The measure of a good convention must be the ease or difficulty with which attendees take their leave. Judging by the reluctance with which most delegates and guests departed Union’s facility outside Bologna, the company’s 2004 convention can be considered a resounding success. Good company, good food and good wine were combined with a busy agenda that included presentations from the world’s experts in the field of drycleaning machines and solvents.

Gabriele Cuppini, marketing and sales director of Union, opened the convention with a welcome address to guests. More than 30 countries were represented at the convention, the first of its kind to be organised by the company. Delegates attending included customers, suppliers and distributors, as well as members of the international press.

He outlined the background to the company, which was founded in 1976. Union is now one of the largest manufacturers of drycleaning machines, and has produced over 20,000 of these for markets worldwide.

Union drycleaning machines can be found in 75 countries around the world, and are marketed and supported by 275 authorised distributors.

The present Union plant was opened in 1995, and today is an integral part of the FMB group. The 15,000m2 plant is the fourth Union factory since machine production began.

The plant includes improved machine assembly facilities, a state-of-the-art research and development department, high-tech inspection facilities, a vast CAD-based design centre, conference rooms, and shipping and administration offices.

The company, which now employs over 130 people, has become self-sufficient to the extent that almost 80% of machine components are made in-house, thus ensuring strict quality control.

Union products are used by many of the major drycleaning organisations, such as 5 à Sec with more than 1,100 drycleaning shops worldwide, the UK’s Johnson Group with 800 drycleaning shops, Dryman in Turkey and Martinizing and Pilgrim in the USA.

The convention was devoted to solvents including both established chlorinated solvents such as perc, and alternatives such as hydrocarbon and GreenEarth.

According to Cuppini: “People need to be better informed about the new developments in the drycleaning sector.” The purpose of the convention was to provide just that sort of information. It was, as he told guests, “a moral imperative for a manufacturer” in providing drycleaning machines that eliminated harmful emissions and conformed to new environmental legislation.

Opening the proceedings, Pierluigi Offredi, director of “Metalcleaning & Finishing” magazine and co-ordinator of the UNI Ente Unificazione Normative Italiene “Working groups on surface treatments”, talked about environmental pollution and occupational health.

Production of chlorinated solvents and their use in drycleaning formed the theme of the presentation given by Hans Norbert Adams of Dow Chemicals, Europe. He discussed the way in which a traditional solvent can change to conform to new legislative standards. Dow is the largest chlorine producer in the world and produces chlorinated solvents in sites on three continents.

Pressure on perchloroethylene as a solvent for drycleaning had grown since the 1980s, largely as a result of improper handling. Dow continues to work towards emission reduction through new machine technology, and towards reducing the risks inherent in storage and distribution. The company’s Safe-Tainer system is a closed-loop delivery system for the safe supply, handling and recovery of chlorinated solvents.

Nancy Eilerts, technical and development director for new products at Chevron Phillips in the USA, spoke on the use of hydrocarbon solvents in drycleaning. The company has sold hydrocarbon solvents to markets such as Germany for the past ten years; but hydrocarbon remains relatively new in others, such as the USA. Most of the hydrocarbon solvents used in drycleaning are isoparaffins, such as the company’s HC-DCF Low Flash solvent (Class II).

Manfred Seiter, the research and development director of Chemische Fabrik Kreussler in Germany, spoke on the GreenEarth development, which is based on cyclosiloxane solvent for drycleaning. Although perc is still widely used for textile cleaning, in Europe and in the USA more and more machines that use alternative solvents are being installed.

In a second session later that day, he also spoke on the use of high boiling solvents for drycleaning.

Ian Parris, president of Parrisianne and the distributor for Union in the UK, gave a well-received talk on the technical design of “the ideal drycleaning machine” one that made the most efficient use of solvent.

Jemal Gunaydin, technical director of Prairie Distributors in Canada, kicked off the afternoon session with a presentation on the Ecogreen hydrocarbon drycleaning system.

Jürgen Wasshausen, commercial manager of Bufa Reinigungsystem in Germany explained the general features of drycleaning and leather cleaning. BUFA, operates five divisions with 350 personnel selling products, including chemicals for the garment aftercare industry, throughout the world. Wasshausen outlined the reasons for using drycleaning soap and described the company’s range of products for leather cleaning and finishing, such as Lival.

Alexander Seitz, president of Seitz in Germany outlined ways to the reduce running costs of drycleaning machines and and optimise efficiency.

Finally Gabriele Cuppini provided a rundown of the now-extensive range of drycleaning machinery built and supplied by Union.

These would be on show at the company’s plant the following day. The family includes Class IV perc solvent machines called Series XL-XP and Series L; and a multi-solvent machine class, the HXL-HXP 800, the HL-HP 800 and the HLM 700.

Concluding the afternoon, awards were presented to distributors and company personnel.

A highlight of these was a presentation to Vincenzo Fini, one of the shareholders in the FMB group, to mark 54 years service to the drycleaning industry.

A special presentation made to Ian and Anne Parris of Parrisianne. Johnson Cleaners, the largest drycleaning company in the world, appointed their company to be sole UK supplier of drycleaning machines in late 2003.This decision makes Parrisianne the primary supplier of drycleaning equipment in the UK.

More than 100 Union HP & HL silicone machines have been installed in Johnson’s drycleaning shops during the past year.The machines supplied were the Union HP and HL Class lll solvent machines.

“We put a great deal of time, effort and funding into ensuring that our standards of service are maintained for all sectors of the drycleaning industry,” said Parris.

Group shareholders including Edo Bassi and Firbimatic president Gino Biagi and Noberto Rappini greeted convention guests.

There was an opportunity on the Sunday morning for delegates to visit Firbimatic’s recently-opened 16,000m2 (172,000 ft2) metal processing plant, which is hailed as marking a new stage for the company and the FMB group.

After a visit to the Bassi winery, guests were returned to the Union plant where staff talked about the company, its technology and marketing plans and the new plant.