REPORTAGE –Workwear and industrial laundry, a market with great potential

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As far as industrial washing of workwear is concerned, Italy, if compared to e.g. France or Germany, presents marginal figures that refer to rather a small market share. Nevertheless, the figures analyzed thoroughly show that something might be changing here. According to the data published by Istat in 2016 (the most recent data available) and
brilliantly analyzed by Assosistema (Confindustria) in May last year, the industrial sector specialized in work uniforms processing and manufacturing has witnessed an increase in market demand over the last years. The data published by Istat have traced a picture
of the sector with 600 production units, mainly family businesses or companies with few employees that in terms of occupation translate to slightly more than 3000 workers. What generates hope is the fact that the market demand is growing. Actually, in 2017 (apart from the research by Istat), its total value was 340 million euro which translates to 8 more points if compared to the previous year. If we used a magnifying glass to look at import
and export, we would be able to see the growth of 15% and 23% respectively if compared
to the previous year. To sum up, in comparison to other Europe an countries, Italy ranks seventh while Germany has been keeping the first place.
Another relevant issue, in regard to laws and regulations, concerns the washing of work uniforms with the cost to be covered by employers; the issue has been discussed ever since the previous safety regulation (D.Lgs. 626/94). The conclusion that can be reached here derives from regulation D.Lgs. 81/2008 and from the numerous verdicts pronounced by the Court of Appeal that has stated that if workwear protects a worker and it should get
soiled as a consequence of a contact with harmful substances, powders, dangerous chemical agents or dangerous biological agents, the workwear is then equivalent to PPE and therefore it is the employer who will be charged with the costs of its treatment
and washing. Consequently, workers are obliged to wear work uniforms while at work. Furthermore, regulation art. 74, comma 1, del D.lgs. 81/2008 defines personal protective equipment (PPE) as “any type of equipment destined to be worn and kept by a worker in order to protect them against one or more risks that could lead to putting in danger their safety or health during the working hours”. It is appropriate to ask a question on workwear
washing: whose responsibility is it then?

Law D.lgs. 81/2008 is not very precise about it. Article 77, comma 4, states that “employers are to maintain the efficiency of PPE and assure its hygienic conditions through maintenance, treatment, fixing and the necessary replacements following the indications
provided by manufacturers”. The washing of PPE is not specifical ly mentioned, yet, if PPE refers to garments, their effective hygienic conditions and maintenance are obviously obtained through washing.
Communication no 34 by the Ministry of Labour dated 26 April 1999 will help us to better clarify the entire issue: “it is the employer’s task to provide for the PPE “cleaning” regularly. The washing can be carried out directly at the company (in this case, employers need to consider all the risks connected to workwear treat ment) or by outsourcing it to specialized businesses.
Let us move now towards the economic aspect of the production and the companies that manufacture goods and provide services in regard to the workwear market segment.
We are interviewing Stenilio Morazzini, the General Manager at Montega Srl, a producer of chemical products for industrial laundries, who is telling us in detail all about textiles, “textile analysis, prior to textiles washing, is obligatory in order to obtain an optimal treatment of detergents and the cycle fixing stage. For this reason, Montega® Chemical solution has given its maximum attention to all the stages of a washing process.
All the sector operators know perfectly well how difficult it is to remove stains from fabrics: oils and various types of grease, blood, etc. Thanks to the washing sheets designed by Montega® Chemical solution, using all our experience and direct analysis, a washing cycle will follow well-defined stages. The stages allow to remove the stains, and in some cases, will prevent fabrics from soil contamination. The washing sheets have been tested by technical and chemical staff in charge who operate with Montega® team.
Montega® Chemical solution offers a dedicated workwear washing product line that includes the Clean SG Twice and the Montex Forte Liquido. Their action allows to recover
work uniforms, otherwise disposed of, so that they can be used again”.
Marco Niccolini, the Sales Director at Renzacci S.p.A., a producer of washing machines based in Città di Castello, frames the topic by explaining that, “we have observed an increase in the interest expressed towards both traditional washers and the dry
cleaning with the use of new, alternative solvents as far as workwear treatment goes. In this way, we are looking at two advantages: the degreasing and cleaning power that removes the most difficult stains thanks to a highly effective natural solvent, and the cleaning process that uses a solvent that is neither toxic nor harmful.
What is more, specialized laundries requesting our eco-compatible machines, are perfectly in line with the strict regulations, e.g. on water purification (whose treatment determines the increase in the running costs of a business) because our machines work with
a closed circuit. Our range consists of a series of dry-cleaning machines dedicated to workwear treatment with the use of natural solvents, Excellence Industrial series, while as far as washing goes, we propose our high spin series HS Super and LX Industrial with optimized spin.

Moving on to the production of ironing equipment, we meet Corinna Mapelli, a co-owner of Trevil who explains how “the market of workwear in Italy does not only refer to large industrial groups but it also reflects smaller businesses working in the sector of tourism and holiday resorts. Medium-sized laundries are quite common and widespread, and they often constitute the type of businesses that Trevil supplies. Apart from the classic laundry press, another interesting product we offer is “Princess Ultra”. The unit presents significant versatility that allows to process all types of workwear (trousers excluded) such as outerwear, shirts, uniforms, scrubs, robes, etc. The product is also perfectly suitable for small-medium sized laundries and it can finish both dry and wet garments. Recently, the product has been further developed and improved as we have introduced a system that
allows to control and optimize the finishing of hems. It adapts to both jackets and shirts (by adjusting the tensioning of the garment). What is more, the machine has been equipped with a patented rotating front clamp that allows to switch from finishing a
wet garment to a dry garment easily and effortlessly by simply rotating the clamp without having toreplace the accessory. Princess Ultra offers a perfect solution for garments finishin
as it can be combined with a cuff and collar press which translates to an ideal finishing performance.
Christeyns, a Belgian multinational company with the Italian headquarters in Pessano con
Bornago has made gentle chemistry become its mission by launching the Cool Chemistry, a
high performing system for both hospitality and health care linen treatment. “With the development of some of the innovative chemical substances, today Christeyns is ready to offer similar results also in the field of stain removal from white, blue and high visibility workwear”, says Livio Bassan, the Managing Director of Christeyns Italia. The formulation is the same: excellent, enzymes-based detergents that combined with smart washing processes, the optimal pH and lower temperatures (55°C) will perform their task from the very first washing and reduce the necessity of having to re-wash the garments significantly. Cool Chemistry for workwear can be used for all types of garments. The extraordinary stain removal performance, Bassan underlines, is possible thanks to the innovative surfactants of Cool Chemistry and their high soil suspension capacity together with the low accumulation property which is sustained by a combination of specific enzymes for stain removal. Also, a good synergy with powerful sequestrants assures an optimal suspension of soil and prevents the formation of iron hydroxide that could lead to the greying of linen. The result? Exceptionally clean garments, fresh and vivid colors, and the lifecycle of fabrics prolonged. Moreover, the crucial advantage of Cool Chemistry is that it contributes to the improvement of linen flow in laundry: thanks to lower temperatures, linen sorting decreases. This means that the clients’ linen does not have to be sorted and there is less necessity for transferring it inside the laundry which considerably affects and improves the internal logistics”.
Matteo Gerosa, the National Sales Manager at Jensen Italia, a producer of washing machines for laundry, explains how “in regard to workwear, JENSEN group presents itself as a partner able to provide a global approach with innovative solutions.
Starting from linen sorting, through the solutions offered by our partner Inwatec, to the recognition of garments by RFID or video cameras, we are able to perfectly manage the
stages of sorting including the operations of pockets checking. The latter is carried out by the X-ray technology, an automatic system that has marked a turning point as far as the operators’ safety is concerned. It has produced optimal results and led to a potential further commercial development deriving from the use of the images for our clients towards the service users. Washing processes are carried out by our new range of continuous batch washers UniQ. More precisely, thanks to the static rinse model, FlexRinse and due to a complete flexibility, we are able to reach optimal results both from the point of view of the washing quality and the consumption of water and chemical products. Our linen movement and sorting system, Metricon is the favourite solution chosen by the main players of the workwear sector.
Thanks to the multiple solutions available combined with the maximum flexibility in terms of the use, it is a perfect solution for a gradual growth of the plant in its various stages as far as workwear treatment goes”, adds Matteo Gerosa.
Stella Fumagalli, Marketing & Communication Manager at Pony S.p.A., a producer of ironing machines based in Inzago near Milan, explains how “the finishing of work uniforms undoub
tedly represents a profitable and interesting market opportunity that PONY has been able to seize promptly by designing many of its machines for workwear finishing. As far as dry-cleaning businesses are concerned, PONY proposes a wide range of products suitable for the ironing of all types of workwear and uniforms.
The two crown jewels of PONY’s range, Eagle 2.0 and Angel 2.0 are both ideal for the finishing of uniforms worn by medical staff, doctors, nurses or chefs, with a high productive capacity that gets up to 50 pieces as far as Eagle goes and 60 in case of Angel. Also, a va
riant of Eagle 2.0 with a higher dummy model is ideal for the finishin of longer uniforms.
LAV SERIES ironing presses, with an optimal quality/price ratio, are available with boards of different shapes that match the finishing of various types of workwear: shirts, uniforms, pants, etc., whereas finisher 404 is perfect for the ironing of outerwear in general including uniforms, blouses, shirts or chef’s uniforms. Using a switch, the machine can be set to either finis wet garments (washed in water and centrifuged) or jackets made of fabrics used for work uniforms, e.g. hotel staff uniforms. As far as work uniforms go, another interesting proposal by PONY is Formplus, a tensioning finisher able to “give back” the
right shape to a garment after it was washed in water (outerwear and jackets).

Finally, we are consulting Valentina Fontana, the Marketing Manager at Ecolab Italia, a textile care chemical industry. Fontana underlines how “Ecolab’s objective is to focus on a washing process in a single solution that will simultaneously allow to remove the most difficult stains and protect the most delicate fabrics.
What is more, Ecolab considers safety a priority. The approach and effort to reduce the risks have always been linked to the rese arch on washing solutions that would help preserve the technical characteristics of work uniforms leaving them intact. The range of
Performance Industrial products developed for the washing and maintenance of workwear has now been enriched by the technology of the Turbo Color Protect solution. This new technology prevents, in case of the retroreflective materials of the PPE, such as the safety uniforms certified ISO EN 20471, the color transfer from the coloured part of the garment onto the retroreflective bands and it guarantees the safety of the workwear for the operators.
The technology of Turbo Color Protect, used in every washing, helps prevent the color transfer and soil and colour fixing onto the technical material of the retroreflective bands”.

At the closure of this Reportage on workwear, we can come to the conclusion, confirmed by the last edition of “Texprocess”, a trade show of the sector held in Frankfurt from 14 to 17 May 2019, that it will always be more and more difficult, in many cases, to distinguish a work uniform from everyday clothes because their design, elegance, comfort and the functionality will allow to overcome this rigid separation. •