Robots considerably enhance the sustainability of laundry


After generations that have focused on optimizing profits, laundries have focused more on the overall sustainability of their production in recent years. The well-being of employees and the concern for the environment often correspond to the desire for better yields.

This development is also observed by Inwatec, the international mechanical engineering company that focuses on the areas of construction and automation. Over the past 10 years, CEO Mads Andresen has visited all types of laundries 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 thus the economy. But the trend towards sustainable thinking is now seriously reflected. Today, the focus is also on creating good conditions for employees and protecting the environment, ”says Mads Andresen.

Fewer washes save resources and reduce the environmental impact

While robots are ideal for the many one-sided movements and heavy, dirty work of sorting, technology can also help laundries avoid washing errors due to improper sorting or hidden foreign objects in the pockets of the garments.

This argument hit Victor Vask hard in Denmark, where CEO Kenn Ivan Kjellberg invested in an X-ray Solution to avoid damaged clothing.

“Our investment is mainly made for commercial and employment law reasons. But there is also an environmental aspect as the X-ray machine can prevent us from throwing 100 kilos of damaged clothing away if we avoid pens in the machines. And this part is just as important to us, ”emphasizes Kenn Ivan Kjellberg.

The same conclusion was drawn in Norway, where the dominant laundry player, Nor Tekstil, focused on X-ray detection to ensure sustainability.

“In addition to the obvious fact that we can free several employees from the hard work, there is the environmental component. The textiles are much more durable if we reduce the number of fault washes. The production of cotton has a major economic impact; It is therefore important that we can continue to use the clothing until it is worn out, instead of replacing 80 kg with an overlooked pen in our pocket, ”says Ove Belsvik, director at Nor Tekstil.

The use of technology increases the quality of the sorting

While the X-ray solution helps to remove unwanted objects in front of the washing machine, the automatic sorting with RFID scanners ensures that the individual item of clothing is washed correctly.

This solution is used at ALSCO Padova, where customers request that the clothing be tracked through the process. In this way, ALSCO can handle and sort 20,000 items of clothing in many different washing programs every day without the risk of operating errors.

“We sort the clothes in a system with 24 silos and are currently running 14 different programs for colored clothes and six different washing programs for white clothes. With our new setup, in which the clothing is automatically sorted using RFID chips, we ensure that the clothing receives the right treatment that the respective customer needs, ”explains production manager Marco De Grandis.

At Fornet in Nantong, the request was the same as at ALSCO, and here the machines also deal with different types of clothing.

“A fascinating challenge when we have to deal with so many different types of clothing. We have over 30,000 different items of clothing in the database and have assigned them with different sorting logic. So we have separate items for dry cleaning and we get the right colors and types of textiles 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 companies to include technology in production plans. Several laundry organizations have gradually introduced new technologies to get started quickly and test the hypotheses in practice.

“Our solutions have a modular structure, which means that laundries can start with a stand-alone X-ray machine and then add a sort that is scaled with multiple lines or everything that is needed. The laundries can act quickly and are a good fit for today's market, ”says Mads Andresen, who is attracting worldwide interest in Inwatec solutions.

“The industry has traditionally been reluctant to use new technology, but today we feel that there is a great desire to act. There are global job search challenges, environmental issues are obvious to all of us, and, of course, companies like to make money. This equation is difficult to solve without automation, ”concludes the Inwatec founder.

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Robots greatly improve laundry sustainability

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