Ian Hearle says: “The name Böwe Garment Care Systems accurately reflects what we are able to achieve in the UK—supplying everything from a drycleaning machine to a safety pin.

“An extensive restructuring exercise in the UK, coupled with ongoing financial investment and R& D at our factory in Germany—plus the management buy-out of the former Böwe service section—means that Böwe Garment Care Systems (UK) Ltd is now involved purely with selling solutions and is supported by a comprehensive service operation with which we have an exclusive contract.”

Mr Hearle has been with the Böwe company for six years, starting as marketing manager. His brief was widened to take in the sales office, and he ultimately adopted responsibilities for sales and after-sales service before his most recent promotion.

Bill Martin, the other joint managing director, was financial manager when he joined Böwe five years ago, and was company secretary and information technology manager before being appointed financial director.

Ray Barnard, sales director, joined Böwe eight years ago as area manager, and has a mechanical, electrical and refrigeration engineering background. Previously, he worked for another prominent textile care equipment supplier.

Three senior executives of Böwe Garment Care Systems GmbH are also directors of the UK daughter company.

Roy Findlater is general manager with responsibility for Böwe Direct, and Eric Martin is general manager for the after-sales areas of spare parts and service liaison.

Service activity is conducted by Permac Technical Services which was established as a result of a management buy-out of Böwe’s drycleaning service arm in the UK. Service tasks continue to be carried out by Böwe’s former engineers with former technical manager, Eddie Samuels, and after-sales manager, Keith Tyrrell, at the helm.

Mr Hearle commented: “This is not, as some have claimed, a measure to save cost. In fact it will cost us more to run in this way but our belief is that, by allowing the former employees to be shareholders in the business, they will provide a better service to our customers by being focused on service and maintenance without the distraction of the sales company.”

He continued: “Each member of the sales team of Böwe in the UK has an area of speciality, but they all have a sound knowledge of the company’s whole range of activity enabling us to offer an unrivalled breadth of coverage and experience.

“Operator training—on subjects ranging from equipment use to fabric and fibre identification—can be arranged at Bowe’s demonstration showroom or at the customer’s premises.”Proving highly popular with UK drycleaners is Böwe Direct, which was launched in September 1996 as a straight-to-the-customer selling operation, handling all consumables requirements from perc to pins.

The Böwe Direct annual catalogue is the “showcase” for the operation and a new edition appears each spring.

Taking enquiries and orders are three telesales operators who are also proactive in securing business from new customers.

A low cost call rate currently applies to the Böwe Direct operation and, when the company moves to new premises in February, a free call arrangement will be introduced.

A special activity organised by Böwe Direct is drycleaning machine waste disposal under the new name ChemCare. The waste is now specified as “special” by the Environment Agency and by law it must be disposed of through a recognised, approved channel. ChemCare arranges for drycleaners to receive a regular waste collection service provided by a waste disposal company.

If they wish, drycleaners may open a budget account with Böwe Direct and pay amounts over a year, evenly and conveniently spreading their costs. Usually, supplies are delivered in three days, but a timed, next-day delivery can be arranged for a charge.

In significant demand in the Böwe Direct range are customised packaging products. Polythene film and bags, tissue paper, duvet boxes and other items can be printed with the name, logo and creative design features of the individual drycleaning business.

Branded products include Dowper perc and, through a world-wide alliance, the Büfa range of detergents and agents. Founded over 100 years ago, Büfa is now one of only three companies in Germany producing chemicals for drycleaners and launderers. With some 30 000 drycleaners using their products world-wide, Büfa can justifiably claim to be the market leader.

Equipment packages

“Böwe’s Systems Solutions comprise individually tailored equipment packages designed to suit any size of unit shop, central processing facility or industrial drycleaning plant, and cover all processing requirements,” says Ray Barnard, sales director.

He says: “Complementing the range of drycleaning machines manufactured by Böwe are Schulthess standard and aqueous processing washer-extractors and dryers; Veit finishing equipment; Metalprogetti garment identification, handling, storage and distribution systems; and Sander-Shade curtain finishing units plus a comprehensive range of ancillary equipment and services including survey, layout, finance etc.”

Capacities of perc machines made by Böwe range from 12 kg to 100 kg. Currently, two hydrocarbon machine capacities,17 kg and 25 kg are offered, and a 50 kg model will be available early in 1999.

A new PC control, providing increased process regulation and significantly more flexibility, has been introduced for drycleaning machines.


Through a modem link, programming and machine system diagnostics can be conducted remotely and checks made on machine usage and servicing. Such a facility can be particularly useful for a multi-site business.

As new and existing controls for Böwe machines are not date driven, they are Year 2000 compliant.

Böwe’s reputation for features giving greater performance and economy continues: stronger pumps; large filters, fan and fridge; and high G force extraction. Variable dip levels and agitation rates create processing flexibility, and graduated perforations in the cage and backplate enhance airflow and drying performance. Extremely large distillation capacity output means clean solvent can be available at all times.

In the area of hydrocarbon technology, there is some industry controversy as to whether or not it is essential to include a still in the machine specification.

“Böwe will not supply a machine without one,” says Mr Barnard and he points to Hohenstein Institute test results showing that distillation is required to ensure removal of acids, fats, blood and urine from the drycleaning machine processing system. Without a still, Böwe contends, bacterial growth is not only possible in the drycleaning machine, but is also likely to occur. Filtration alone, it says, is inadequate.

Böwe’s latest generation machines can be converted to operate with hydrocarbon solvent.

Böwe is the exclusive distributor to the UK drycleaning industry for Veit finishing equipment. Veit is renowned for equipment designed to give high levels of finish and throughput with minimal operator skill and floor requirements. Used extensively by garment manufacturers as well as drycleaners, the Veit range encompasses tables, formers, toppers, shirt units, spotting equipment and tunnels.

Water authorities are clamping down on “unacceptable” effluent including perc in waste water, and Böwe are offering a selection of water filtration units to handle contact water.

The units use a variety of filtration media including activated carbon and an automatic tester allows checks to be made to ensure that water going to drain meets water authority stipulations. Units are available to handle from 5 to 400 litres of water per day.

Meeting demands

At the forefront of meeting customers’ demands for ever greater flexibility in delivery of machines and spare parts lies the headquarters of Böwe Garment Care Systems GmbH in Augsburg, Germany.

The manufacturing processes in Böwe’s central factory there have recently been optimised. The plant has a new materials handling system and quickest delivery is guaranteed.

On a shop floor area of more than 10 000 m2, Böwe makes, with the latest production systems, drycleaning machines for sale in over 50 countries.

All core components are developed in Böwe’s own design department to the highest quality standards and are produced in the Augsburg works.

Investment in the works area has involved a new, automated multi-level parts picking system, and the recent purchase of a new laser sheet metal working machine costing over DM 1 million.

Great steps forward have been taken in Böwe’s customer service world-wide. The organisational structure of the sales area has been adapted over time to meet the changing wishes and demands.

“The drycleaning industry continues to change but,” says Ian Hearle, joint managing director of Böwe Garment Care Systems (UK), “at its head remains Böwe, the machine that drycleaners aspire to own and the company that competitors aspire to better–and used as a benchmark by all. Through continued innovation, development and investment, Böwe will continue to succeed, both internationally and here in the UK.”

OEM parts

All machine replacement parts supplied by Böwe are OEM supplied and are quickly available. If a component is not in stock locally, it can be rapidly sourced from the company’s headquarters at Augsburg, Germany, or through Böwe’s international network of operators and distributors.

The main parts-holding department in Germany is staffed during all holiday periods so access to components is not restricted or delayed. The company guarantees availability of parts for new machines for 10 years after the equipment is sold.