For the workwear treatment it is essential a close and virtuous cooperation between the machinery producers (washing and finishing machines), textiles and detergent operators. Logistics and timely tracking of garments improves and completes the process and, moreover, the organization of work. There are various treatments for the soiled garments, depending also from which sector they arrive. Industry, healthcare and Ho.Re.Ca. are opposite worlds with completely different treatment needs. The role of mechanical action and cleaning, properly combined, makes the difference. Another key element is the compliance with the legislative requirements, and the treatments certification request for some professional fields is now just a matter of fact. A market, that of the workwear care treatment, that needs to be properly analysed in all its multi-facets

We are approaching this specific market segment together with one of the most important and innovative logistics specialists in items tracking. We meet Maurizio Casol, the Director of the Automation Division of Zucchetti Centro Sistemi. “There is a turmoil on the workwear market in Italy especially concerning specific industry sectors such as food, pharmaceuticals and other sectors that require a special and industrial workwear treatment that cannot be entrusted to the end user. This includes, obviously, the treatment of uniforms in the health care sector, on which we will not dwell, as the professional washing, sanitization procedures and traceability of use have been established as indispensable elements already for long time.

As far as the industry is concerned, after being slowed down by the pandemics period, the work volume has regained its full capacity in all sectors that have outsourced the uniforms care service especially, as mentioned, food and pharmaceuticals. Our perception is that, in the Italian industry, this service is not so much widespread yet among the large manufacturing companies, but it concerns specific markets or particular niches more developed from this point of view. Equally, for the foreign industrial sector, in our opinion, the situation is quite similar compared to the Italian logistics, we are referring particularly to the areas of the World where we are present with our automations and traceability systems (United States, Far East and Southern Europe).

We can expect a gradual increase regarding the market demand, that might presumably arrive as a boost due to the legislative requirements, or due to an increased awareness of the industrial treatment of the garments and, above all, the computerized management of their life cycle, as already happened in some other sectors. So, which is our contribution as ZCS in this field? First and foremost, the classic tracking of the workwear in all the logistics that make the right uniform available to each operator at the right time. In this sense, we have an important role in the operational support of the industry, for managing the equipment of each operator in a logic of assigning and managing the workwear utilization claims, closely linked to each operator.

We are playing an important advisory role, to direct the customers towards avoiding excessive customization, to an automated management of personal equipment (preventing each operator from hoarding it), using already sized material instead of the customized one, to reduce both the circulating and the stock of new and sanitized items, deposited in some locker room, cupboard, or closet. In the units where we are present, these traceability logistics are applied in a comprehensive manner, from the loading of the distributors, to the automated picking-up of the clean, with equivalent credit discharge, to reloading when each garment is returned, after use, in the collection cabinets, that are also automated and equipped with RFID technology.

Our technology is governed by integrated, web-based management software structured for cloud operation and interface management with any customer’s management system. There is no operational limitation, either related to the type of material or to the way of re-delivery (hanging, folded, etc.) Another important innovation that we are now having and developing, which is already effectively operating in some important companies, is related to the detection of the passage of the people with their equipment (clothing, but also personal protective equipment) through a certain number of gates, strategically positioned in the proximity of different departments and areas of the company, with the expressed purpose of NOT tracking people but of detecting the material passing through these gates.

For example, by installing this kind of gates in the pharmaceutical, food, and health care industries, we prevent a certain person who has a specific equipment valid only for a determined department from making the mistake of passing into other departments of the company with the inappropriate equipment. A guarantee of the activity and operator’s safety. Such technology is used in wall or ceiling-mounted reading systems (smart boxes) that detect, as mentioned, the passage of textile items or PPE worn by the operators, but it is also used in more complex systems, consisting of a compass with interlocked doors, where it is made the detection of the tagged material, so a person can pass only if it has the necessary equipment, if not, it must exit and return after having it (there is, therefore, not just a warning signal).

We are talking, in fact, about an additional work organization tool: not only the warehouse and material management for the laundry and the user, but also the logistics control of the material flows inside the companies (appropriately presented to all operators). Then concluding the conversation about potential developments in applied technologies, we must certainly mention the deep learning systems within clean delivery and dirty pick-up of the equipment, targeted for processing pickup and loading data to autonomously update inventories not only in the case of the warehouses, as we are already doing it, but also for the individual distributors. Increased service punctuality, collection and processing of the management data directed towards a higher efficiency, reduced working time, reduced and optimized time for the inventories in all the warehouses and checkrooms possible, reduced/elimination of customers claims, as we are reasoning based on objective data and not on feelings, and, in the end, a significant impact on the total operational costs.

We will move now to the professional detergents and chemical industry and we talk with Ruggero Sammarco, the Technical and Business Development Supervisor of Christeyns Italia S.p.A. “In Italy, the workwear treatment market is increasingly aligning to that of the European market. The safety requirements are driving the entire industrial sector to look for specialized washing and rental services capable of handling this kind of items that often, especially the PPE, require a specialized processing, so much so that the legislation doesn’t allows the treatment of these garments at home for two reasons: to avoid ruining the garment but also to avoid the contamination risks. Even before the pandemics we had already seen an increasing demand for detergents and additives, suitable for this specific market.

During the health crisis years there has been a slowdown regarding the demand, but for the next five years we are expecting an intensive, structural growth in this sense. This trend is being more and more propelled also due to the Ecolabel certification criteria. In addition, there is an ongoing integration between the different players from different fields, that concerns especially the transfer of information with the textile supply chain, mainly regarding PPE. The textile sector in cooperation with technical certified organisations plays a key role in this particular area, so that the specific tests are carried out in relation with the technical product requirements. The collaboration must be necessarily extended to the large companies supporting the detergents industry.

At the same time, as Christeyns, we are supporting trainings of our main technical staff to apply the best maintenance and processing techniques for all these complex items for the customer. Our role in consultancy is extremely important. Christeyns has developed dedicated treatment lines, depending on the industry. Which is the method that we use for a new customer? First, we carry out a screening of the materials to be treated, and their destination of use. Additionally, we are specifically asking for the certifications they have and the regulations they are certified for. This is followed by a detailed discussion about the materials they are made from, and also their accessories.

Based on this analysis, from the variety of our products, divided by lines, we are choosing the most suitable ones. Sometimes, in the case of some companies, we carry out extensive testing before giving the green light to the actual treatment for arriving to an optimal combination of effectiveness, efficiency, expected quality, and a long-lasting service. I would also add, especially in the garment’s treatment world, the need to provide a wide-ranging consultancy for the inlet water treatment, the water suitable for washing, but also the outlet water and particularly on the water purification systems. Simply unthinkable things until 10 years ago, that today we are able to do in Christeyns, thanks to the new professional skills that we have achieved.”

Eleonora Cartabbia, the Marketing Manager of Macpi, a company dealing with technologies for the garments industry points out that, “regarding the workwear treatment, as Macpi, we are working especially with the industrial laundries that are working with the healthcare sector and RSAs. For the laundries that are collaborating with hospitals, we have specially designed and produced specific machines, able to treat cotton in the best possible way, such as the 290 model for shirts finishing, the 295 model for coats, or the 320 for trousers. The final result of the pressed garments obtained with these machines, provides a better and more adequate ironing quality than using some other finishing methods.

Cotton is used mainly in Europe, but in America, where the synthetic fabrics prevail in workwear, the Macpi Tunnel Finisher is being used, providing the treatment of large volumes of garments, at lower costs. We are also bringing some changes in the cotton ironing process, enhancing and perfecting the performance of the finishing tunnel, as we expect that the next few years will be marked up by this trend for automated ironing lines for large volumes of garments. In Italy there is a big tendency for outsourcing the workwear care service even more than it was a few years ago, especially in Ho.Re.Ca. sector. In the Arab countries, for example, there is exactly the opposite effect, large hotel facilities with large amounts of workforce are tending to create their own in-house laundry.”

When asked about the market trends, Antonio Ciccarella, the Laundry Division Manager of ÈCOSÌ, a company producing detergents, explains: “With the pandemics, the demand for industrial washing of the workwear and for ensuring their proper sanitization, has increased; as consequence, the professional laundries are addressing to us more frequently for specialized washing systems. It is a market segment that will be consolidated, as most of the workwear are not only simple garments, but PPE – Personal Protective Equipment. Therefore, it is necessary to apply an effective treatment even on the most difficult stains, but one that affects the work clothing as less as possible, delaying its replacement. With double advantages: preserving the clothing safety properties, while caring for the PPE with cost savings and less waste of resources.

The Laundry Division of ÈCOSÌ optimizes the washing processes chemically and mechanically, taking into account three key points: making the workwear last as long as possible, the technical needs of the customer, and the environmental impact. Eco-sustainability has always been at the centre of strategic decisions. The added value in this case, is provided by the use of our Ecolabel-certified detergents, an European Union eco-label quality. More specifically, we have developed the Elba Multicomponent methodology, which includes detergents and additives of vegetal origin and which are RSPO – Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, certified (with sustainably grown palm oil). Besides being biodegradable, they are specially designed for highly soiled fabrics like the workwear; for instance, the Elba enzymatic detergent that has a strong degreasing action. The systems that we are offering have a proven disinfectant efficiency, meaning that the service quality is perfectly integrated with a comprehensive vision.”

“Market perspectives regarding the workwear care treatment are definitely showing a positive trend.” We are discussing the subject matter with Alessandro Rolli, the Managing Director of Kannegiesser Italia. “Technical garment is increasingly in high demand, not intended just as a work uniform itself or that meeting the aesthetics requirements, but it is linked to a need for safety. In this light, uniforms can only be provided by the employer. In the healthcare sector, the Covid period transformed and boosted the garments industry’s demand in terms of volumes. So, according to the market evaluation, all the indicators are showing a growing trend.

Similarly, also in Italy, we are progressively approaching the figures of the Central and Northern European countries. From the technological point of view, speaking mainly about the industry, the complexity that workwear represents leads to a complex evaluation of machines installations with highly customised systems for each customer that makes part of an industrial laundry sector, including particularly elaborated water recovery systems. The type of water to be recovered, in addition to the distinction between alkaline and acidic, also involves a difference between coloured and non-coloured linen or between hot and cold water. As far as processes go, there are studies that certify that a longer garment soaking time inside the finishing tunnel (such as our XMT Tunnel) at lower temperatures will prolong the garment lifespan significantly, which reflects a kinder approach to fibres treatment.

Another limitation is that a work uniform is worn by a single person, especially within the industry, with a specific size in a specific department. When it comes to the health sector, there is a possibility of customization by identifying that particular garment with its wearer or simply by providing the hospital with a number of sizes to suit different needs. In the latter case, the matching of garments and the logistics phase are less restrictive, and in some cases, this is handled directly by the hospital. Industrial garments treatment involves a higher washing complexity if compared to the hospital uniforms. In the food and pharmaceutical industry, some customers require a certified washing cycle, which means that a batch must be treated at a certain temperature and in a special way.

Regarding the treatment diversity, Kannegiesser offers a wide range of machines. Our PowerSwing washer extractors have a bag-loading system and are characterized by a great mechanical force; they are specific machines used in heavy industry uniforms treatments. Speaking about workwear, our HighClean dryers have been especially designed to treat uniforms used in environments with the presence of microfiltered air, e.g., in the sector of integrated processors where a grain of dust can simply ruin an integrated circuit. In such cases, the environment must be unpolluted.”

We are talking with Paolo Fumagalli, the President of Pony S.p.A., a company located in Inzago at the outskirts of Milan, that produces professional ironing equipment, who emphasizes how, “following the pandemics, then after three years particularly critical for all the production activities, we are expecting an increase in the demand for the workwear washing services. In fact, there are more and more companies that are paying a higher attention to their proper hygiene, and this awareness coincides with the always growing trend of providing them to their employees for enhancing their brand and image, but also for fulfilling the regulations if they are classified as PPE.

With this increased amount of workwear on the market, the importance of choosing the proper washing process will also increase. This situation is the perfect opportunity for the industrial and professional laundries that are able to guarantee an efficient hygiene, finishing and sanitization of the garments. For taking maximum advantage of this opportunity, it would be useful to understand which are the most demanded values of the customers depending also on the sector they belong: for example, for professions in the hospitality industry, aesthetics is preferred to functionality, and, therefore, the work uniforms must suggest professionalism and elegance. On the other hand, when it comes to the health sector, the uniforms must be breathable and easy to be cleaned, so it is necessary to guarantee their hygiene, comfort and efficiency.

With this in mind, Pony offers the best solutions for every type of uniform. For the water-washed shirts, medical coats, chef’s uniforms, and nurse’s jackets, the most suitable finishing machines that we are offering are: our 404 shirt and universal form finisher or the high-performant EAGLE 2.0 shirt finisher, designed with 130 cm MAXI yoke, capable of ironing both small shirts and medical coats in less than 45 seconds without the need of using the tumble dryer. For the dry-cleaned outerwear, we recommend the traditional MG universal shirt finisher, while for the waterwashed outerwear, the FORMPLUS tensioning form finisher is the perfect solution.

For both water-washed and dry-cleaned trousers, the MPT-DL topper is the optimal solution as it perfectly presses trousers of any size and fabric. The presses with polished upper buck ensure, thanks to the 160° hot plate, the elimination of all germs while offering the high ironing quality that only the ironing presses can guarantee. And last but not least, Pony is offering ozone machines suitable for sanitizing both workwear, such as the OZOCAB cabin with Corona discharge ozone generator that can inactivate viruses, but also for sanitizing the environment like OZOCUBO ozone generator that can restore the air of a room.

We continue now with Renzacci S.p.A., a company producing professional dry-cleaning and water-washing machines and we talk to Marco Niccolini, General Sales and Mkt Director: “we are assisting in the recent years to an increase in the number of the customers choosing the dry-cleaning services, thanks to the alternative solvents to perchloroethylene that are offering the customer the advantage of being able to pay a service that is fully part of a sustainable economy with the elimination of toxic – harmful washing systems.

This has a major importance because in the treatment of the workwear, you are involved in market segments where the customer, in addition to the washing quality, is becoming more interested in protecting the environment. And since the natural solvents are biodegradable and hypoallergenic, they clearly have a minor impact on the environment. As Renzacci, we have developed the plastic guard filter – a microplastic filtration system that manifested a high interest for our customers, and that we have presented at EXPOdetergo International 2022. It was the right choice for us, not only from an ethical point of view, but also commercially rewarding.

We have also developed a series of environmental protection measurements, for both dry-cleaning and water-washing. As for example, the Eco series that have a reduced energy consumption from 16% to 20% per washing cycle. Finally, and not to be neglected is the health sector, so much so that even for this specific sector, we have designed and built a sanitary barrier washing machine of the WB series, which is not only limited in ensuring the disinfection of the garments but also their sterilization.

We conclude our extensive analysis by returning to a company that produces finishing equipment, Battistella B.G. based in Rossano Veneto, between Vicenza and Treviso, asking Michele Battistella, the Sales Manager of the company, to share with us his opinion about this specific market segment. “When it comes to ironing workwear, we are certainly referring to large, structured work environments, like hotels and hospitals, where the quality of ironing has to cope with the large volume of garments to be ironed. In the past, the accommodation facilities, especially those in Italy as they were mostly family-run businesses, sometimes have paid a smaller attention to the aesthetical importance of the work uniforms.

Recently, however, this trend has been changed, in fact nowadays the situation has evolved, the customer is used to seek perfection also in the image and not only in the functionality and services. This being said, the industrial laundries must therefore be equipped with machinery that can cope with the large amount of work resulting from the workwear treatment. Battistella company it is putting at the disposal of its customers, in the Battistella catalogue, two ad hoc machines for this type of process: – Zeus, the universal finisher for ironing the upper body part garments (shirts, T-shirts, jackets, overalls) – Sirius, trousers press for ironing trousers of any fabric.

Both machines are equipped with an intelligent touch screen, allowing the total control of the machine and of the working cycle. In fact, among many functions, our machines have also the possibility to create and save the working programs (memorizing steaming and blowing timings). A very useful function when the quantity and variety of the garments to be ironed is very high. In addition, the smart touch screen stores the daily ironing cycles, ensuring an accurate control of the number of the work uniforms ironed,” concludes Michele Battistella. •

by Marzio Nava
DETERGO Magazine # March 2023