Improving quality, raising production, saving energy28 May 2015
Tony Vince examines the latest developments for the modern ironer line
The growing requirement for higher production rates and greater reductions in energy use is placing more demands on the laundry finishing line.
A new generation of flatwork ironers, feeders and folders is emerging as manufacturers respond to demands for finishing systems that provide high-quality results with increased productivity and also maximise energy savings.
Improved energy efficiency is only part of the equation - automation and user-friendly controls can allow a single operator to finish even the largest items, so reducing labour costs while still giving good production rates.
Mick Christian at Electrolux Professional says that one of the main goals for an operative working in the commercial sector is achieving as efficient a process as possible.
"By using a fully-automated feeding and folding system, the output can be determined by the size of the ironer that the particular outlet wishes to use," he says. Depending on the size, it is possible to use a roll of between one and three cylinders. "A fully-automated system ultimately benefits the laundry by significantly increasing production without compromising laundry flow. There remains a need for an operator or team of operators to have some involvement with the equipment during the process, but the finishing side can now be automated," Christian adds.
Electrolux Professional's range includes return or straight feed and manual or automatic feeding and folding. Labour costs are reduced with the Feeder/Folder/ Stacker (FFS) range of return feed ironers as only one person is required to handle the whole operation on large pieces such as sheets, duvet covers and table cloths and well as processing standard
small-piece work such as napkins and pillowcases.
Productivity will always feature high on any outlet's priority list, purely because of the way managers and owners will naturally want to minimise both production and operational costs where possible, says Christian. "However, while productivity will always be important, quality should never be compromised.
"In laundries where a certain standard of service is expected - within the NHS for example - quality carries the utmost importance." He explains that most organisations will look at the flow of their laundry. It is possible to have the linen go straight from the washer to the finishing process without having to go through the tumble dryers, but he says that if you do this, it is important to have an accurate, organised sorting system. For example, linen can go straight from the washing machine to the ironer but towels will need to be finished in the tumbler before being folded.
Once the laundry flow has finished, storage can become an important consideration. In some cases, such as hospitals, finished products are often taken straight to their point of use - linen being dispatched to beds being the best example. There are other instances however, where storage of the finished linen needs to be planned from the outset as part of an effective operation.
The electronic controls on an Electrolux finishing system guide the operator step by step displaying all the information necessary. An indicator light will let the operator know if the linen's residual humidity after ironing exceeds eight per cent, which ensures optimum dryness and hygiene.
The control panel can also be networked via the company's CMIS (Certified Management Information System) to track and record every step in the drying and ironing process. With the electro-mechanical control, the ironing temperature and speed can be adjusted at any point.
The Direct Ironer Advanced Moisture Management System (DIAMMS) is the first true moisture management system on the market, says Christian. The system allows ironer speed to be controlled automatically, guaranteeing the optimum productivity regardless of the fabric type. Patented Electrolux Dubixium cylinders avoid the loss of production that results from uneven temperatures as the patented thermal oil flow inside the cylinder ensures that heat is always evenly distributed throughout the length of the ironer. This kind of machine can be used on both traditional and modern fabrics.
Richard Brown at Girbau UK's industrial division says the strongest trend in finishing remains the emphasis on quality, which has been driven by the rise of boutique hotels, which offer high quality and drive up standards across the hospitality industry as whole. Laundries are processing heavier linen than they used to, so in the finishing line a key objective is to reduce the number of drops.
Girbau feeders and folders are particularly well suited to this changing need, as the lifting flaps lighten the load on the feeding clamps and allow a better grip on heavy linen.
As a further enhancement to finish quality Girbau folders offer up to three primary folds and up to three secondary folds, but are also designed with the customer's requirements for high quality in mind.
The first cross-fold has a retractable pneumatic roller that allows the opening distance to be adjusted according to the thickness of the article. This is especially useful in the case pieces such as duvet covers, bedspreads or even large sheets. The Girbau FL folder comes equipped with a secondary folding device that has a usable width of 900mm, which allows large pieces or those with fewer folds to be handled.
Girbau's latest ironer ranges also feature top covers. These well-insulated, easily removable covers retain heat within the ironer and prevent it from escaping into the laundry.
They also help to minimise dust and dirt whilst allowing engineers to walk on the machine for inspection and maintenance purposes.
Productivity remains important, so laundries are looking to improve quality while maintaining productivity. With Girbau lines laundries can expect to handle up to 1,000 pieces per hour with high quality results, whereas, Brown says, some machines previously rated as offering speeds of up to 1,200pieces can typically only process around 800 pieces to the standards that are now required.
Ensuring the linen arrives at the ironer with the right moisture content is a key factor in maintaining quality as it moves through the finishing line. If the linen is too dry, the finish quality will suffer.
Girbau describes its latest DRB automatic front feeder as a cost-effective, versatile and highly reliable addition to its extensive range of ironers, feeders and folders for industrial laundry applications.
This range is available in three versions, DRB2, DRB2+ and DRB3+, and allows laundries the option of single or double lane operation with automatic feeding or manual feeding, at chest height, in up to four lanes. The DRB2 is the basic machine, which includes stretching belts across the front and a suction table to ensure feeding quality. It has a single server and can process up to of 650 items per hour.
DRB Plus+ versions are available both for the two and three-station machines. These feature a suction box at the front and a suction table for improved quality and productivity.
Both the DRB2+ and the DRB3+ are equipped with two servers, enabling production of up to 790 and 1,000 items per hour respectively. The loading stations for the DRB3+ have been carefully designed to provide maximum operator comfort and productivity.
These are available with two or three workstation configurations. On-machine lighting is available as an option and this makes it easier to see stains of tears in linen as the pieces are fed into the line. Optional smoothing belts and brushes for single or two-lane operation are also available.
Selwyn Burchhardt at Kannegiesser UK says there is increasing demand for efficiency in laundry processing, combined with quality finishing and flexibility of operation at a minimum of space. "New textiles are constantly being introduced and hotels and hospitals raise their requirements, presenting fresh challenges for the laundry," he says. "In addition, price pressure is continuously increasing and is a challenging factor in the laundry's operation." Ergonomic design is becoming increasingly important alongside demand for a high level of automation."
Anticipating these requirements, Kannegiesser's designers have developed specific solutions for feeding, ironing and folding to complete the full finishing line. Kannegiesser can provide machines that separate linen automatically, such as a CSP Batch Separator, or the PU Separating Unit. This equipment, combined with an intelligent conveyor system, will greatly improve handling. The introduction of the efficient and ergonomic EMX sheet-feeder has completed Kannegiesser's feeder range. The EMX allows the operators to feed a sheet in via a single edge rather than having to search for a corner. This machine has been welcomed in the UK market and several are now working successfully in UK laundries.
Kannegiesser launched its latest generation of the EMT/EMQ Synchro feeding machine to the worldwide market last year. Features such as the servomotor drive, automatic measurement of the length of the article and ergonomic "self-guiding" clamp design brings greater efficiency to the feeding and finishing process.
Optimising logistics is no longer just a trend, it is now essential for a well-organised laundry operation. Kannegiesser has developed its "Integrated Laundry Concept", a combination of transport and handling technology. Monorail systems and intelligent conveyor solutions are linked with sophisticated management software.
Transfer and tracking of relevant data in a modern laundry process is the key to greater efficiency. Batch separators and separating robots, to prepare the linen which is then transported to operators by monorail or conveyor will improve the linen flow.
The next important step is the integration of the data flow into the finishing line.
Sending information about each batch to the finishing line can trigger an automatic program change for the whole line.
Customer specific programs are used to ensure the line meets the detailed requirements of each customer.
Information about the number of pieces processed can be fed back to the database for better tracking.
After folding, the tracking system can transport individual stacks to different destinations, and this system can include a sorting function based on various criteria. In this way the finishing line is efficiently integrated into the laundry network.
Kannegiesser offers a full project management service from the initial proposal stage to commissioning and handover of the equipment.
When the finishing line is incorporated with the central control system, pieces are tracked and the line is alerted when the product category changes. The program then makes any adjustments needed, for example to the ironer bed temperature or to the fold format.
Armstrong Commercial Laundry Systems has worked closely with Lapauw, manufacturer of heavy-duty industrial laundry equipment based in Belgium, for more than 40 years. Len Hazell at Armstrong says that when equipping a finishing line it is very important to ensure that the machines are sized to cope with the required output. If the capacity doesn't match the workload, both productivity and quality will suffer.
The individual machines in the line must all be compatible to ensure a smooth flow through the finishing system to maximise the ironer's productivity. The whole line should be robust and easy to use.
Lapauw offers a large range of ironer lines to suit the demands of any laundry application - from single roll to large multi-roll ironers. The ironers are compatible, not only with Lapauw finishing equipment, but with other main brands on the market. For example, at the White Knight laundry installed last year, Lapauw ironers supplied by Armstrong were coupled to HJ Weir feeding and folding equipment.
The Lapauw ironer range includes roll diameters from 900 - 1,600mm with working widths from 3,300-4,200mm.
"We are seeing a trend now for laundries to be re-equipping with 3,300, 3,500 and 4,000mm working widths rather than with smaller ironers," says Hazell.
One machine generating particular interest at the moment is the Lapauw XXL, which claimed to be the largest single-roll ironer in the world.
Available in either gas or steam models, this 1,600mm roll diameter machine produces a quality finish without tape marks, which "makes it ideal for first class table linen".
Microprocessor control is an option on Lapauw ironers including gas- or steam-heated version.
This not only assists engineers to gain access to all machine functions, it can advise on the type and frequency of maintenance, and be programmed to bake-on ironer felt or to adjust ironer speeds. On gas machines microprocessor control can set the temperature and it can even offer a specific program for waxing.
The microprocessor can be linked via the internet to Lapauw's in-house technicians so they can assist with fault diagnosis.
Miele Professional says that finishing is crucial to the laundering process and absolutely fundamental to completing a quality service - a good finish will bring out the quality of the cleaning. It is therefore essential to laundry businesses that they invest in equipment that will consistently provide the high standard of finish that customers require and value.
A recent survey conducted by Miele Professional revealed that 60% stated that reliability was a key factor behind their choice of ironer when purchasing.
Miele recognises this and with customers' needs in mind, its machines are designed to have a 20 year lifespan.
In autumn last year, Miele Professional unveiled its latest generation of rotary ironers. The ergonomics of its PM 12 ironer range are the best yet, as it is designed to adjust to each operator's build and preferred working position.
The PM 12 ironer range has a flexible laundry through-feed, a design element that is specific to Miele Professional and , which enables fast and easy conversion between return-feed and through-feed.
The ironer's special hydraulically suspended trough provides uniform contact pressure across entire roller length to give flawless ironing results every time.
To achieve a seamless operation it is essential that all laundry staff are taught how to operate the machines and tailor the settings to their own personal needs. Miele Professional provides full training for all laundry staff when it installs equipment so that the business can get the best possible return on investment.
FINISHING EXPERTISE: Armstrong Commercial Laundry Systems supplied this Lapauw TurboFAN ironer to White Knight Laundry Services in Caversham. It is coupled to feeding and folding equipment produced by HJ Weir