Service digitalization has changed every aspect of our lives including the laundry services. In this reportage, we are going to discuss about the digitalization of services and machinery in the textile care sector. Digitalization has strongly penetrated the field of dry- and wet-cleaning machines, but also the professional ironing machines. Digital innovation has also given a boost to the laundry logistics with systems capable of tracking the entire workflow. Managing the business activity in a more simple but also more accurate way. In many cases, many operations, at least a part of them, are managed through smartphone APPs. Smartphones, that we call mobile phones, allow us to organise many daily activities. Quoting Paolo Genovese’s movie, “Perfect strangers”, the smartphones have become a sort of “black box of our existence”, but that in many cases they are also simplifying our lives. A smoother and organized work flow, thanks also to the use of the management systems, which makes it possible to integrate the work phases and interface each other, simplifying the working methods of each activity in an efficient and customised way

We start this road map among the producers by meeting Maurizio Casol, Director of the Automation Division, at Zucchetti Centro Sistemi. Maurizio Casol gets straight to the point with a wide-ranging digital assessment. “In the age of digitalization, every company is challenged to transform its internal processes and working methodologies to achieve new development opportunities, optimise the production efficiency and minimise waste and costs. The path of 4.0 Digital Transformation is a challenge that not even the world of the industrial laundries cannot afford to miss. The Automation division of Zucchetti Centro Sistemi (ZCS), a leading multi-business company in the IT, digitalisation and mechatronics fields, has been a specialist in RFID tracking systems since 1993, with a particular focus on the world of industrial laundries and launderettes.

The ZCS automatic systems manage the entire process from the reception of the soiled garment to the return of the clean garment, allowing the mapping of every single movement related to the garment. The system, fully parameterizable both in the hardware and software, adapts to the needs of the customers, their work volumes, the space available and the work phases organization. It has a TRAK management software, that allows the workflows management and control; RFID transponders applied to the objects to be tracked and to complete the 4.0 integration, machines to track and distribute linen, textile garments, and uniforms. And it is precisely the introduction of a valid web management that guarantees, in a single solution, the absolute traceability of materials along the entire distribution chain.

Through TRAK it is possible to acquire, in real time, information about the processing and distribution flow, in order to save time and costs, identify inefficiencies, material dispersion and zero waste. The system allows the definition of customised workflows, objective and diversified storage controls, handling per product and per customer, adapting to the needs of small and large industrial laundries. The technical and mechanical support of the ZCS team it is also a crucial aspect in the pre and post sales phase, both to the location and remotely. The digitalization and a higher level of technology in the laundry guarantees interconnected and innovative processes and an immediate and noticeable impact on productivity and on the end user satisfaction”.

We move on to a player in professional finishing and analyse the topic with Corinna Mapelli, Co-owner of Trevil. She emphasises how “digital has now become necessary in any production sector, and the laundry market of any size is no exception. For example, digitalization has made its most relevant impact in logistics, where it is fundamental to track garment flows; the larger the size of the business, the bigger the benefits. At Trevil, all automated machines are equipped with a computer, all of them are operated with the support of an electronic brain. Touch screen technology gave an additional boost to the digital development as it eases the interaction between the operator and the machine. From old displays with numerical codes – that made operators’ work more complicated and required them to look up in a manual as a guide – to today’s “talking machines”, where a simple pop-up message lets the operator understand if something is wrong.

In some cases, the operator manages to bypass and solve the problem with no support. Our finishers are all equipped with “smart” graphic displays that summarize the most common functions the operator needs during the cycle (adjustments and controls that are needed to improve the finish). At the EXPOdetergo International 2022 trade fair we interviewed several operators in the sector, and their feedback was unanimous: boost digitalization. Starting from these grounds, it is essential to organize and ensure an interconnection between all the machines in the laundry, in compliance with the requirements and parameters of the 4.0 Industry. A real interconnection that supports the data exchange allows an added value in both management monitoring and production efficiency”.

“We are immersed in a digital world and there are strong pressures in this direction, from networks to infrastructures, a modernisation that also involves industry,” began Gabriele Cuppini, the Commercial Director of Union S.p.A., a company based in Sala Bolognese that produces professional washing machines. “In Italy for some years now there have been several incentives that have been supporting the demand and, in our market, they have contributed to a boost for renewal. Of course, the bigger companies have responded with higher investments than the smaller ones, but a successful business cannot be achieved without the modernization of machinery and of the maintenance techniques.

Digitalization is providing an extraordinary amount of essential information to the industry, and us, as Union, we are also pushing to enhance the digital technology on our machines. We have been thinking to equip our dry-cleaning machines with sensors that can offer an important help to the operators. At EXPOdetergo International 2022, we have displayed some machines equipped with sensors that can read and monitor in real time the operations of the machine (e.g., pressure in refrigeration systems) and that allow a real-time remote assistance for facilitating the maintenance. The transition from electromechanics to digital opens the door to a series of extraordinary innovations and functions. At the trade fair we have also presented a machine connected to an instantaneous electricity consumption measurement device, a practice that exists already in some laundry shops outside Italy.

The total and the electricity consumption can be constantly monitored in real time directly from the office, if the machine is equipped with the appropriate sensors. Our machines can be optionally equipped with a “DIALOG TOUCH” screen, presented in a new version at the fair, with a new platform. A real computer that makes the dialogue between the operator and the machine, and if the machine is equipped with the appropriate sensors, it allows you to connect to the network, provides real-time consumption, makes the diagnosis of the machine, signalizing any anomalies, opening the doors to an effective troubleshooting to facilitate a maintenance control even remotely. Our industry is completely changing with the digital…”

We move on to another global player in the washing industry and we meet Marco Niccolini, the General Sales and Mkt Director of Renzacci S.p.A. “At Renzacci we have considerably invested in digitalization over the past few years, even anticipating the launch of the 4.0 Industry program that have started with the 2017 Budget Law and that it is still active today in a reduced version. We have always had a global vision, meaning that by exporting to different countries around the world we have always undertaken a company policy that would be successful also on a large scale. For the Italian market, the 4.0 Transition regulations have been a driving force, a boost, a pole of attraction for all the suppliers.

Digital has always been a key element for our business for some fundamental reasons. First and foremost, it allows the owner, i.e., the one directly involved, to have a clear and comprehensive picture of the costs, but also of the earnings. Digital enables targeted marketing actions to support the business activity. Our products have gradually evolved in this sense, covering all the market segments where our company is present. When it comes for the dry-cleaning process, the MY Brain APP allows our customer, as we have said, to manage all the parameters related to the costs of the washing cycles in a more precise and accurate way, but also to evaluate more carefully the revenue aspect. As for the water-washing and tumble dryers – the ”laundry division”, the Intellectus App offers a real-time interface of all management dynamics for both OPL and Coin-op versions.

We move to north-east and more specifically to Cessalto in the province of Treviso, and we meet Carlo Miotto, the CEO & Sales Director of IMESA S.p.A., a company that produces washing machines for both small and industrial laundries. “At IMESA, the digitalization process has also coincided with an important cultural change in the company. We talk about digitalization at 360°, from internal business processes to the products and services that IMESA offers to the market. The ultimate goal is to improve the customer experience by simplifying and speeding up the laundry processes through innovation.

The digitalization allows us to be in the laundry even when we are not physically present, it gives us the possibility to continuously monitor and record data, update our craft knowledge every day and constantly improve the laundry management and the efficiency of the entire business. IMESA provides intuitive interfaces with large touch screen displays equipped on the machines, the IMConnect portal specifically designed for the laundry sector and the Laundry for You App, capable to satisfy multiple needs with just one click. IMConnect is a simple, intuitive and yet comprehensive tool. Through the portal, remotely and in just few steps, it is possible to select and manage the work programs, update the machine firmware, customise the images and icons on display.

Everything is under control: the total working hours of each individual machine, analysed on a daily and/ or hourly time frame basis, as well as the cycles performed. Do you need the monitoring of the utilities’ costs? By simply setting some reference parameters, you can obtain a detailed overview on the energy, water and detergent consumption. The remote connection of the machines is the centrepiece of digitization that offers our customer an efficient technical support and the possibility to solve many problems immediately, avoiding expensive downtimes and business interruptions, usually the causes of unnecessary costs. Digitalisation makes us part of a large online community, where the distributor, technician, end user, machines and IMESA services, without any space-linguistic barriers, are interacting, facilitating dialogue and collaboration”.

We are returning to the professional ironing field and we are moving to Inzago, right at the outskirts of Milan. The owner of Pony S.p.A., Paolo Fumagalli, is telling us about the importance of the digital in the laundry and particularly in the ironing process, “nowadays we need to focus more and more on efficiency moreover in the laundry, working on the digitalization of the production processes, with the highest efficiency results and the lowest operating costs. It is therefore necessary to develop the digital technologies tailored to the specific needs of this sector and for this reason, PONY has been continuously working for years in this direction.

All Pony machines equipped with PLC technology are designed to be easily connected directly to the laundry’s management software; a very useful system for creating automatic communication about production progress, garment status etc. Thanks to our EASY ACCESS 2.0 app, the use of PONY TOUCH TECHNOLOGY enables total control of the machine, even remotely. By subscribing free of charge to the PONY CLOUD platform, a perfect link between the machine and the business, the PONY customer receives continuous and accurate report on everything that happens to the machine: any alarms that have occurred during operation, the production carried out or the approach of any scheduled maintenance.

The PONY TOUCH TECHNOLOGY, offers: instant remote control of the machine operation and its productivity; an intuitive interface that facilitates the use of the machine, available in 6 different languages; a large 4,3” or 7” touch screen for easy and clear visualisation; simple and immediate diagnosis, even remotely, for an easier identification of the causes for any malfunctions. Finally, the possibility for remote software updates allows the machine to be continuously optimised. In addition, the machines 4.0 READY are part of the category of technologically advanced capital goods, with a granted tax credit”.

We conclude this extensive overview with Gabriele Giotto, the Sales and Product Manager of Grandimpianti ILE ALI – a producer of washing machines from Sospirolo, in the Belluno Alps. He explains us that “in all the foreign markets that I personally follow, I have noticed that the laundries are in most of the cases digitalized, as they have an electronic management and tracking system for the entire garment load that has to be processed, but also the detergent is controlled and dosed in the most appropriate way. Equipment consumption is also managed digitally, water, electricity and gas. Digital technology is an important element for achieving scale economies in the laundry sector.

When we enter the laundry and notice the presence on the machines equipped with touch screen panels that allow us to understand the workflow, the consumption monitoring and all the maintenance management… we find ourselves in front of a state-of-the-art laundry. Our equipment was born digital with touch screen control, based on an Android professional platform. Having a digital man/machine interface does not mean, however, that we have brought digital into the laundry, it means that we have simply moved from the mechanical button to the touch button, but this does not bring any process innovation. We as Grandimpianti have gone further, digital is not an accessory to the machine it is an integrated part of it.

We monitor all electrical, gas, steam and detergent consumption. We manage external measurements digitally (such as the flow meter) by connecting them directly to our system. We have made steps forward by also being able to manage the production batches, meaning that for each washing or drying cycle, the machine can receive inputs, like the soiling degree or the load type, in order to achieve an optimal washing quality. Our machines are all equipped as “standard” with digital systems. For Grandimpianti, in fact, the digital technology is not an accessory and either an option to be added to the machine.

Patrizia Terribile, the Managing Director of Grandimpianti, has also joined our interview. She emphasised how, today, “the basic idea is to consider the machines as data generators that help the user and the investor to carry out targeted analyses. The data allow us to measure and then, if necessary, to better understand the corrective actions required when facing nonperformances or possible improvements. All our machines are connected through WiFi and not Ethernet, and this facilitates everything, as there are no cables but antennas. No internal or external support is needed for data transmission. This applies to our water-washing machines and also to the tumble dryers, as both are digitally connected. Would it also be useful having digital technology also on the tumble dryer? A rhetorical question but essential for us: energy consumption must be under control and the life of the fabric must be guaranteed as long as possible. The drying process must be expertly and wisely managed”, concludes Patrizia Terribile. •

By Marzio Nava
DETERGO Magazine # February 2023