Professional textile care businesses have constantly sought out finishing processes that can increase productivity, while saving energy and reducing labour costs.
Garment finishing requirements are influenced by several factors, some familiar and others that have developed more recently. These range from energy efficiency, staffing and environmental concerns to the customers’ ever-rising expectations of the end result. The cleaner is expected to achieve an "as new finish" on garments that are often made from unusual and complex textiles and may have inadequate care instructions.
Automation is one way of achieving consistent standards and many drycleaners are taking the fully-automated option, which can reduce
the need for skilled operators.
The increase in automation also reflects the growing trend towards reducing labour costs and increasing production.
However the garment finishing market also faces constraints according to equipment manufacturer Barbanti Carlo in Italy. President and managing director Carlo Barbanti says that sales in the USA have been weak and that recession has also affected sales in Europe.
Consumers are cutting their expenditure and restricting purchases to essentials and at the same time drycleaners are finding it hard to expand their businesses or update their equipment. He anticipates that 2014 will be difficult.
There is a strong move to cut costs, agrees Davide Rotondi at the Rotondi Group in Italy, which produces a full range of finishing equipment including cabinets, formers and toppers, presses, ironing tables, finishing tunnels and spotting tables.
While there is demand for accurate machine control, Rotondi says that the market generally remains restricted because the industry is still suffering from a lack of credit. "We expect a difficult 2014, as generally the political and economic situation is uncertain, even in Asia and developing countries." Some markets don’t ask for automation, adds Rotondi. However, in Europe and North America, labour costs can be high and profits are lower so automation is required to cut costs and help profitability.
Automation is becoming more and more important in reducing labour costs and increasing production, says Carlo Barbanti. "Highly automated finishing machines can be easily operated by all members of staff, which makes a high level of skills redundant."
Many would argue that such systems can support but never replace the quality offered by a skilled drycleaner but Barbanti says that automation allows businesses to train staff quickly while allowing them to finish a wide range of garments efficiently.
He adds: "A lot of companies do not dare to invest in high-performing machines but, we think they can only "survive" by switching to high-quality finishing machines."
Customers generally look for first class finishing in the shortest possible time, he says. Pricing may also be a crucial aspect.
"Since the finishing process is extremely time-consuming and expensive, high-performance tensioning machines are essential to meet customers’ requirements," he says.
Textile care businesses will remain careful with any capital investment, according to Davide Rotondi.
This has meant that manufacturers and suppliers are looking to provide finishing equipment that delivers consistent results and other benefits. Energy efficient performance is increasingly important. "Our machines have energy-saving systems that reduce steam consumption by 50% and provide good performance," says Rotondi. The company has developed computer systems that enable the small drycleaning or laundry operator to finish high quality fabrics to a consistently high standard.
Businesses providing a shirt service have a wide range of finishing options including the Rotondi SR3000 shirt finisher, which has a capacity of approximately 40 pieces per hour and can be combined with a Rotondi BL CLP Collar-Cuffer.
For smaller units, Rotondi produces the SR1000 shirt finisher and this will comfortably process around 20 – 25 wet or dry shirts per hour to a very high standard.
Barbanti Carlo is also focussed on producing finishing equipment that is energy efficient. The company has updated its 483 shirt finisher with a system that is said to save 25% in energy costs.
Barbanti says: "A lower impact on the environment is the basis for drycleaners’ green credentials, which are becoming more and more relevant." The company’s latest high production shirt finisher, the 435, is designed to be simple to operate. It is available in both steam-heated and electrically-heated versions and it includes a special system for pre-heating the air. This is said to reduce finishing times substantially. A patent has been applied for.
The standard version is equipped with flat cuff clamps and rounded cuff clamps are available as an option.
Pony, a leading Italian supplier of industrial pressing and finishing machinery, does see more encouraging signs for the industry this year. The company’s export manager Massimo Sanvito, says that with a sales network of over 200 distributors present in over 50 countries, Pony’s susceptibility to global economic changes is well spread.
There are small signs of recovery in Europe but these remain limited to certain countries such as Russia, France and the UK, while Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Italy remain fragile.
Sanvito is confident of much greater stabilisation in Europe during 2014 and expects increased demand from both North and South America. He says that demand in Asia continues at a good level although there has been a slight decrease in some markets. However it has been a booming market and he adds that Asia will remain a key area for the future.
"We can see a potential increase of the demand in Africa in the mid- to long-term."
Sanvito says that accurate machine control is definitely a factor that influences purchasing decisions, especially in Europe and the USA.
Some finishing tasks, shirt finishing in particular, also benefit from greater automation, he adds.
At Trevil, business development manager Corinna Mapelli also acknowledges the move to automation. Skilled operators that can finish garments by hand accurately have largely disappeared. "Specialised labour is hard to find and is expensive. Both factors are driving the demand for automation."
She says that 2013 was a good year for the Italian company and Trevil is now working in close co-operation with several customers around the world that are opening finishing plants.
"We are confident that 2014 will continue this growing trend."
Trevil’s customers look for equipment that is reliable and accurate. They like the company’s ability to develop features that match their specific needs. They also demand professional and fast after-sales service.
Mapelli says that there is a trend for consolidation into larger plants. These larger plants are Trevil’s main target so its customers require automation to boost productivity and ensure consistent quality.
She agrees that accurate control is needed but adds that the machines must still be easy to use. "Control software must be sophisticated but the user interface must be very simple," she says. "This is something we achieve using our proprietary software, which provides options and allows the machines settings to be adjusted to precise requirements, either by Trevil technicians or else by the store manager. All the operator needs to do is to press a pedal or push a button.
Mapelli says that cleaners will see a quick return on investments that improve finishing performance or make the plant more efficient by more effective use of utilities.
Since the 2013 Clean Show in New Orleans, Trevil has been working on its Presto line of hot-plate shirt units.
The company is extending its range to meet growing demand, says Mapelli. Trevil is currently refining its single-buck unit with the aim of producing a machine that demonstrates all the benefits of
hot-plate units.
The Presto FC single buck hot-plate shirt finisher will produce 60 shirts per hour to a high standard.
The machine has simple, intuitive controls, Teflon-covered plates to avoid shine, accurate placket finishing presses and sleeve height adjustment. There is a tensioning system for the back of the shirt and powerful suction on the front. The finisher is also compact.
The company plans to introduce a double-buck unit that will have the same high-end features as the single-buck machine. To complement its hot-plate unit Trevil has also extended its cuff and collar presses range.
Its latest development is the Trevilpress CP compact cuff and collar press with Teflon-covered heads to prevent shine and a collar-stretching system. The company also plans to introduce a rotary press to increase the production rate.
At Pony, Massimo Sanvito says that for much of Europe, the ironing table is still the main piece of finishing equipment. These tables have a modern design and features such as a blowing function as well as vacuum, adjustable height and photocell operation.
To provide energy efficient performance, Pony now has steam generators with condensate recovery tanks to save both water and electricity.
Its Goliath central boilers offer the option of an energy-saving system that recovers the steam condensates at 90C instead of the usual 60C and uses them to feed the boiler by the tank fitted on top.
Pony’s latest Eagle shirt finisher comes with the its patented H A R S (Hot Air Recovery System), an efficient energy-saving device that recovers air from the shoulder press.
The Eagle is just one of a specialised range of machines that Pony has developed.
As well as featuring H A R S, the Eagle is designed to be easy to use and to press both the yoke and the tucks of the shirt precisely.Pony is adding PLC and microprocessor controls to an increasing number of machines to give cleaners full control and this applies both to the Eagle shirt finisher and to the Pantamaster trouser finisher.
The Pantamaster presses both legs in one lay and allows rapid finishing to a high standard.
For the wetcleaning market, Pony has the Formplus-S tensioning former. The company has recently up-graded this model by providing a rotating form as standard. The machine also features two special clamps that lock the rear vents of the jackets and a new PLC for more accurate finishing and to make maintenance easier.

Easy, efficient and productive
At Veit in Germany, sales manager Boris Hoefges says that customers in the garment industry and the textile care market expect innovative finishing machines that provide easier operation, energy saving and high productivity.
Hoefges says 2013 was a very good year for Veit in the textile care market even though many regions are facing economically difficult times.
Developments such as the Veit 8326 shirt finisher and the Multiform 8363 have been well received worldwide.
He says that even in economically sensitive regions like southern Europe, Veit is seeing increased demand.
Customers that use smart phones expect machine to be accurate with a range of options.
The Veit touch control with its colour screen display meets their expectations.
Veit’s Belt Drive in its Multiform, topper and shirt finisher allows very precise tensioning while still retaining the garment shape.
It forms part of the company’s innovative "Smart Engineering" system.
This consists of four main elements: Body Fit 3D tensioning, the Belt Drive, O-Stretch anti-stretch control and the D-Airflow for more efficient drying.
These features can be found on Veit’s latest models, the 8319 Universal Finisher and the 8326 Shirt Finisher.
Veit’s e-Motion system includes options for moisture sensing to adjust cycle time and heat recovery to pre-heat the air.
The Veit Multiform Finisher 8363 Classic can finish jackets, blousons, anoraks and other outer wear. A height adjustment function assists in finishing stretch fabrics.
A larger heat-exchanger improves heat transfer and the blower motor is powerful enough to cope with thick garments but can be adjusted for finishing lightweight fabrics.

ENERGY SAVINGS: The Eagle shirt finisher from Pony features its H A R S (Hot Air Recovery System) that can reduce energy consumption by as much as 20 to 30%