The OPL market is growing as an increasing number of establishments in both commercial and institutional sectors take laundry in house to gain direct control of costs and standards.

The common factor in this customer base is that the core business lies elsewhere. Site managers are not necessarily laundry experts. So suppliers stress that the added-value they offer with advice and project planning is crucial in building a successful and cost-effective operation.

Customers are increasingly looking at whole life cost including rental, energy use and long term maintenance, so OPL ironers need to be affordable to buy, productive, energy efficient and reliable, according to Peter Marsh, managing director, Girbau UK. “Machine ironing is more highly skilled than washing and drying, so in the OPL market customers are looking for ironers which are easy to use, and easy to achieve high quality results day-in, day-out.”

In the more buoyant hotel sector, quality of finish is often the biggest consideration, as it can be so fundamental to guests’ perception of quality, luxury and comfort, says Marsh, who points out that hotels are increasingly choosing the on-premise ironing option, to give them 100% control of quality of finish.

“Girbau UK offers one of the largest ranges of ironers for OPL laundries ranging from the smallest GMP roller ironers, through its core Girbau PB and PBP Series of dryer ironers up to the largest Compact model, whose 5 in 1 operation combines drying, high quality ironing finish, folding and stacking to offer a space-saving and high productivity solution,” says Marsh.

“Customers need to choose a machine that matches their needs both in terms productivity and throughput,” he adds. “A small guest house might prefer a roller ironer, whereas a large hotel finishing its own linen will go for the productivity of the Compact.”

An increasing number of Girbau’s OPL customers are using the drying function of its PB Series dryer ironers to increase the speed and productivity of flatwork processing, reducing – or even eliminating in some cases – the need to use a dryer between the washing and ironing phases.

Designed for consistent, high quality results, crisply ironed sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases, table cloths and napkins, the PB Series comes in five model sizes ranging from the smallest PB-3215 with a 1.5 metre ironing width and 325mm diameter cylinder to the largest PB-5132 with a 3.2 metre ironing width and 510mm diameter cylinder. The PBP models with 510mm diameter cylinder use photocell detectors to measure and automatically fold items accurately regardless of their length and without the operator needing to manually input the size.

Girbau recently installed a PB-3215 gas dryer ironer at the RAF Club in London, which enables the club’s in-house basement laundry to finish table linen for its restaurant as well as bed linen for its 90 plus rooms. Great Shelford Dry Cleaners near Cambridge is another Girbau UK customer to have recently taken delivery of the popular PB-3215 dryer ironer. “They are achieving constituent high quality results while maintaining a good throughput,” says Marsh.

Programming and controlling the PB Series ironer is straightforward and intuitive thanks to Girbau’s INTELI control. Easily understood icons show the program in use, the real and the programmed temperature, the speed and the length of the article. The system also suggests the optimum and most productive operating mode.

Girbau’s radiant burner technology and chrome plated Care Touch cylinder ensure even heating across the whole roller, preventing hot spots which can otherwise affect the ability to achieve high quality results and throughput.

The Girbau Autospeed function automatically adjusts ironing speed depending on the type of material and humidity for consistent high quality results. The strap tensioning system maintains a uniform ironing cylinder pressure for high quality ironing and a smooth finish.


Important selling point

Ironing is crucial to the hospitality sector, as it is only natural for people to want to reside in a room that is not only clean, but also well-presented, according to Mick Christian, regional training and demonstration manager for laundry, at Electrolux Professional. “Something that operators from all markets will recognise as an important selling point is the ability to have complete control over their laundry services,” he says.

Hotels tend to have a wide range of items to iron. From bedding to chef’s whites, keeping control over the laundry process can go a long way to ensuring a high quality, consistent result, he says.

The Electrolux Professional flatbed type ironer (IB) and the cylinder type of ironer (IC) both provide a quality finish and can be used in OPLs across a range of market sectors.

“Take for example our IB range of bed-type ironers, which is ideal for smaller items with a working width of 1-1.6m, such as napkins and tableware,” says Christian. “Those of our customers who have taken the decision to invest in our IB range have been able to benefit from very low noise and vibration levels, as well as the ability to adjust temperature to achieve the highest of finishing standards. The IB series of ironers is especially suitable for small OPLs such as small to medium-sized hotels and care homes, who are mainly processing table and bed linen.”

The range of cylinder type ironers combines both the drying and ironing function, by giving operators the opportunity to take both traditional and modern fabrics straight from washer to ironer for improved process efficiency, says Christian. The ironer can be configured with an automatic feeding and folding mechanism.

Ironers from the Electrolux Professional finishing range are designed to meet the specific needs of the laundry operation and the range includes return, straight feed and manual or automatic feeding or folding. Staff costs are reduced with the Feeder Folder Stacker (FFS) range of return feed ironers as only one person is required to feed, iron, dry, fold, cross fold and stack flatwork such as sheets, duvet covers and table cloths as well as processing standard small piece work such as napkins and pillow cases.

Electrolux Professional has launched Express Finance, a service that provides instant access to flexible finance options. “They can start making a return on their investment straight away, with the option of either extending the lease or upgrading the equipment at the end of the term,” explains Christian.

Electrolux Professional has developed a dedicated customer care segment, to deliver a speedy recovery service helping to increase equipment uptime and reduce any potential impact on businesses.

The company also offers regular training for machine users to help minimise breakdowns, which can delivered on-premises where the equipment is installed or at the company’s Centre of Excellence in Luton.


Quality finish

Armstrong Commercial Laundry Systems supply a comprehensive range of ironing machines suitable for all types and sizes of OPL operation. “In a lot of OPL units ironing, if it is done at all, is very much secondary to washing and drying. Clean, stain free linen is always going to be the priority,” says Armstrong’s Jeremy Lowes. “But for those in the hospitality sector, and, less frequently, the care sector for whom ironing is seen as a vital element of the laundry process, quality finish, ease of use and reliable service is probably more important than price. For that reason we recommend that all machines are ordered with Tenax spring padding on the rollers.”

At the smaller end of the market, the range produced by GMP of Italy has electric and gas heated machines, with rollers from 1,000-3,200mm widths and 250-500mm diameter. These machines are designed to be both extremely easy to use and simple and inexpensive to maintain. Electronic temperature control ensures the right ironing temperature for every fabric and minimises energy costs. Simple foot pedal operation leaves hands free to feed the linen.

At the top end of the market, Belgian manufacturer Lapauw offer a large range of ironers from single roll to large multi-roll ironers, which can provide a superb standard of finish in large hotels, for example

St Francis Care Home in Govan, Glasgow is a 40-bed nursing home run by the Franciscan Sisters Minoress, a religious congregation that has been working in Govan since 1946. The majority of the home’s flatwork laundry used to be outsourced, but a decision was taken to bring it all in-house to save money and allow better stock control. It was decided that all bedding would be ironed. “We believe that those who live here deserve the best, including a well presented room, and to feel valued,” says Margaret Prele, administrator for the home. “We felt it was essential to go the extra mile and have all bedding ironed.”

They bought a GMP electrically heated drying ironer from Armstrong, having had previous experience with the company. The home has a dedicated laundry staff, that was trained to use the equipment by Armstrong engineers. “If ever we have to call them, the engineers normally come out the same day and nearly every time can fix the problem on the spot.”

Armstrong is now part of the Hughes Group. Jeremy Lowes, previous MD of Armstrong, says: “We could not have wished for a better partner than Hughes to help take Armstrong to the next stage of its development.”


Compact models

Miele offers high-performance and easy-to-use ironers, ranging from compact models through to large and convenient flatwork ironers guaranteeing a high throughput of up to 200kg of laundry per hour, depending on model. With roller lengths of between 100cm and 166cm, three compact models represent the ideal match for small to medium-size laundries. All three models are height adjustable and can be operated by a single person.

The PM 1217 (166cm roller length) also allows fast switch-over between return- and throughfeed operation to afford great flexibility in everyday work. Return feed in this size category is exclusive to Miele.

All three ironers are very simple to operate thanks to their touch display, allowing temperatures and ironing speeds to be regulated with precision.

As contact pressure can be adjusted, multi-ply items such as envelope-type duvet covers or heavy cotton tablecloths can be ironed just as well as thinner fabrics.