The market for flatwork linen processing is continually developing as new textiles are introduced, bringing more challenges for all laundries. There is an ever-increasing demand for efficiency in laundry processing as well as improvements in quality and flexibility in operation.
With the increased focus on complete solutions, developments in a particular section of the laundry have to be seen in the context of the whole process.
Kannegiesser emphasises the importance of systems that lead to a smooth flow of work throughout the production line and works closely with customers to achieve this.
As competitive pressures increase and with laundries achieving similar quality standards, price becomes a significant factor in increasing a laundry’s sales so to maintain quality laundries must minimise costs. Kannegiesser says that a stable and continuous workflow helps to achieve this, so it designs systems that avoid interruptions.
The recently introduced Smart Laundry concept stressed the importance not only of a smooth flow of work but also of the necessary data about each batch.
Within the finishing line, the ironer is the key driver and recent developments have brought many improvements here.
However, the feeder is the start of the finishing process and Kannegiesser points out that the performance of the machine depends on efficient staff performance. The area in front of the feeder must therefore be designed ergonomically to minimise hand movements and make them as easy
as possible.
The EMQ Synchro is described as the ideal feeder for efficient and high quality processing of a wide range of textiles and the EMQ four-station feeder is Kannegiesser’s market leader for duvet covers and table linen.
The feeder can also convert automatically to handling small pieces such as napkins and pillowcases.
It also includes several technical features such as servomotor drive, sensors to measure the length of each piece and the ergonomic, "self-guiding" clamps.
The EasyFeed station is ergonomically designed to provide greater productivity by minimising the operator’s involvement.
The EasyFeed clamp is designed for fast feeding of linen and avoids the need to search for the leading edge each time. The operator just places the piece into the clamp, which closes automatically.
The EasyFeed clamp is standard on Kannegiesser’s latest Synchro feeding machines as well as on its GZ-AV feeding stations.
To be effective the finishing line must also include a reliably high performing folder.
Kannegiesser offers folders that can carry out a variety of folds with a high throughput and high quality results.

Informed customers
Stahl in Germany says that customers are much more informed and demanding – they are looking for cost-effective laundry solutions, not just to buy machines.
They are also looking for dependable suppliers and reliable machines at reasonable costs and want to buy from a single source. Stahl says it is one of the few companies worldwide manufacturing all its machines in-house and this brings uniformity in the laundry layout, leading to low maintenance costs and better productivity.
Stahl provides detailed pre-sales consultations backed up by aftersales support.
Stahl reports a busy year. The company has been selective in approaching new markets and in the last few years, and has received very good feedback from new and developing markets such as the Middle East, Asia and Mexico.
While there is a general feeling that some of these developing markets are more sensitive towards prices, Stahl says it has had an overwhelming response because the company offers systems and solutions and not just machines.
The company says that operators demand better flexibility and precise controls to reduce human interference as much as possible to increase productivity, ensure consistent results and reduce operational costs.

Programmable functions
The company offers single-control architecture across all its machines with 100% programmable functions. For example, an operator can set the automatic speed adjustment in ironer, feeder and folder.
Stahl has developed the Boulevard ironing line for a complete high-performance finish.
The line consists of the Servant automatic feeder, a Stahl flatwork ironer and the Domestic or Starfold folder. Together, these components provide the perfect finishing line, says Stahl.
The Servant provides automated feeding, quickly and conveniently and it can be paired with a rotary ironer, Stahl’s mid-sized MC 400 – 800 flatwork ironers, the large Master flatwork ironers and all the multiple-roll ironers.
Stahl says that customers appreciate that automating the ironer lines can bring tremendous benefits both in the short and long-term.
The company offers a wide range of feeding and folding solutions and it puts great importance in evaluating the customer’s operation and advising them on the best way to achieve a balanced production rate.

Broader range
Lapauw has noted that more laundries are seeking to automate their finishing lines and this applies not just to larger laundries, but more particularly to those with smaller lines with single-roll machines.
In line with this trend it has expanded its feeder and folder range by adding dedicated small- and medium-capacity machines.
In terms of folders, Lapauw highlights two ranges, the Unifold and the Superfold. The Unifold folder is suitable for handling large flatwork in high capacity production lines and can also act as a small-piece primary folder.
Its modular design allows operators to process a wide variety of items without the need for frequent program changes or for sorting the work into categories before it goes into the line.
The Superfold offers the highest standards in folding quality, as it is equipped with knife folding on both primary and cross-folds. This gives a clear fold with consistent results regardless of thickness.
The machine’s first cross-fold rollers automatically position the piece so that the folds are always produced centrally or to programmed specifications.

Feeders and folders in action
To illustrate how its approach works in practice, Lapauw singles out two specific installations.
The first is a high-capacity, single-lane ironing line with a three-roll, 900mm diameter, electrically-heated ironer, that was installed as a dedicated bedding line in a Moscow laundry that handles high quality hotel and restaurant linen.
The laundry’s customers include the Radisson Royal hotel and the laundry specified that the line had to produce average speeds in excess of 35metres per minute and that it must also meet the exacting quality standards that the luxury hotels such as the Radisson demand.
The line starts with a Unix 3-station station clamp- feeder and this has the necessary technology to provide ideal conditions for optimal ironing and folding.
The Unix has servo-controlled spreading clamps and a system to keep pieces from slipping during transfer onto the feeder’s exit belts.
With this, the Unix 3-station feeder is capable of feeding up to 1,000 items per hour, even with 4.5kg weight.
At the end of the line the Unifold can provide three air-blast primary folds but all three cross-folds are knife folds.

Single-roll lines
Lapauw also explains that a folder can be used in single-roll lines and process a wide variety of linen while meeting the highest quality.
The company says that it has already carried out many installations that centre on a single-roll ironer, where feeding is still done manually but the laundry has opted for a Superfold, without a cross-folder, at the end.
The Superfold uses knife folding on the primary folds to ensure a clean fold even in heavier items such as cotton table linen, pillowcases or even duvet covers. The relatively low speeds mean that the cross-folds can be done manually, which always guarantees the best result.
Where folders are used with single-roll ironers, the long folds are generally performed in three or four lanes for processing small pieces.
The Lapauw folder automatically detects the dimension of the pieces and synchronises the lanes, allowing the laundry to process a wide range of items without the hassle of changing programs or even sorting the linen.

Raising operator productivity
At the 2015 Clean Show in Atlanta, the Jensen Group highlighted several machines for the finishing line, including the Viking 2000 auto separator and the Jenfeed Express, which has been upgraded to a three-station machine. It allows cornerless feeding and makes it possible for three operators to feed a total of 1,800 pieces per operator hour.
Gerda Jank, Jensen’s head of communications said that the group now sees a clear need for more automation and higher productivity per operator hour, which requires ergonomically designed equipment that is easy to operate.

Coping with textile changes
The global market is seeing a change in textiles with a continued trend towards heavier duvets.
Although cotton prices have stabilised they are still high, so there is still a move to using polyester cotton blends. The finishing line must be able to cope with these changes. Jensen’s Logic Plus feeder and its folders can do this.
Jensen notes the trend to greater automation in all markets but says that the main requirement remains the ability to provide optimum and consistent finish quality at a given speed.

Setting the standard
As the feeder performs the first step of the finishing process, it sets the standard for the whole line and the folder must therefore follow the feeder in terms of both speed and finish quality to ensure the right result at the end of the line.
It is vitally important to specify the feeder correctly according to the customer’s requirements.
Companies investing for the first time may choose simple machines that are easy to operate. They may need a a line with manual feeding or a more automated, multi-purpose line for large and small pieces.
Those upgrading may choose dedicated lines, typically one large-piece line for bed linen and another line for table linen and small pieces.

The right solution for the customer
"We listen to our customers’ wishes and develop a solution for an existing machine if required, but if necessary, we develop an entire new machine."
In some cases, introducing a new machine for one end of the ironer line may require a development of new solutions or even a new machine for the other end.
As an example, the Jenfeed Express Trio with cornerless feeding, shown at this year’s Clean Show, feeds up to 1,800 sheets per operator hour.
This required an upgrade of the company’s Jenfold Classic, allowing it to run at a record speed 90m/minute at the exit.