom applications.

“In essence, with current Milnor tunnel technologies and appropriate extraction devices, a launderer can process just about all types of work in a properly designed tunnel system than what can be processed in washer-extractors,” explains Rick Kelly, vice president of sales marketing at Milnor.

“It comes down to volume to produce and space in the laundry to justify a ROI. The key is that a continuous batch washer can possibly realise an adequate ROI if the system runs “continuously”, as its name implies.”

Batch washer software is under continuous development, an example of which would be recent improvements in the user interface of Milnor’s batch washer controls. “Touchscreen capability is nice for the operator, but a bit cumbersome for the programmer. Either a remote programmer (such as a laptop) with the capability to download formulas accordingly or a plug-in/Bluetooth keyboard for direct programming makes it easier and quicker to arrange initial programming of the tunnel washer,” says Kelly. “Software improvements allow for more precise water, and chemical consumption helps to improve efficiency. Utility consumption improvements is one part of Milnor’s R&D efforts. Data and report generation is another area of continuing development.”

Milnor makes every effort to ensure the highest level of customer service possible. “Our philosophy is to always enhance the value of our customer support by providing easily accessible information for operation maintenance through our local dealer network, public domain website and Milnor technical support staff.”

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FIRST CLASS LAUNDRY: Robert Zirny, operations manager at Langenfeld (centre), and Sascha Wehr, sales manager Jensen (second from the right)
HIGH VOLUME: Greif West laundry in Langenfeld handles 22 tons of laundry a day with its Jensen Senking Universal SL batch tunnel washer and Jensen SEP 50 SL medium-pressure water extraction press
TOP TRANSFER: Milnor’s true top transfer continuous batch washers go from the 5-mod Series 76028 PBW tunnel with a 50kg (110lb) capacity, up to 68kg and 118kg batch sizes
GREATER CONTROL: The Lavatec LT100 continuous tunnel washer has an intuitive touch screen operation that provides control over energy, water and chemical levels for maximum efficiency
HOSPITALITY LAUNDRY: At Golden Sands in Dubai, preselected loads are lifted up to a bag rail system and carried automatically to one of the five Girbau TBS-50 Hygien batch washers

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