Germany is one of the most influential markets in Europe. Over the last decade, it has been seen as the driver of economic growth, with the largest economy in the European Union (EU) and the fourth largest in the world. In addition it has both the EU’s largest GDP and highest population.
According to recent data provided by Germany’s Federal Statistics Office, the country’s economy increased by 0.8% in the first three months of 2014 but second quarter growth fell to just 0.2%. This decline was mainly caused by a mild winter that shifted production to earlier months, although aggregation of Russia’s territorial dispute with Ukraine and military action in Gaza and Iraq also contributed to the situation.
However, the slow-down is largely regarded as a "hiccup". Germany maintains a high employment rate, high wages and modest borrowing costs. The Bundesbank’s 2014 biannual projections, forecast that the economy would grow at 1.9% this year, 2% in 2015, and 1.8% in 2016.
Recent data on factory and service activity in the country also suggest continued improvement.
The textile service industry is a dominant contributor to the German economy. Its current annual turnover is around €11billion and it employs around 135,000 people across the EU, As a result Germany is still seen as a good market for export by manufacturers from other European countries.
Marco Niccolini, general sales and marketing manager at the Italian laundry and drycleaning machine manufacturer Renzacci says that even though Germany was affected to some extent by the European crisis, the textile service sector did not suffer.
Internally too the view is positive. Jurgen Schaefer, director of product management for laundry, at Miele Professional, headquarters in Germany says that a good employment rate means the economy is doing well. In the HoReCa, (hotel, restaurant, catering) market, the willingness to invest in facilities and equipment is still there.
Laundry is a mature industry. Lars Blechschmidt managing director sales and marketing at Kannegiesser, says that the most positive developments have been in workwear, particularly in the protective clothing area, where large laundry companies are a characteristic feature.
He adds that Germany also benefits from a high share of the industry ratio. Metal and electronics is the largest industry with 3.7million direct employees but the ratio of companies using professional workwear services is increasing across many economic branches.
The healthcare market is still the most difficult. Although volumes are large, customers are increasingly demanding while laundries serving this sector are seeing prices fall dramatically.
Christoph Hennefield sales director at Electrolux Professional Laundry Solutions also points out that customers are becoming more demanding of the equipment they use, wanting faster, more efficient results and resource consumptions that save time and money.
"With energy prices being among the highest in Europe, energy efficiency is a key factor in laundries. Heat and water recovery systems are very popular in laundry installations of all sizes. Automation on large ironing machines has been standard for some time."
According to Harald Thiele, general manager of sales and service at Jensen, Germany: "A certified classification on energy efficiency and media consumption has been in place for many years for household appliances and now efforts are being made to apply this type of classification to industrial equipment."
On both a European and international basis manufacturers have been responding to demands for greater efficiency and lower consumption of resources. A full choice is now available to the textile care markets and development in this area is ongoing.
Smart solutions such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), which allows traceability, are becoming increasingly important in the laundry/textile rental sector. These systems can collect very detailed information about each piece and assist in improved logistics and productivity.
Rising energy prices are a strong influence in the German laundry market. "Energy saving is the most important topic," says Miele’s Schäfer. As drying is the most energy-intensive process in a laundry, the company is focussing on introducing technologies that produce savings in this area. Examples include the heat-pump dryer and the recently introduced H2O dryer. Schäfer adds that the concept of using energy from new sources, such as asco-generation plants, is becoming more attractive.
Thiele at Jensen also highlights the need for energy saving equipment. The company, which focusses on large, heavy-duty laundries, says that water and energy costs amount to 15% of the total costs of a typical laundry service, and these costs are rising.
Jensen is about to launch its WR dryers and is convinced that it has the right products to meet the requirement for savings. The dryers can cut energy bills by up to 15% and achieve up to 10% higher evaporation.
When compared with the industrial average, the textile industry ranks as one of the most energy-intensive sectors. The German government has introduced regulations intended to encourage the use of energy saving methods, but the price rises these regulations have triggered have created an economic burden for the industry.
Wim Demeyer, regional sales manager at the equipment manufacturer Lapauw, based in Belgium, points out that the German market is progressive but highly regulated and the Government monitors businesses to make sure that environmental guidelines and laws are upheld.
Blechschmidt at Kannegiesser says that the responsible and economic use of resources is increasingly becoming a prime focus for laundry technology for economic and social (legislative) reasons.
The reduction of resource consumption (energy and water) promises enormous potential for savings. For many laundries, the availability of energy and water is a medium-term challenge, even before costs are considered."
In May, Kannegiesser held an exhibition for its customers to demonstrate its latest developments and raising awareness of the value of natural resources and ways of conserving them was an important theme.

Changing market
The textile services market is seeing changes in its structure. Upmarket hotels are said to be installing their own laundries rather than outsourcing, which creates competition.
"Keeping the laundry in-house maintains quality to a high level and also helps to keep the cost down," says Schäfer at Miele.
In addition, competition from bordering countries such as Poland has had a negative impact on the German textile service industry as these bordering countries have high unemployment levels so labour is relatively cheap and charges to the customer can be kept low.
Many small enterprises are being consolidated or bought out by larger companies. "For the moment, there seems to be a growing trend for smaller laundries that can cater to small businesses such as restaurants, small hotels and catering. Large laundries can no longer give the kind of local service these customers need," says Wim Opsomer, sales director at Laco Machinery.
The drycleaning/retail textile care market is also changing. It still plays an important part but numbers are declining, with the majority of such businesses in the cities and densely populated areas.
CINET, the umbrella organisation for textile care, says that in the past 15 years the number of drycleaning businesses has fallen by approximately 50% and now there are around 3,200 businesses including depots and receiving/collecting points. Quoting 2012 figures from the federal statistics office it adds that then there were around 2,600 companies offering retail laundry services and these included small laundries, pressing services and collection points.
Of recent years CINET has been encouraging the move to reclassify the laundry and drycleaning sector under the heading professional textile care (PTC) both at country level and internationally.
In the retail sector PTC businesses focus on a quality cleaning service for garments and household textiles, and may use both solvent and water-based techniques. CINET says that this sector is dominated by very small companies. Again quoting 2012 figures from the federal statistics office, it says that businesses with an owner plus one to three employees accounted for about about €1billion of the retail PTC turnover.
Around three quarters of the German population lives in urban regions so PTC businesses tend to be concentrated in these areas. On average one PTC business will serve around a population of around 13,500.
In Germany, as elsewhere, traditional drycleaning with perc has been declining although the majority of businesses still use this traditional solvent. However the Germans have already had discussions about health risks that are now going on in USA and in countries such as France. Regulations restricting older machines have been enforced. German drycleaners are using fourth and fifth generation machines with emission levels well below the standard allowed.
Still the alternative solvent movement is gaining ground both in Europe and beyond and there is now a wide choice of alternatives available, including hydrocarbon, GreenEarth and specialist wetcleaning.
A recent addition is System K4 developed by the German chemicals manufacturer Kreussler and launched internationally in 2010. This uses an acetal-based solvent, Solvon K4, that is biodegradable, eco-friendly, and has passed dermatological tests with the grade "Very Good". It is complemented by a detergent and additives that optimise the result. Kreussler’s head of sales Christoph Richter, says that K4 has the advantage of a solvency power that is comparable with that of perc while still being able to clean a broader range of textiles. He adds that customers say that clothes cleaned in Solvon K4 are brighter and have a better feel. The system is gaining ground and many machine makers now include suitable machines in their ranges. Renzacci is one example and Marco Niccolini recognises the system’s benefits and of alternative solvents generally, though the company continues to produce and offer perc machines. He says that around 90% of the company’s new sales in Germany are now of alternative machines, with hydrocarbon and K4 being the most popular solvents.
While the number of drycleaning shops in Germany is declining, he says that the move to alternative solvents is doing much to help turnover and profitability, even if the number of customers is not increasing.
Many shops have both a washer-extractor and a drycleaning machine but where the shop has already installed an alternative solvent machine the proportion of work being drycleaned rather than washed has increased. This is because alternative solvents can handle a wider range of clothes.
He believes though that drycleaners need to do more to promote their use of alternative solvents and that this would help the perception of drycleaning generally. It is to this end that Renzacci has introduced the CleanBio brand to stress the company’s eco credentials and help to persuade a younger generation to both to use drycleaning services and to open drycleaning businesses. Niccolini believes that the concept will have great relevance for the German market.
Renzacci’s range of machines includes another innovation the Nebula and Nebula 2 was launched at Expo Detergo.. This multisolvent machine features the Combiclean system, which allows a variety of ‘washing" techniques to be used within same machine. These second generation machines have shorter cycles, a new filtration system and the ability to reduce energy use by up to 45% and water use by 70% on average.