“Ten years ago,” said Dharamsey, “a conventional washer-extractor needed about 25 litres per kg of linen; this has now fallen to 14 litres per kg of linen.” Less water equals less energy requirements; for ADD, this has led to 30% savings on fuel and 20% on chemicals.
In 2020, what are the innovative tweaks manufacturers use to lessen dependence on water? For IFB, it is its patent Hydrofinity technology that is a game-changer. “By using nylon beads,” shared Krishnamoorthy, “we reduce water consumption by 40-50%, Since friction is also reduced, we increase garment life by up to 30%.”
Elangovan is a big proponent of adopting tunnel washers to protect our environment. “They use only 4-6 litres of water per kg, and reduce chemical usage by half. Thus, less steam and less fuel are required.” Not to forget, as Abhinav Arya reminded us, that machines could and should recycle rinsewater in the first wash or pre-wash.
Dixit had a more controversial take. He said, “It is a myth that any laundry service provider can provide water saving solutions. If the latter is possible, it is only because of smart machine programming.”
For example, if coloured linen is being washed, then no bleach is used, one cycle is reduced, and we save water.
By changing temperature, time of cycle, and chemical quantity, the water requirement can be altered. Longer the cycle, less is the water required. By programming a machine correctly, Dixit said, water usage could be cut by 40- 50%. And by increasing reliance on a machine’s mechanical action — which removes more water and chemicals — the number of rinses required also comes down. Instead of using three rinse cycles for white towels, two, or even one can be used.
Better technology, better results
“From automatic two- or threestation feeders to automatic bedsheet folders, commercial laundries are snapping up automated machines at every level of the laundry process,” said Arora. Every exhibitor we spoke to had a similar example to offer.
Dharamsey showed us a dryer which — instead of having either axial or trans flow like conventional products — has both. A moisture sensor is also mounted in the door. Dual panelling with an insulated layer helps conserve heat, while a heat capture system recirculates heat within the dryer, all of which helps cut down drying time from 45-50 minutes to just 25-30 minutes.
IFB is one of the largest service providers to the Indian Railways. It picks up used bed-sheets, blankets and pillow covers from AC coaches and returns them the same day, fully cleaned, by employing folder machines which produce neatly folded linen that only needs to be placed inside a packet. Neeraj Sharma, Director Global Solutions revealed: “Customers have even started using shirt finishers and pant finishers. They believe in investing in standardisation of good quality.” Fabcare extends digitisation to even the final step; Arya said: “By scanning bar-codes, our conveyor system stores 800 pieces in space which could only store 200 pieces, cutting down storage cost, which is much in demand from commercial laundries.”
Gupta explained the details of a laundry technology that can replace ETP plants. He said: “While laundry equipment may cost up to Rs12 lakhs totally, an ETP plant will cost a minimum of Rs15 lakhs. As an alternative, we have a technology which — if a machine used 6,000 litres of water a day, recycles 5,800 litres, and deposits the remainder as sludge. This has the added advantage of not needing a separate person to operate it.”
Automation and profitability
According to Sharma, digitisation can help those struggling with standards and SoPs, and by helping businesses handle all kinds of loads, it makes them more profitable. But how affordable are these cutting-edge solutions? “For 20 years, automation was available, but not affordable for Indian clients,” said Elangovan. “We have been engaged in continuous R & D to bring the cost down. And we are not pushing solutions used by European clients on our Indian ones. Instead, we recommend what works for Indian entrepreneurs.”
Naming numbers, he said that two decades ago, an entire tunnel laundry set up would cost $6 million; now, the figure is at $0.5-1 million. Capital costs were earlier 15-20%, but by arranging low-interest loans from foreign banks, manufacturers are making machines both affordable and profitable for Indian laundry-owners.
All of the above trends are driven by a single factor — the increasing costs of manpower. It is to save labour costs and reduce dependence on manual interventions that manufacturers are automating machines and digitising systems for owners. Since labour costs are unlikely to come down any time in the future, one can confidently expect even more automation to make its presence felt in the laundry industry in the years to come.