After generations of focusing on optimizing earnings, laundries have focused more on the overall sustainability of their production over the past few years. Today, the well-being of the employees and concern for the environment are oftentimes entirely in line with the desire for better earnings.
This development is also being observed by Inwatec, the international engineering and machinery company focusing on the areas of construction and automation. In the past 10 years, CEO Mads Andresen has visited laundries of all types around the world to identify their concerns and challenges.
“The laundries have always been interested in how robots, automation solutions, and artificial intelligence can improve efficiency and thereby the economy. But the trend of thinking sustainably is seriously reflected now. Today, the focus is also on creating good conditions for the employees and on protecting the environment,” says Mads Andresen.
Fewer washes save resources and reduce the impact on the environment
While robots are ideal for performing for the many unilateral movements and the heavy, dirty work in the sorting, technology can also help the laundries to avoid fault washing due to incorrect sorting or hidden foreign elements in the pockets of the garments.
That argument weighed heavily at Victor Vask in Denmark, where CEO Kenn Ivan Kjellberg has invested in an X-ray solution to avoid damaged garments.
“Our investment is primarily done for economic and labour law reasons. But there is also an environmental aspect to it as the X-ray machine can save us from throwing out 100 kilos of damaged clothing when we avoid pens in the machines. And that part is equally important to us,” Kenn Ivan Kjellberg emphasizes.
The same conclusion has been reached in Norway, where the dominant laundry player, Nor Tekstil, has focused on X-ray detection to ensure sustainability.
“Besides the obvious fact that we can free several employees from doing the hard work, there is the environmental component. The textiles are significantly more durable when we reduce the number of error washes. The production of cotton has a large economic impact; therefore, it is essential that we can use the clothes until they are worn out instead of replacing 80 kg because of an overlooked pen in a pocket,” says Ove Belsvik, director at Nor Tekstil.
The use of technology increases the quality of sorting
While the X-ray solution help removing unwanted items before the washing machine, automatic sorting with RFID scanners ensures that the individual piece of garment is washed correctly.
This solution is used at ALSCO Padova, where customers demand that the clothing be tracked through the process. This way, ALSCO can handle and sort 20,000 pieces of clothing daily in many different washing programs without the risk of operator error.
“We sort in the clothes in a system with 24 silos, and currently we run with 14 different programs for coloured clothes and six various washing programs for white garments. With our new setup, where the clothes are automatically sorted with RFID chips, we ensure that the clothes get the right treatment required by the specific customer,” Production Manager Marco De Grandis explains.
At Fornet in Nantong, the desire was the same as at ALSCO, and here the machines also deal with different types of clothing.
“A fascinating challenge when we have to handle so many different types of clothes. We have over 30,000 different garments in the database, and we have mapped them with different sorting logic, so we have separate items for dry cleaning and get the right colours and textile types in the right washing machines,” explains Lei Pai, Manager at Fornet.
Faster approach to new technologies
The increased focus on sustainability has also made it easier for businesses to embrace technology in production plans. Several laundry organizations have introduced new technology in stages to get started quickly and to test the hypotheses in practice.
“Our solutions are modular, meaning that the laundries can begin with a stand-alone X-ray machine, and then add sorting, upscale with multiple lines or anything that is needed. The laundries can act quickly, and it fits well with the market today”, says Mads Andresen, who is attracting interest in Inwatec solutions all over the world.
“The industry has traditionally been quite reluctant to apply new technology, but today we feel that there is a great desire to act. There are global challenges in finding labour, the environmental problems are apparent to all of us, and finally, of course, companies like to make money. That equation is difficult to solve without automation,” concludes the Inwatec founder.
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