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Laundry: Underestimated Last Step In The Textile Chain

Texcare International exhibitors displayed the latest in textile care from the laundry and dry-cleaning sectors.

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

E verybody in textiles is familiar with fibers, yarns, fabrics, finishing, and sometimes even garment manufacturing. But who cares about the industrial laundering of these garments? Every piece of apparel must be washed or eventually dry-cleaned. What are the consequences of this laundering? Industrial laundering is just one reason why the finishing industry should pay much more attention to possible consequences. However, in most cases, textile care is not yet an issue with the traditional textile industry.

The must-attend event for the laundering industry is Texcare, which was held recently in Frankfurt. Texcare International 2008, the "World Market for Modern Textile Care," was the international meeting place for the laundry and dry-cleaning sector. 

End-Uses

The laundry sector becomes increasingly important in the globalized world, especially for corporate uniforms. Staff from big international companies, retailers and garages, for example, dress in corporate uniforms. In many cases, these garments are leased in a full-service package, and industrial laundering and drying is a tough business. The fabrics undergo very heavy laundering and in some cases are washed more than 100 times. Corporate uniform and contract businesses - which means all kinds of textiles for sectors such as hotels and hospitals - are just two examples of segments covered by Texcare. The requirements for these products are much higher than for traditional apparel. And the performance of the right finishing and washing machines is extremely important.

Global Event

Based on information from Texcare organizers, Frankfurt-based Messe Frankfurt GmbH, 15,500 trade visitors from 80 countries came to the trade show to see the products and services presented by 257 exhibitors. The visitor total represents a 17-percent increase compared to the last show in 2004, which had 13,330 visitors. The level of international attendance rose from 46 to 52 percent. The top five foreign visitor nations were Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Particularly large increases in visitor numbers were registered from Eastern Europe and the United States.

"Texcare International has further expanded its undisputed position as the world's leading trade fair for modern textile care," said Detlef Braun, member of the Board of Management of Messe Frankfurt. "More exhibitors, 11-percent more exhibition space and an increase of 17 percent in the number of visitors provide impressive evidence of the significance of this event."

Eighty-five percent of exhibitors said they had achieved their objectives for the fair. Out of 257 exhibitors, 156 were international companies, including market leaders such as Herbert Kannegiesser GmbH, Jensen-Group, Lavatec, Pellerin Milnor Corp., Alliance, Renzacci S.p.A., Girbau Group, Multimatic iLSA, Miele and Ecolab Inc. The complete range of modern textile-care products and services from laundry and dry-cleaning machines, via logistics and transport and finishing and ironing equipment, up to linen rental and research were to be seen at the show.

Elgar Straub, general manager, German Engineering Federation (VDMA) Garment and Leather Technology Association sector, mentioned that the expectations of exhibitors at Texcare International 2008 were largely exceeded. The positive mood in the sector during the run-up to the fair was positive. He mentioned one reason for this was the good economic situation, which paved the way for investments in high-tech equipment. Another reason was the large number of orders placed during the fair.

The economic situation in the sector was rated by 81.5 percent of all exhibitors as being satisfactory to good. The outlook was more pessimistic in 2004, when just two-thirds of the companies took such a positive view. The change has been particularly noticeable in Germany. This year, 85.7 percent said the economic situation is satisfactory to good. The figure was just 62.5 percent in 2004. The percentage of companies with an optimistic outlook has increased over the last four years as well - from 67.9 to 78.8 percent.

Texcare Forum

The lectures given at the Texcare Forum also proved to be of interest. Each day, an average of 565 participants from 24 countries attended the program. Topics emphasized in the papers included marketing, management and services, cleaning technologies such as wet cleaning and carbon dioxide cleaning, as well as latest developments for dry-cleaning machinery and new finishing techniques. Another issue was new dry-cleaning methods for the increasing market for modern functional textiles.

Environmental Issues

The focus in the laundry industry also is on environmental issues and modern technology in laundries and textile-leasing companies. At Texcare, particular attention was paid to the need for international regulations, sustainable solutions, modern machines, new care labels, energy efficiency and hygiene, as well as the demands on textile-service companies working in the hotel and hospital sectors.

At the exhibition, one could see that all big suppliers presented largely their consciousness of environmental issues such as energy and water consumption. Every one of the large companies showed its activities to reduce water consumption and implement more environmentally friendly processes. Water and energy costs amount to up to 10 to 15 percent of the total cost in a typical laundry, with these costs showing an upward trend. In many laundries, a lot of energy goes up in smoke.

Steam heats the water that is used in the tunnel, and steam feeds the presses and the finishing zone. For many years, steam production was a simple, controllable and cost-effective technology. The cost of energy has led to a disproportionate increase of costs for steam production. Another challenge is the low energy efficiency of steam. Ninety percent of the energy spending results from steam production. Viewing an energy efficiency of only 70 percent, one may say a lot of money is blown out through the chimney. This happens to be an expensive deal, considering rising energy costs, and a deal with high impact on the profitability of laundries.

Germany-based Ecolab Textile Care's specialists developed the "PERformance" system, consisting of three modules offering new standards in terms of energy efficiency and cost reduction without losing track of required quality levels. The new system with its technology is kind of a steam-free laundry.

RFID

Radio frequency identification (RFID) becomes more and more important in the textile industry. Protection against product piracy is just one important use of this modern technology. However, "there is an increasing demand for RFID technology in the industrial laundry and textile rental sectors, where it can revolutionize key business processes and deliver exceptional productivity increases, functionality improvements and cost reductions," said Ken Boyle, Datamars' chief marketing officer and president, North America. The Switzerland-based company is a global supplier of high-performance, RFID-based solutions for textile identification. Datamars showed its complete solutions for the industrial laundry process. Visitors could see RFID in action at six stations that represent all the important steps in a typical laundry cycle; from the customer location to the laundry's soil count and sort areas, the clean-count and check area, up to delivery.

Datamars also presented its PersonalChip, which is said to be the smallest and thinnest laundry chip on the market. This revolutionary high-frequency (HF) chip is suitable for tagging and therefore tracking personal garments such as shirts, skirts and even underwear, and has been designed especially for the chipping of personal garments of nursing home residents. It is part of Datamars' complete identification solution for the nursing home sector. Also to be seen was the HF Mid-Range Reader, a new reader developed for manual sorting and counting applications. In combination with tabletop antennas and the Personal-Chip, the mid-range reader completes the RFID package for the nursing home market.

Promising Market

Textile World also met one of the well-known chemical suppliers to the traditional textile finishing industry at its booth and asked why the company was exhibiting at Texcare. The employee was all smiles, and the reasons, he said, are obvious: the laundry industry and its influence on the life cycle of the products downstream from the textile processes are immense. And so is the business. The company seems to be very active in the laundry sector and is doing well. One may ask about the name of the company. The responsible manager asked TW not to disclose his presence as an exhibitor, because "we have an advantage of at least two years in this market. Our competition is not yet aware of the potential of the laundry industry. And we want to keep this advance at long as possible." There is nothing to add to this statement.

September/October 2008

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