For a long time central laundries bore the burden for the great majority of business and services with a laundry need. However, recent years have seen increasing moves away from off-site processing, towards the installation of on premises laundries (OPLs).

Today, the organisations that might employ an OPL are incredibly varied – ranging from hotels and restaurants to hospitals and prisons.

Such equipment is also used for a variety of specialist areas – Milnor’s equipment, for example, is used in shipboard applications and in fire stations to clean turnout gear. At Girbau, commercial director Alfons Reixach says: “We can equip anything from a small gymnasium providing a towel service for its members up to an industrial laundry handling 1.5tons per hour.”

Many organisations opt to rent rather than buy their equipment. Ipso, for example is expanding its rental service, which is already available in several countries. The company says organisations are recognising the benefit of having an idea of the costs per month of running their laundry.

Concerns such as space, desired throughput, type of linen to be processed and so on will vary considerably between businesses, so some manufacturers offer design and layout services to tailor an installation to the particular needs of the users.

As Reixach says: “Planning a laundry for a five star hotel with a spa is not the same as for that of a small urban three star hotel. Every client requires a project customised to their needs.”

Integrated systems

Automation plays an increasing role in the previously labour-intensive fields of laundry processing and finishing. Where many previously favoured stand-alone units, integrated systems are now gaining in popularity as customers seek to reduce wage costs by removing intermediate stages that require operator intervention in the laundering process.

Lee Wilson, vice president of international sales, Alliance Laundry Systems says: “The main focus of OPLs is throughput. Because labour is one of the most significant expenses, managers will always want to maximise the volumes they are able to process in a shift, lowering the operation cost per kilo of laundry.”

Jean-Baptiste VanDamme, vice president of sales and marketing at Primus agrees that the rising cost of wages, has bought about an inexorable increase in automation: “Customers want integrated systems so that they can achieve higher productivity. In particular, demand for ironing machines with integrated feeders and folders has experienced strong growth. Demand for tilting machines – especially with higher capacities – has also grown.

“With its IFF range and FS120 tilting machines, Primus is very much in step with this trend.”

Milnor marketing manager Gary Gauthier says that one of the biggest trends driving the hospitality market is the use of higher quality linens in hotel rooms.

“Many lodging companies are competing through the quality of their bedding, placing new demands on many OPLs, requiring them to extend operating hours or purchase more productive machinery,” says Gauthier.

Alliance’s Wilson also cites an increase in high thread-count linens and decorative elements.

“These components combine to add to per room linen weights,” he says. “The higher quality linens hold more water during the wash process, so hotels have been upgrading to higher speed extraction (over 300G) to reduce drying times and limit the impact on throughput.”

Rudi Giaon of GMP says that manufacturers are looking for electronic solutions, which offer programmability and maximum flexibility. He adds that such know-how is enabling the development of solutions to meet the demand for automation coming from Western Europe, as well as that from Eastern Europe, where there is a particular emphasis on the best ironing finish.

Traditionally strong in coin operated systems, Ipso has made significant expansion into OPL over the last 10 years.

Sales director Carine Derez says: “There are a lot of middle-size and smaller hotels that see the advantage of doing everything in-house. We have the equipment sizes between 5kg and 125kg in washers and matching dryers and ironers to cover this segment.”

Derez adds: “Scandinavian and mid-European countries mostly require tilting for easier unloading and are concerned about water and energy consumption. Going south, this trend is starting to grow.”

While Lapauw focuses on commercial laundries, its Laco subsidiary offers ironers for the OPL market. Its Comfort Laco feeder-ironer-folder combination offers savings in space and personnel costs, says Wim Demeyer.

Demeyer adds that the company only constructs chest heated ironers, which provide both better production and quality, features that are appreciated by high-end OPL customers.

However, some stress that automation has yet to dominate the whole world market. “Automation is extending, but only in markets with considerably high labour costs. Lesser developed countries are unable to meet the investment costs involved in the equipment purchase – it is cheaper for them to contract as many manual operators as required”, says Reixach of Girbau. However, Bernard Vermeiren, sales manager and OPL expert for Jensen, Belgium, says that even countries with low labour costs have an interest in the new designs with a view towards implementation in the future, as costs, however minor, have to be controlled.

Optimising resources

Increasing cost pressures, and to a lesser extent, environmental concerns makes the optimisation of water and energy resources priorities for the up-to-date OPL.

VanDamme at Primus says: “Water and power costs continue to rocket skywards, meaning that customers are directing their attention to machines that offer low water and energy consumption capabilities.”

For Jensen, an increase in the tourist sector has resulted in a greater focus on the hotel and cruise ship market. Vermeiren says that a laundry designer must have knowledge of energy recuperation, water recuperation and wastewater treatment as all have their influence in reducing operational costs.

He adds that Jensen’s new finishing equipment is developed to provide both high capacity and quality finish.

Wilson comments that utility and labour costs continue to be a catalysts for change: “The more costs go up, the more people have to look at maximising the efficiency of equipment at the back of the house. We’re seeing products with inverter drives and micro controls to rein in energy consumption by tailoring wash and dry cycles to specific loads.”

He adds: “We are seeing a heavier emphasis on high G-force extraction in an effort to cut dry times. Latin American countries in particular have a renewed focus on trimming energy costs. Our drying tumblers balance the key elements of heat, airflow, time and tumbling action.”

With energy issues in mind, Primus has developed a new line of T-dryers using reduced gas and electricity, and operating with Radax airflow – a combination of radial and axial airflow – to make the best use of hot air.

Likewise Girbau’s 6 Series machines incorporate technological advancements in mechanical action, chemical processes and time and temperature control.

Girbau has also updated its range of SLI dryers for OPLs, offering optimum drying with a 30% saving on energy consumption.

To increase the economy of its Favorit and Futura washer-extractors, Kannegiesser recently introduced the LCT (Low Consumption Technology) system.

This can consist of, for example, four water recovery tanks, fresh water reservoir and heat exchanger unit that reduces the consumption of water by around 80% and steam by about 60%.

According to Heinz Kirstein, marketing, Kannegiesser’s washing division: “The Favorit FA 500 with a two-pocket or four-pocket inner drum is a convenient unit for smaller OPLs, since batches remain discrete during wash and extraction, and may not have to be resorted after discharge.”

The company’s IntelliScale features, on some models, makes it possible to program required moisture retention for each batch, thereby improving the finish quality, and streamlining workflow.

Hygiene concerns

Wilson at Alliance believes that hygiene always has been a concern in laundries, but that over the last few years it has become an increased focal point in many markets.

Kannegiesser’s Kirstein says that many smaller healthcare establishments have experienced logistical problems with the use of off-site laundries, which may not be geared up for the variety of loads and intermittant demand.

The need for stringent hygiene standards to control the spread of bacteria has also encouraged many to take the in-house route.

Kirstein says that more sites are now considering OPLs to reduce handling processes and ensure disinfection through barrier-wall washer-extractors.

He adds: “Costly reusable medical devices like thrombosis stockings and surgical abdominal pads require appropriate laundry processes, which are difficult to ensure with central laundries.

“A viable solution can be the setting-up of a small OPL while using the efficient services of a central laundry for flatwork and standard classifications.”

VanDamme says increasingly strict standards at hospitals and homes for the elderly have been introduced to combat contamination.

“In several countries, authorities are opting to switch to hygienic barrier-washers whereby clean and soiled sides are separated by a dividing wall,” says VanDamme.

Primus’ MB range is now available for this sector and VanDamme adds that the entire laundry process can be monitored remotely using Trace-Tech to ensure that all necessary criteria are complied with.

“Germany, France and the UK already have strict healthcare regulations,” says Derez at Ipso. “Our UK distributor is successful in healthcare with its ozone system, which has been very successful in killing bacteria and reducing energy consumption figures.”

Similarly Reixach comments that hygiene standards tend to be more consistent in developed countries, with variations between the different markets.

He points out that France and Germany tend to be the most demanding with statutory regulations specifying equipment and processes.

In terms of hygiene and safety, Giaon says that further specialisations are necessary for the OPL sector, which is expanding tremendously in Eastern Europe and subject to continuous evolutions of standards and norms in Central and Western Europe.