Getting shirty with your customers

The world is getting back to normal. A new normal. For some that means a return to the workplace and for others, a change in where they work and what they wear. And that means a rising level of demand for the laundering and pressing of shirts. While there has been a change in consumer behaviour when it comes to buying goods and services, laundry is a localised service – certainly so for the private individual compared to a business user. This means opportunities for those serving local communities. So, what has changed in the world of shirt finishing? Adam Bernstein finds out.

Sermac offers the VEIT Universal Finisher 8319 which suits small and medium sized laundries

The Böwe SP-20 from Sermac offers ‘press and blow’ hybrid finishing

Service Machinery Limited

Stephen Pick of Service Machinery Limited (SML) knows that shirts have “proved to be an excellent opportunity for drycleaners to drive additional turnover.” Of course, to take advantage of this means buying new equipment.

Pick explains that shirt machines are based on one of two technologies – ‘plate press’ or ‘blowing’ and each has its advantages: “Plate press machines have greater heat capacity therefore they can dry a shirt quicker; they press a shirt against a polished ironing surface which on some fabrics gives the glazed finish some customers are looking for.” But he warns that they need careful loading as a crease left when loading takes a lot of correcting later, and quite possibly a re-wash. Blowing machines, on the other hand, “cope better with smaller shirts and the shirt is available to the operator to adjust and form while finishing.” Of the machines he supplies, he talks first of VEIT, a German manufacturer.

The first he mentions is the Universal Finisher 8319, “an ideal machine for small and medium-sized laundries… spin-dry shirts, blouses, smocks or chef jackets are finished quickly without creases by a hot-air fan.” He adds that drycleaned garments, such as jackets and coats, can be finished on this machine.”

Next is the “high performance” shirt finisher SF26 which Pick says is utilised mainly in laundries and textile care plants with higher shirt volumes. It features a low construction height and a retractable front clamp, and it’s quoted as handling up to 45 shirts per hour of different sizes, materials and shapes and requires only one operator. The unit comes with a colour touchscreen display to access the SF26’s many programmes. In describing how it works, Pick says that “the operator can select pre-programmed settings or make adjustments to the steam and air times, select long or short sleeved and change tensioning settings as required, or select the fully automatic dry sensor which makes sure the shirt is dry before completing the cycle and, perhaps more importantly, will not over-dry.”

There is an optional 2157 hand finisher iron for the 8319 and SF26 which can be used for ‘touch-up’ during the finishing cycle. Another option is the VEIT 8900 shirt press which Pick says is designed for laundries and textile care plants handling high volumes. Of this he says that “moving transversely from above the press plate with fused heating system, it provides temperature distribution, saves energy and achieves a stretching effect downwards.” It can handle 60 shirts per hour. And then there’s the VEIT collar and cuff press 8905 with vertical closing and built-in suction that holds the shirt in place during loading. Says Pick: “One operator can process shirts on both the collar and cuff press and shirt machine at the same time. This overlap of functions is key to efficient processing.” Not everyone wants a VEIT product in which case, Pick suggests the Böwe SP-20 shirt press which, he says, is new for 2021. “Developed by Böwe, the SP-20 offers ‘press and blow’ hybrid finishing. It uses a hot plate to the front and shoulder area, with high pressure hot air forming of the sleeves and back.” He says that the hybrid approach provides “quality finishing at a more affordable price.”

Overall, Pick reckons that “Böwe’s innovations reduce steam consumption and heat and noise for an improved working environment.” Further, the SP-20 features a tall-slim body form that allows the finishing of shirts from XS to XXL. Also, the hot plates are Teflon coated for reduced shine on dark coloured shirts. A matching collar and cuff press is also available.

Ultimately, Pick says that SML has “experience of supporting customers during the decision-making process, selecting the right machine and technology for their needs and also after the sale when it is key that technical support, service and spare parts are easily available and affordable.”

Tex ID

Like others in the sector, Tabish Aiman, managing director of TexID, is seeing a slow but steady increase in pre-Covid buying patterns. “The high-standard shirt service disappeared in late March 2020 – almost overnight. But as this is now returning, we should examine what the best qualities of shirt finishing equipment are required to stay ahead.”

His first comment is that the hard steel outer buck has several draw backs “including the potential for broken buttons and an uneven colour finish. In contrast, he talks of Carlo Barbanti, “the originator of the soft buck shirt finisher who decided on a distinctly different route.” Aiman says that by designing a combination of perforated metal and advanced synthetic fabric busts, Barbanti was able to create machines that not only steamed and hot air blowed the sleeves but the entire body of the shirt as well – “this did away with the steel outer buck completely and allows the synthetic fabric to form, precisely to the shape of the shirt and made sure that dark shirts had a uniform colour.”

Barbanti’s process uses tensioning clamps to pull shirt tails, both front and back downward and eliminates the need to put safety pins in to stretch the shirt back into shape. And to overcome the need to hard press buttonholes, Aiman says that Barbanti “devised a unique blade that evenly finished buttonholes without putting undo pressure on the buttons.”

The result is a family of products each specialising including the 451 MultiFinisher, 435 entry level single shirt finisher, 440 standard single shirt finisher, 484 Premium single shirt finisher and the high production 883 double shirt finisher. Aiman goes into more detail. “The 451 can finish shirts in a wet state straight from the washing machine as well as finishing suit jackets, coats and puffer jackets in a dry state.” Many of the controls are manually adjustable so an operator can dial in the exact needs for each garment. For safety reasons, the sleeve angle adjustments are automatic via a toggle lever on the control console.

As for the 435, it’s solely for shirts but also offers manual adjustments – “its pricing is very attractive so even a very budget conscious business can afford to get into productive shirt finishing.” Next is the 440 single shirt finisher, which Aiman says has “additional automated aids to increase productivity. These include a vacuum system to assist in getting a perfect finish requiring minimum to no, after finishing, touch up work.” Moving into the high-capacity high production machines, Aiman points out the 484 single shirt and 883 double shirt units. “The 484 has two heat recovery systems, round cuff clamps, integrated sleeve vent clamps, pneumatically operated controls and on the fly programme settings that change between each finish cycle.” There’s also a heat recovery that is said to save 30 per cent of the energy used by traditional machines.

Going up a level Aiman says that the 883 finishes shirts in a sealed chamber with a revolving buck design. “Energy savings are at their maximum and an ideal controlled and enclosed finishing environment ensure the best quality time after time.” He says that “these are the highest production rate machines, with a quality finish, available on the market today.”

Not forgetting collars and cuffs, Aiman highlights the 520 which “accomplishes this with a minimal footprint and built-in vacuum function to maintain tension.” Output is matched to Barbanti’s single shirt finishers so a single operator can work them all at the same time. This concept is furthered by the 551 double collar and cuff machine where, “output is matched to the 883 double shirt machine so even with two shirts at a time, only a single operator is required

The Barbanti 883 from TexID finishes shirts in a sealed chamber using a revolving buck design

Sermac’s Barbanti 520 requires minimal space and  has a builtin vacuum function

The Barbanti 883 from TexID finishes shirts in a sealed chamber using a revolving buck design

Dane Realstar

Nicholas Higgs, partner and sales and service manager at Dane Realstar, says that Fimas produces “outstanding” shirt finishers.

In talking about the products, Higgs talks first about the Fimas 379 shirt form finisher: “This rotating, elevating and stretching form finisher is a great shirt finisher for drycleaners who need equipment capable of finishing wetcleaning garments and laundered shirts.” It’s fitted with pneumatic side arms which clamp the cuffs and tension the sleeves of the shirts “to give a lovely blown finish to the garment.”

Next is the Fimas 317 blown shirt and form finisher which Higgs says is universal and can also handle jackets, coats and raincoats. He says that “it is very versatile for a busy drycleaner wishing to finish a variety of garments; a touchscreen display on the control panel with fully automatic control makes life easy when using this machine.” It also features a telescopic body form and constant vacuum for loading, along with a front pressing plate which moves to one side for ease of loading – “making this a user-friendly machine.” There’s also automatic vertical tensioning on the body and adjustable sleeve clamps “to ensure an optimum finish” while an adjustable airflow also accommodates more delicate garments.

Following on is the Fimas 389 blown shirt finisher which Higgs describes as “the perfect blown shirt finisher. It combines ease of operation with the high level of technology expected of the Fimas range giving superb value for money, and many energy efficient features.” He adds that its suitable for wet or dry shirts, although dry shirts will need extra finishing.

It’s relatively compact and so will fit through a standard doorway. Also, it has the option of a heat recovery hood and thermal exchangers and is now available as a four-station rotating buck machine. For collar work Dane has the Fimas 387 collar cuff press. This unit comes with a steam or electrically heated polished head top buck and safety rail, a timer control, full vacuum, and push button controls for closing. Higgs says that there are two models available: 387.50 standard scissor press and 387.60 vertical compact press, with a smaller footprint. The 387.60 is said to offer an extra 20 per cent greater pressing power.

It’s notable, that, says Higgs, “these can be connected to central steam services, or a range of integrated boilers, which are capable of producing sufficient steam for both this unit and all Fimas shirt units.” Something else for laundries to consider is the Fimas 296 single buck pressed shirt finisher. Of this, Higgs says that it’s suitable for the finishing of wet and dry shirts and can “give a high-quality crisp firm finish to the body, yoke, shoulders, long and short sleeves and sleeve placket.”

With energy efficient features, Higgs claims that it can handle between 45 and 60 shirts per hour and can process shirts of any size – “paired with a collar cuff press and a second operator, productivity will be increased significantly.” It also has a touchscreen display on the control panel and is fully automatic. Loading and starting is by foot pedal. Higgs adds that “the front and rear press plates are constructed from highly thermal energy efficient aluminium and stainless alloy.”

The last item Higgs mentions, is the Fimas 298 double rotating pressed shirt finisher. He says that it “is the best double buck machine on the market for the finishing of wet and dry shirts.” It features an automatic unit for pressed shirt finishing, just as with the 296m but with two 180° rotating body formers.

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