The smart way forward23 February 2021
Smart laundries that think for themselves are the intelligent path for today’s market and associated challenges – and to future-proof efficiency and profits. Manufacturers and suppliers long ago read the writing on the wall, or should I say, ‘the digital text on the screen’, and realised it is smar t to be ‘smart’. In the past few years laundry machinery has morphed from being standalone items of kit to one complete virtually interlocked solution, meshed and synced together by sophisticated software. Kathy Bowry has a look at what’s around.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
As one of the largest providers of leasing textiles for hotels in south Germany, Witteler & Burkhardt processes an enormous variety of articles. But how is it possible to productively process sheets, table linen and terry-toweling in such a wide range of articles and colours while achieving high levels of customer satisfaction?
Such a motley assortment of customer items does not make it easy for the textile service provider from Ladenburg, Germany. Machine programs have to be changed constantly, laundry batches are expected at different stations and every piece of laundry has to end up with the right customer. So how to solve this conundrum? Enter the automatic ‘Process Control’ solution by Kannegiesser which allows increased productivity – continuous flow of goods enables a consistently high output. The program masters item and textile diversity, as the machines automatically select the correct program. The system guarantees on-time and accurate delivery, as the flow of goods is constantly controlled, monitored and documented. The automatic control of the processing programs and the flow of goods in the laundry is made possible by the integration of machine and data technology. Each laundry batch is weighed and assigned to a customer and an article category from the database. Based on this information the batches are transported to the correct machines and processed with the best program – fully automatically..The process can be seen in the illustrations,. from top.:
1. Sorting and storage of soiled linen On the sorting platform the laundry is weighed and sorted into laundry bags according to customer and category. The batches are stored in the monorail bag storage and distribution system for further processing. Category, customer and weight are linked to the batch and stored in the database.
2. Washing, Extraction and Drying The PowerTrans batch washer is automatically loaded with batches from the bag storage. After washing, rinse water is extracted in the press before the batch is loaded into the dryer via lift shuttle conveyor. All machine programs are automatically selected according to information from the database.
3. Post Wash Storage After drying, batches are stored in the monorail bag storage. The white bags are automatically assigned to the correct processing machine in finishing.
4. As soon as a new batch is delivered from storage to one of the ironer lines or dry work folding machines, the operator only has to press the batch change button before feeding. Machines retrieve the batch information from the database and select programs accordingly. For ironer lines by Kannegiesser this is possible by the Central Program Control. Both ironer and folding machine adapt programs at a push of the batch change button on the feeding machine. The program changes are executed without interruption during flow of goods, as each individual item is tracked during the ironing process.
5. Commissioning After folding, the laundry stacks are sorted according to customer, article or machine by the Vectura stack management system. Belt conveyors transport the stacks to the assigned take-off stations. Displays show employees which stack belongs to which customer. This guarantees quick, correct and complete delivery..
Digitalisation, as Gemma Colomer of Domus explains, is an important player for the laundry team. “We already had all our equipment with state-of-theart microprocessors and connectivity, and next year we are going to launch and present all the Domus Connect world, with IOT benefits for all sectors and type of customers.”
The company is moving to the most innovative solutions, not only with equipment but also solutions, company processes and so on. “We are constructing a new building, more square metres and growing not only physically but also as a business, so we need to be organised and consolidate all digital tools both for us and for our customers’ benefit as a priority. She cites e-commerce for parts, quotes online, and so on, pointing out that digitalisation reaches further than the laundry operating floor.”
And, of course, as Colomer points out, digitalisation has benefits that reach beyond the physical limits of any laundry, allowing for remote problem-solving. “We are all going to reduce the trips, not do away with them altogether, of course, but we all know now that sometimes we can avoid a flight,” she says. Nevertheless, one flight you can expect her to boards is the one to Frankfurt later this year. “We really look forward to the Texcare show. We have a lot of new features and models to present.”
In a recent installation, pictured right and below, left, , Lapauw devised a work wear washline with four 120kg washers; a Lapauw dryer and a Montanari conveyor system. The washers are loaded from the top, from the laundry’s existing bag system and the whole system communicates with the laundry’s own control system.
Meanwhile, in a cleanroom installation, pictured below right, the Mediwave and Medistream washer and dryer come into their own. The dryer and washer are so tuned into each other that they allow the laundry to stay under the important 60 minute cycle. “We have also adapted the software so that it can communicate with the overhead monitoring system and assures that the laundry can show its customers that washing/disinfection was done according to the standards and that particles have been removed according to the specifications of the appropriate ISO class,” says MD Philippe D’heygere. It is also worth mentioning here that the polyusrethane coating on the Mediwave and Medistram is antibacterial and compelty enclose the metal construction. of the machines. it is easy to clean, with no ‘dirt traps’ which can be a probem with metal cased machines as dirt can be caught in scratches, nicks, or where chemicals corrode the metal, thereby compromising cleanroom hygiene.
AUTOMATION WITH RFID
RFID is now such an integral part of the laundry process, we have stopped regarding it as ‘new technology’. So getting back to basics, the technology offers technical assistance, automated decisions, information transparency and full networking which are the four essential principles of the concept of a digital laundry, says laundry management software supplier SoCom. As an IT service provider, SoCom advises about and delivers the necessary software as well as innovative app and web solutions for end-to-end process control.
According to SoCom, RFID technology is riding a strong tailwind as the result of increasing demand for automation. The reason? Because Industry 4.0 requires digital identification of individual laundry items, containers and machines and the exchange of information between these entities. SoCom’s TIKOS offers an “all-in-one solution for laundry providers, supporting the communication and cooperation of objects and machines along the entire production chain of a laundry, and not just at fixed points, but any time and everywhere, including outside production operations,” says the company..
TIKOS also serves as the foundation for continuous operational data acquisition and optimal process control. Manual tasks are eliminated; for example, an order can be triggered automatically directly at the laundry input point. Thanks to RFID, the software detects how many items have been recorded at input and automatically generates an order based on the number of items read and then sends the order to goods-out.
The importance of communication with machines in the sense of ‘person-free’ production is constantly increasing. Using interfaces, TIKOS communicates directly with the individual machines. The RFID chip in the laundry part is read in and reveals details of the laundry such as the condition, care instructions and the required handling. In the future, the washing or folding programme could be set automatically. The same principle also applies to the sorting system.
With the RFID reader, data is read in and reported to TIKOS. TIKOS processes this data and sends the necessary commands to the sorting system. Laundry parts are sorted automatically. SoCom already cooperates with several machine manufacturers and offers numerous interfaces to individual machines.
A VERY DETAILED BIG IDEA
Siblings Albert and Katrin Frey are the fifth generation to run the Frey laundry company. With over 270 employees, Frey is among the largest and most innovative laundry companies in Bavaria and although the company may be 160 years old, the Freys are very much part of the modern world.
Now, the Frey laundry company through Jensen, has invested in a GREIT automatic storage system from Inwatec, which is specially adapted to their needs.
The Frey laundry company is divided into multiple areas and offers its customers extremely flexible services, ranging from clothing rental to complete service packages, which it provides with a selection of individual textiles for all lines of business.
“Our father started the professional clothing rental area of the business, among other things, in 1994 under the name DRESS-Line,” explains Katrin Frey. DRESS-Line, headquartered in Ettlingen, Germany, now includes 12 owner-managed laundries (www.dressline.de). Frey is also a member company of the Sitex Group, headquartered in Minden, Germany – a network of family-run laundries in Germany (www.sitexgruppe. de).
As well as washing and preparing flat textiles from hotels and restaurants and the hospital sector and rehab centres, the laundry services retirement homes and care homes. Particular attention needs to be paid to how personal laundry belonging to the residents of the homes is treated, as this is extremely sensitive and varied.
Greater automation was needed to be able to manage this variety in day-to-day business. Processing items of laundry belonging to over 1000 customers, totalling 38 ton/83,775 lbs every day, in a production area of over 6500 m2/69,965 sq.ft, requires optimal organisation. In the project consultation with Jensen’s sales team and Inwatec, Katrin and Albert Frey decided on an automatic storage system for laundry stacks, which is specially adapted to the needs of the Frey laundry company.
The system has recently been installed at Frey Textilreinigung GmbH in Burgau, Germany, and is in use for providing and picking laundry for hospitals, retirement homes and care homes. It functions as a buffer between the folder and the logistics area, and automatically stores and transports stacked items of laundry. The system’s software provides the the best possible support in the production planning stage. For example, it can show the store level at any time.
The transport belts and lifts of the storage system receive the clean stacks of laundry fully automatically and sort them by type at incredible speed, placing them in a storage location from one of the eight levels and four rows. This smart solution does away with the time-consuming manual process using laundry carts before actually packing the items for delivery. By using the software connection that is already available on the system for packing lists, the laundry personnel can choose which delivery should be called up from the system. The conveyor belt then begins collecting the clean stacks of laundry and delivers them straight to the output station, ready for delivery to the customers.
The next project for the Freys is to automate the sorting of the dirty flat textiles. Jensen sales manager Rudolf Hofer is delighted with the confidence shown in them and the chance to work with the Frey laundry company and Inwatec again.