Tunnel or Washer-Extractors: What's the Proper Choice? (Part 2)

Bruce Beggs |

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. – It was a little like speed dating, only with laundry equipment.
Attendees at this spring’s Textile Rental Services Association’s (TRSA) Tech/Plant Summit had the opportunity to listen to five of the industry’s top equipment manufacturers – Ellis Corp., G.A. Braun, Jensen USA, Kannegiesser USA and Pellerin Milnor Corp. – compare and contrast their washer-extractors and tunnel washers.
Groups rotated among the vendors’ representatives, who had 30 minutes with each group to discuss the pros and cons of the equipment, or, as was more often the case, the pros.JENSEN USA
Jay Chase, senior vice president of sales for Jensen’s Heavy Duty Laundry Division, headed straight for the bottom line in making his presentation.
He compared sizing calculations for a brand-new automated washer-extractor system and a new batch tunnel system, then totaled their capital investment and operating costs to show the differences.
“Your decision today is, ‘Do I invest in an automated washer-extractor system or do I go batch?’”
If an 18-module continuous-batch washer with 200-pound batches were to produce 4,320 pounds an hour using a 40-minute wash cycle in a linen supply plant, Chase says, a washer-extractor system called on to produce the same amount at the same rate would have to utilize 10 450-pound machines.
Automation would keep labor costs the same, but the tunnel system would use at least half as much water: about 1.25 gallons per pound. A new washer-extractor system could get down to 2.5 gallons per pound, Chase says, but only after investing in water recovery equipment from companies such as Kemco Systems or Thermal Engineering of Arizona (TEA).
Chase priced a new Senking tunnel at just under $500,000, while the 10 washer-extractors he mentioned earlier would total around $1.2 million.
The batch system would require a press and a storage conveyor, but either system would need rail loading, shuttle(s), equipment controls, dryers and an unloading conveyor.
When all is said and done, such a washer-extractor system would cost $1.66 million compared to $1.15 million for the batch system.
Further, annual operating costs – water, sewer, electricity and water heating – for the batch washer would be less than half that of the washer-extractor system, according to Chase.
Advantages of the batch washer are its capital and operational costs, its batch size, and its consistent workflow to the clean side. Benefits of the washer-extractor system are its backup capacity from multiple washers, its ability to process short runs, and its incremental nature that simplifies system expansion.KANNEGIESSER USA
Many operators become comfortable with the redundancy a washer-extractor system offers, says Blaine Jackson, vice president of sales, but he counters with the PowerTrans batch washing system’s reliability.
Point after point – flexibility, consistency, wash quality, productivity – Jackson says the PowerTrans is equal, if not superior, to any washer-extractor system.
Industry results have proven that Kannegiesser batch washers operate at a cost savings over washer-extractors, he says. Water/sewer usage, fuel to heat water or generate steam, electrical consumption, chemical usage and labor are all reduced with a batch washer.
What’s the bottom line? The potential savings can conservatively be 2 to 4 cents per pound, Jackson says, adding that a plant processing 10 million pounds a year could save $300,000.
The design of the PowerTrans wash cylinder allows for varied load sizes to both wash and transfer effectively. It utilizes a “standing bath” concept, in that the goods and wash liquor stay together during the separate formula steps.
It’s done without the standard counterflow method of some competing tunnels, with the lone exception being in the rinse zone.
Jackson took a few moments to emphasize the importance of efficient extraction, either by pressing or spinning. The more water removed during extraction, the less to remove elsewhere – in dryers, ironers and finishers.G.A. BRAUN
Braun used a team approach, sending Joe Gudenburr, chief operating officer, to give a company overview before Jim Corrigan, regional vice president, and Hans Laursen, regional sales manager, addressed tunnel systems and washer-extractors, respectively.
The SmoothFlow™ Batch Tunnel Washer System can process up to 5,200 pounds per hour at maximum capacity, Corrigan says. Its bottom-transfer design allows efficient processing at full capacity without costly jams and roping stoppages.
Single-drum systems, with their simpler design and fewer moving parts, are a better value than a double-drum system, he adds.
Following in line with the others, Corrigan mentioned the tunnel’s high-volume capability, efficient utility usage, high level of automation and batch management as advantages.
Tunnels lack redundancy, require more demanding planning and scheduling of goods processing, aren’t COG-friendly, aren’t suited for small-volume operations and offer inferior extraction compared to washer-extractors.
Braun has more washer-extractor system installations than any other vendor, Laursen says, and they range from semi-automated to fully automated.
They feature open-pocket machines from 200 to 600 pounds, including the 89-inch-wide 450N2, which has the smallest washer-extractor footprint in the industry.
Ideal applications are healthcare, industrial, dust control, stonewashing/denim processing and hospitality.
Washer-extractor systems are more forgiving with respect to washroom scheduling, minimize the impact of equipment outages, and provide a durable, flexible processing platform.
Limitations include the initial purchase vs. a tunnel, spare parts inventory, higher installation costs, and higher operating costs assuming reuse and reclamation are not in place.—See part 1 for the summaries of Pellerin Milnor and Ellis Corp. presentations

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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