Viva las Vega: laundry equipment open house 25 May 2018

Laundry & Cleaning Today’s feature writer Jean Anderson reports on her trip to join Vega at their recent Open House event in the Netherlands.

From its 2001 origins on a kitchen table in the town of Oss in the Netherlands, Vega Systems has grown into a global laundry equipment brand that is set to keep on growing.

viva las vega team laundry machinery cleaning linen folding
The team representing Vega Systems UK in Oss. From left, general manager Steve Childs, area sales manager Adam Rider and Broadbent joint managing director Simon Broadbent.

Its success is signalled by its recent Open House, which drew hundreds of visitors from all over the world. Customers, dealers, friends and family travelled to Oss for the three-day event and also visited working laundries to see Vega’s innovative equipment up and running. 

The British arm of Vega was represented by the team from Vega Systems UK, which is a division of the Huddersfield-based manufacturing compa ny Broadbent. Vega Systems UK’s sole purpose is to exclusively market, sell and service the Vega brand in the UK and Ireland. 

Vega UK general manager, Steve Childs was there with area sales manager, Adam Rider and Simon Broadbent, joint managing director of Broadbent. Childs said that Vega Systems UK is very well supported by Vega and has an excellent team of engineers to service their customers. 

They welcomed clients from Express Linen, Abbey Glen and Royal Jersey, among others, to Oss. The invitation to Vega’s seventh Open House gave them the chance to see the factory and their range of flatwork, washing and ironing technology and enjoy Vega’s hospitality. 

As well as manufacturing their equipment, Vega also specialises in the design and redesign of complete new or existing laundries, so the Open House was a chance for guests to discuss their aspirations with the experts in an informal setting without a hard sell. The factory has been Vega’s HQ since 2005 and since then they have grown rapidly with three sizeable extensions to the original building. They also have space available for future expansion. They acquired BW Laundry Systems GmbH in 2012 and its factories in Germany and Thailand where Vega’s wash technology machines are built. 

Vega is represented in 50 countries with additional production facilities in Brazil, China and Japan where they build for the local market. Vega has developed at least five new machines a year, resulting in a complete range of feeders, folders, towel folders, conveyors and much more with growth averaging 15-20 per cent a year. 

With Childs as my guide, I toured the factory to see machines in action from the popular and versatile Transfeed S range to the impressive Smartpress RP frame press. Visitors also had the chance to see how Vega machines are constructed. Childs explained that parts for assembly come in ready prepared from their supplier, which is also located in Oss. “We try to design the machines so we have all the options and all the possibilities inside the machine. “The parts can be adapted depending on the specification.” 

A blanket folder, for instance, is the same concept as a sheet folder but can be used differently. “We try wherever possible to keep all parts standard. They are quite clever and very economical,” said Childs. Weaving through a large range of feeders, folders, ironers and more we reach Unit 3, a room filled with machines ready for shipping and on to the newest area, and Unit 4, where testing and preparation of machines is under way. These include an extensive range of towel folders, which are becoming increasingly popular as the volume of towels grows with the expansion of the spa, hotel and care sectors. 

Whilst these machines require some investment, Childs points out that savings in manpower will mean it will pay for itself in one to two years. Childs said all machines are carefully prepared and tested so the customer will not see any teething troubles. Vega’s gas heated ironing machines receive the same thorough level of testing. For instance, engineers were spending two days preparing a new Vegaroll 1600mm flatwork ironer, a new addition to the range which includes 800mm and 1200mm versions. 

Central to this testing is the boiler. Childs said: “The boiler is critical to the life and safety of the machine. “We really made sure we had a good partner who complied with all the legislation and all the standards. We have chosen to go for quality, which has a price, but it’s the right way to do it.” 

Vega’s aim for full flexibility is demonstrated by the addition of a separating machine which takes large volumes of sheets and separates them out thus replicating hand sorting. Childs said: “Put this in front of the ironer and it improves the efficiency by 15-20 per cent.” The tour’s finale is a complete set up for a Scandinavian customer investing in complete flexibility. It can deal with a variety of volumes such as two dedicated sheet lines that can do a 1000 pieces an hour.

This particular configuration of Vega machines can deal with sheets, duvets, small pieces and table linen and needs just four staff to operate it. “It’s incredibly flexible and able to deal with all sorts in different configurations,” said Childs. 

viva las vegas laundry cleaning linen machines feeders folders

There is a lot to see in Oss with visitors also given the opportunity so talk to some of Vega’s partners including Ustek RFID, a Turkish company, just breaking into the UK market, Thermopatch which specialises in labelling, transfers and emblems and Senso Technics, specialists in logistics and automation solutions. 

Also on hand for the occasion were Vega System Group’s new CEO Rogier Vos, founder, Vega Systems director of finishing technology, Ad Van Geffen, Bernd Thielen, is director of washing technology and Huub Hoffmann, head of international sales. 

Vos became CEO earlier this year after Van Geffen decided to take a different role in the area he enjoys most. He said: “I will take a step back from the whole organisation but I will continue to concentrate on sales and product development.” He and Vos had known each other for 20 years so he knew the new CEO was the perfect fit for Vega, with the knowledge and expertise to take the company to the next level. 

Vos said: “I’d been in the laundry industry for 14 years then went out for five years. In that time I saw some players had really made major steps in development and innovation. “There are also a few players in the market who still stick to the old systems and the old way of working. “I think there is a place for newer players in the market, like Vega, to grow.” 

He thinks the company has reached a ‘virtual ceiling’ at the moment and now is the time to put a bit more structure in the company ready for the next growth step. “We have a very strong dealer network around the world. We have our factories in the right places already and we have a product assortment which is up to date. “The main thing we have to do is use all those channels we have and the innovations we already have and expand in that way.” 

Vega staff put the Transfeed S through its paces

The first step is building a stronger structure and continuing to innovate. Vos has spent the last five years reorganising companies, especially manufacturing and engineering companies. He says that period has given him an insight into what is happening in other industries and how that can be translated for the laundry industry. 

For example, he said: “Last year I was with a company selling robotics in fruit and vegetable processing. You can see how that development can be used in other markets. “In the next few years you will see that robotics also entering the laundry market.” He plans to continue the approach Vega has always taken. “The culture of Vega is to be open, to put our cards on the table and never walk away without a solution and that is what customers like.“ The big brands in the market are not able to act like this. “We see the opportunity to grow. I think we can double turnover while still being an underdog in the market; there is a place for us. 

He has been happy with the Open House which started with a meeting of dealers from around the world. “The dealer meeting was a good start. The dealers like it that they are in direct contact with us. They can give a lot of feedback.” Thursday was their busiest day ever at an Open House, partly due to changing the date to spring from autumn. 

The total number attending was around 500, “almost double what we have had previously,” said Hoffmann. Said Van Geffen: “Before Easter is a perfect time. What impresses me is that people have come from all over the world.” Vos adds: “They made the trip to Oss to see us and to see the equipment in combination with laundry visits to our customers who can give a testimonial right away.” 

He has seen a change of approach from many customers: “I see more and more people asking ‘please Vega, please design the products I want to make (my business) a Vega laundry’. “In the past it was pieces of equipment we were selling and now it is an integrated process. People are looking for an integrated solution. “We are also not a machine manufacturer any more but a solution provider.” 

Vega partner up with suppliers with core expertise that can be used to improve their products. “Also, in the customer chain we are helping our dealers become more successful with the customers. “In the last few days I’ve had a lot of meetings with customers and what they like about Vega is that we are able to understand the needs of the customer.” 

Vega is keen to put integrated thinking at the heart of the business and be a ‘knowledge centre’ for the whole chain. Meanwhile, no one at Vega is concerned about the UK leaving the EU. Hoffmann said: “In the end there may be some import duties but their European rivals will have import duties as well. “We may decide to assemble machines in Britain as we have a partner already.”

Vos concludes: “What is good about the UK is that we have the right people there – a service organisation with a long history already. They are capable of maintaining the installed base we have and attracting new customers.”

You’ll find a hard copy of this article in the May edition of Laundry and Cleaning Today. Subscribe here for your copy:

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