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REPORTAGE — Industrial laundries of the future? A question of logistics

Continuous batch washers with separate compartments, smart trucks, “Internet of Things”: such technological marvels, advanced and all-inclusive transport and tracing systems will characterize highly developed automation. The objective is to produce enormous and constant quantities of clean linen calibrated for the multiple number of clients. Without forgetting about the costs of transport

In 2018, logistics has become a battle field that reflects the efficiency and competitiveness of industrial laundries. It also defines its capacity to “have a future” in terms of management and strategy. As we are going to learn from this reportage, an industrial laundry has no future without advanced and all-inclusive logistics. An influential opinion on the subject comes from Patrizio Pizzardi, the owner of Pizzardi, a “pioneer” business based in Meda, Brianza, that has been writing the history pages on logistics for industrial laundries for the last sixty years. The adventure started with Kali, a mechanical folding machine for cloth napkins that then turned into linen sorting systems. “The turning point – Pizzardi says – starts when one moves from a simple transport system to an integrated automation system with the entire ironing line. That point takes you to the present time. Logistics fully qualifies the production of a laundry from the technological and fiscal point of view together with labeling and tracking that fully control the batches of linen.

While we continue to clarify the concept of logistics, according to AILOG, an Italian Logistics Assocciation Associazione Italiana di Logistica, logistics is “a combination of organizational activities, management and strategy that govern the flow of company goods and data starting from suppliers to the delivery of final products to clients including an after-sale service”.

The above definition is enough for us to understand two things: logistics is something very complex and articulate. One needs to use a lot of words to describe it. Moreover, it is extremely important in the management process of organized structures. Finally, it is subjected to a constant and massive production flow typical for industrial laundries of our century. Laundry containers for linen transport, management systems, linen ID codes, labelling and tracking, linen counting and sorting: these are only some of the main topics of the sector that become decisive when it comes to the definition of costs and profits of a business based on strict timing and binding figures.

“We need to note that logistics is the future of laundries in general, not only the industrial ones” says Claudio Raffaelli, the Sales Director at Zucchetti. The company, based in Terranuova Bracciolini, Arezzo, designs and produces management solutions. He explains: “We are aware of that because of the number of phone calls we receive from small and medium businesses. Simply because logistics does not only mean quick and organised storage but also identification and garments tracking. On the other hand, the opportunities that can be offered to laundries today as far as logistics goes are infinite, e.g. virtual passages that recognize the batch to which each garment is assigned through horizontal transport belts when garments come out from the folding machine”.

The image soon turns into a tree with its roots growing everywhere. “The warehouse – confirms Raffaelli – is not just an organised storage anymore but it has become an interactive structure where the antennas placed under the ceiling direct the linen by reading its identification codes. Planning and logistics involve mobile transport as well, e.g. short track trucks. Once the container is closed, about fifty antennas regulate the batches loaded inside”.

“When we talk about industrial laundries, we talk about logistics of processes that regulates the organisation of linen flow and data linked to it” explains Alessandro Rolli, the Managing Director at Kannegiesser Italia, a producer of industrial laundry machines and systems based in Opera, near Milan. He continues: “The objective is to have the linen batches circulate at the lowest possible cost and within the shortest possible time. Surely, we are not talking only about linen transport bags or conveyor belts which would be rather limiting. Today, linen flow optimization means cross system studies for industrial laundries and linen rental businesses. Together with washing systems such as continuous batch washers, they contribute to a significant progress of this sector. A continuous batch washer with separate batch compartments and static bath rinse allows for the optimal logistics organisation of work independently from the type of linen to wash. Therefore, it simply remains at the core of linen delivery service prerogatives. The results are: the decrease in energy and labour costs together with the optimization of an average daily load of batches”.

“Today, logistics is connected to the constant development of IoT, Internet of Things” we learn from Montanari, a producer of industrial automation systems. “IoT allows for a remote control, through the introduction of sensors and advanced software, of all the machines and integrated logistics systems – Montanari explains. –  It enables to intervene in time and solve possible mechanical problems on the production lines or deal with typical management issues. Having said this, even if using Internet of Things, the logistics revolution in industrial laundries is, first of all, linked to the comprehension of clients’ needs. It is necessary to observe work processes in order to propose innovative, better solutions that integrate the existing systems. What is extremely important here is the training of staff. Staff needs to be ready to intercept new challenges of the constantly changing market where automation will become more and more crucial in the increase of competition. It will also transform the “manual guide” work into highly specialized skill”.

“Advanced software it is – agrees Luciano Miotto, the President of Imesa, a producer of laundry machines based in Cessalto, near Treviso. – However, let us not forget about goods transport costs that force us to consider the entire structural logistics system of industrial laundries”. “Does it really make sense – Miotto asks himself, then he asks us – for a laundry to produce tons of clean linen that will then travel hundreds of kilometers in trucks to be delivered to a client? Isn’t the budget heading “petrol expense” likely to increase with time?”. “Isn’t this the right moment for us to think about – Miotto continues – the way laundries are spread over the territory? I believe it is too costly to continue facing huge structures that are hundreds kilometers away one from another. Smaller businesses that are better spread over the territory would allow for more functional and less expensive logistics”.

 

by Stefano Ferrio

 

DETERGO MAGAZINE

APRIL 2018

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

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