CHICAGO — Packaging options vary widely across the laundry industry, with choices ranging from simple twine-bound stacks and poly bags to manual tabletop and console poly film wrappers and ultimately high-end automated poly film shrink tunnel systems, says Tim Davis of Davis Packaging, a provider of laundry packaging solutions.
“Historically, packaging has been an afterthought relative to the actual laundering processes, leaving many operations scrambling to meet customer requirements or failing to adequately protect newly cleaned product at delivery and incurring extra costs or low customer satisfaction,” he says.
Each of the popular wrapping options have a place in healthcare, hospitality and rental, whether on or off premises, Davis shares.
“Focusing on and prioritizing your customer needs, minimizing loss and contamination, and delivery presentation are the ultimate criteria for selecting the best packaging solution for you,” he adds.
TYING, STRAPPING, BAGGING
Tying and strapping machines or bulk bagging processes are very fast and cost effective for service and utility laundry items, such as shop towels, rags and bar mops requiring low amounts of finish work and visual presentation, Davis says.
“With these models, stacked or bunched items are simply banded together and/or dropped into bags for next use,” he shares. “Banding and bagging may be manually or automatically performed. The loose fill and exposed nature of this packaging however makes it less suitable for personal use linens and clothing items that would wrinkle or dirty easily.”
Neal Dowding, product marketing manager for packaging solutions company Felins, says bundling can be beneficial for in-house laundries for ease of handling and distribution throughout the facility. Tying provides a quick, low cost bundling solution for these products that remain on site.
Banding is a sustainable laundry bundling solution, says Dowding.
“Our banding machines and inline systems apply adhesive-free bands that can be printed with variable data such as company branding or track and trace information on either paper or plastic banding material,” he says. “This type of bundling is particularly beneficial for the uniform and garment segment.”
A more economical solution is tying or strapping, according to Dowding. These are very popular and low-cost, bulk laundry bundling solutions that hold a tight bundle with minimal materials.
John Bunn, president of tying technology producer B.H. Bunn Co., recommends using a tying machine with twine for bundling all types of linen.
“The tying machine was invented in 1907 to bundle the mail,” he says. “In the mid 1920s, machine sales crossed over to other industries, including the textile industry. Today the tying machine is used to bundle bar mops, hand towels, bath towels, pool towels, bed sheets, blankets, hospital gowns, surgical gowns, aprons, rental rugs, overalls, pants, shirts, socks, roll towels, shop towels and surgical packs, to name a few.”
Bunn says that twine is the most economical and environmentally friendly medium for securing textile bundles. He adds that a machine-grade polyester/cotton blend twine is best to use, and specialty twines are also available, which can be used for color coding, inventory control and sterilization applications.
“When the proper tying machine model and the correct machine-grade twine is matched, a textile bundle customer will experience lower cost of materials and longevity of the tying machine,” he shares.
An additional benefit of twine-based packaging is a slip-proof-slip-knot, which is tamper proof.
Marie King, communications manager for strapping systems solutions provider EAM-Mosca Corp., recommends the use of strapping to secure bundles of textiles—towels, bedding, scrubs for the healthcare industry, and table and kitchen linens for the food service industries.
“Banding textiles with one polypropylene strap leads to neat bundles that stay intact, leading to less re-work, easier counts and a better presentation to your customers,” she says.
King goes on to say that loading strapped bundles into wheeled totes makes for easier deliveries, too.
“Not all strapping machines are of equal value,” she says. “We recommend that potential strap users review the different offerings before making a purchasing decision based only on cost.”
Jeanne George, inside sales manager for Rennco, which specializes in vertical bagging, says an advantage with a bagging system is less handling, along with the ability to custom size the bag versus a large “garbage style” bag.
“Unless there is a specific need for items to be folded neatly (whereby they use either banding or stretch wrapping) most items are in a plastic bag for transport and usage,” she says. “When clients discover that they can use the bag as a dispenser by pulling out one towel at a time, they buy into the concept and love the concept.”
The industry is quickly accepting the bagging of various linen such as bar wipes, shop towels, microfibers and washcloths, says George. New, larger bagging systems are available now to satisfy the needs for hospital fitted sheets and ISO gowns.
“At some point, linens need to be transported, to ‘move,’ so having them contained in a bag of some sort is always an advantage,” she points out. “It keeps the stacks, bundles, grouping together and easier to handle versus individual items.”
George adds that there are a variety of systems that can be configured to weigh items, inspect items and/or count items.
“This is a cost saving over manual labor to place ‘garbage style’ bags over a stand, toss the items into the premade bag, lift that bag, tie it closed and then lift back again to the transport cart,” she points out. “With an automated system once they are inspected, the rest is completed automatically, which is a win-win for the laundry facility. Less time and less money.”
Ross Sanders, CEO of Streamline Solutions, a provider of many types of laundry bagging products, says bags and other types of packaging products come in many different materials, sizes, thicknesses and colors.
“The key is to make sure that the bags fit perfectly,” he says. “Not too big and, of course, not too small. We want to make sure that the laundry has a product that fits well for them instead of using something that is not the right size, which in turn could cause issues with their customers which could cost them more money or even their business.”
Heavier linen (also based on total weight) would mean a thicker bag or wrap, Sanders points out.
He goes on to say that a healthcare laundry may need to always use a cart liner for its customers, which is a plastic bag that is a protective barrier between the cart itself and the linen.
“Most hospitality laundries do not see that as a requirement,” shares Sanders. “If anything, they will use a cart cover, which in turn is a ‘dust cover,’ which in turn keeps the linen free of dust and dirt. Healthcare laundries do use the cart covers as well, of course.”
Check back Thursday for wrapping options and what factors determine the packaging type to choose.