BRUGES, Belgium — November 2, 2016 — Linen and uniform launderers and suppliers from across the globe gathered in Bruges, Belgium, October 5-7, 2017, at the World Textile Services Congress (WTSC) which convened for the first time in 15 years. Nearly 90 executives from more than 50 laundry companies arrived from 12 different countries along with 14 sponsoring suppliers combining for a total of nearly 200 participants to review political, economic and social conditions affecting the industry worldwide.
While delegates were prompted to recognize what makes their businesses and homelands unique, more often they related to each other’s experiences, noting issues they face at home that extend across borders; enabling executives to share strategies for fulfilling common business opportunities.
WTSC presenters discussed these widely observed textile services trends:
- The industry has yet to thoroughly document the value of its services, indicating the need to reverse perceptions of the business as a commodity;
- Corporate consolidation of textile services operators continues to decrease their numbers and increase larger chains’ market share, but niches remain for independents;
- Immigration creates costly public burdens but remains a fertile source of employees;
- Better analysis of launderers’ databases can improve customer service and drive additional revenue; and
- More plant processes can be automated to increase operating margins.
These themes emerged from the start when former European Commission President Herman Von Rompuy delivered the keynote address. Attendees continued to recognize similarities when geographic and product market trends were portrayed in panel discussions and Belgian launderers discussed their operations as they opened their doors for participants’ visits on the final day of the Congress.
Belgium contributed the largest segment of launderer attendees, followed by the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. Also represented: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Event organizers were the European Textile Services Association (ETSA), FBT (Belgian national association of textile services) and TRSA (international, based in the United States).
One delegate, Santtu Jokinen, senior VP, Western and Central Europe, Lindstrom Oy, Helsinki, Finland, attested to the WTSC’s value for personal interaction. “It’s always beneficial to meet with industry colleagues and suppliers and visit laundries other than ours. To be part of a broad international audience is icing on the cake,” he said.
Bernald Leone, director, Is A Laundry Srl, Rome, Italy, viewed the Congress as an opportunity for launderers to portray worldwide unity for their critical economic cause. “Without us, it’s impossible for businesses such as hospitals, hotels and restaurants to work. I know that Italy doesn’t recognize this importance and I feel I need to be here not just for our company but for all the laundries in Italy,” he said.
Providing the greatest financial support for the WTSC among suppliers were event partners Christeyns (laundry chemistry) and Lapauw International (laundry machinery), both Belgium-based. The next sponsorship tier, supporting keynote speakers, was filled by Jensen (machinery) and Ecolab (chemistry).
The remaining 10 (classified as gold level sponsors) were equipment makers Alliance International, Electrolux, Kannegiesser and Pellerin Milnor; mat manufacturers Kleen-Tex, Millennium, Milliken and Mountville Mills; IT provider ABS Laundry Business Systems; and garment distributor Van Moer (Dickies).
Philip Rebry, FBT president and CEO, Rapid Industry NV, Belgium, welcomed attendees. Executives from textile services companies who spoke to the Congress during panel discussions:
- Mia Decaestecker, FBT board member; CEO, Malaysse, Belgium;
- Brian Keegan, senior VP, AmeriPride Services, United States;
- Juha Laurio, ETSA chair; President/CEO, Lindström Group, Finland;
- Nagore Marco, group risk manager, Berendsen, United Kingdom;
- David Potack, TRSA Chair; senior VP, Unitex Textile Rental Services, United States;
- Chris Sander, CEO, Johnson Service Group, United Kingdom; and
- Martin Swierzy, managing director, Alsco Berufskleidungs-Service, Germany.
Belgian laundry operators who opened their facilities near Bruges for delegate tours were Aneca, CleanLease, De Reu, Dumoulin, Klaratex, Malysse, Rapid Industry and Sint-Michiel.
Sponsors participating on panels were:
- Charles Betteridge, VP, Christeyns, Germany;
- Sam De Boo, VP and general manager, Ecolab Europe, Switzerland;
- Jesper Jensen, CEO, Jensen Group, Switzerland; and
- Martin Kannegiesser, owner and CEO, Herbert Kannegiesser, Germany.
The last Congress took place in October 2001 in London, also staged by an international coalition but led by the U.K.’s Textile Services Association (TSA). Rebry dedicated the 2016 edition to Murray Simpson, the TSA chief executive who campaigned for the event’s revival, but lost his life in an auto accident in 2014. Organizers expressed confidence that the next Congress would be no more than several years from now in a location to be determined.
Posted November 3, 2016