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The new Futurail Multi-Sort sorting system

Becoming bigger and better – Meet the new Clova laundry

The Clova laundry in Wommelgem/Belgium is a well-known and highly respected supplier of healthcare linen and uniforms. Servicing 7,000 beds and 10,000 staff in the Antwerp region calls for an efficient and highly productive laundry. Clova has ever since its start-up relied on JENSEN equipment as well as material handling and automation solutions. The laundry has recently upgraded its production area with a new Futurail system for the soil side, a sorting system for garments from Inwatec consisting of a robot and scanner utilizing AI, and a new Metricon sorting and handling system.


Clova – winner of the WRP Star for outstanding customer service
In September 2019, the German WRP magazine awarded Clova with the prestigious WRP Star for outstanding customer orientation. Clova claims to distinguish itself from its competitors with a dedicated and very personal customer service. They maintain close relationships with all their clients, big or small, and entrust their clients with the ownership and a high degree of responsibility for the linen and the garments. The laundry’s linen management system allows their clients to make changes in linen quantity to deliver, order new uniforms and make changes to existing users online, and activate or deactivate residents in their facilities. 

Clova also goes one step further. In the healthcare segment, each Euro has to be turned around before it’s spent, hence it is extremely important for the customers to have data on consumption, costs per resident, and other KPI’s. Clova’s view on this matter is to give the customer all available information in complete transparency, every month. So, they have the possibility to “act and react” on deviations. This delegation of ownership creates substantial trust and results in longstanding co-operations. 

In this process, Clova puts its trust in Globe by Gotli Labs. Globe is the most modern management tool for laundries in the world, keeping record of man and machine to assist management in making the right decisions at the right time. It’s the newest approach for central production monitoring that provides real-time information, allowing increased laundry productivity and giving peace of mind. It is the most complete production management system in the laundry industry, including staff scheduling, time & attendance, and a track-and-trace functionality.

Getting it right from the beginning – in the sorting area
One of the key elements is the soiled linen reception area, where the linen arrives and needs sorting for optimizing the internal process and flow. In 2017, JENSEN started talks with Clova about streamlining the incoming linen after having already completed a full clean Futurail bag system and Jenway storage and delivery system. The goals were to increase the number of sorting stations, add a fully automated garment sorting and increase the storage capacity for both bed linen and uniforms. It proved to be quite a challenging task with the limited space available.

A real puzzle presented itself to find the additional space within the building needed to get an 18 bin Futurail Multi-Sort sorting system with an additional 240 bags worth of storage, as well as an Inwatec line with robot separator, scanner, and six bins into automatic bag loading. 

The future in laundry automation – with robotics & AI from Inwatec
From the first minute, Clova discovered Inwatec’s revolutionary new way of automating the soiled side sorting, they were convinced that this was the way to go. Clova recognized that the automated checking of garments’ pockets is not only important for those typical hospital tools (scissors, scalpels, tweezers…) that can be very harmful and even infectious to the operator, but also for small items like paperclips. Often these small items are not detected by manual inspection because they are too small – but they can still harm machines and linen. With the ODIN X-ray system finding foreign items in the soiled laundry is automated by using intelligent software and artificial intelligence.

Constantly feeding the X-ray scanner with 1500 pieces per hour, the THOR robot separator enables fully automatic sorting processes at Clova, which overall require only very little manual interaction with the soiled garments.

Inwatec’s sorting line is linked with the Futurail system: after the X-ray scanning process, the garments are automatically transferred to buffering silos until a complete wash batch is reached that can be forwarded to the Futurail bags. Some items are equipped with low-frequency tags, some with ultra-high frequency tags, which all are read and identified by the Inwatec RFID units and linked to the stored information in the laundry’s database. Clova is particularly impressed with the modularity of the sorting system as it can be easily expanded in the future by putting new systems in between the various elements. 

Looking good
A Metricon system is used for the automatic sorting handling of washed garment. It’s a modular system that is customized with standard proven components. At Clova, the free space under the ceiling is gainfully used thanks to the multi-level design capability. One particular highlight is the ergonomic feeding stations with stepless height adjustments. The garment data is retrieved by reading the garment’s barcode or RFID tag at the so-called marrying station. This data is married to the relative hanger and serves as a basis for the further handling and sorting of the individual garment. The journey continues to the finishing area. 

It is coupled with a tunnel finisher and two automated garment folding machines, Fox AF. The energy-saving tunnel finisher, Omega Pro, considerably increases the processing time in the tunnel compared to other systems, because the temperature of the garments is slowly and gently raised in the inlet zone. The garments are slowly cooled down to ambient temperature in the outlet zone, ensuring a pro-fashional finishing of all garments, at low energy costs. It is combined with two automated garment folders that fold, sort, and stack the complete garment range at an average speed of 900 parts/hour in mixed operation. This machine dream team makes sure that all staff working at those healthcare institutions which rely on laundry services from Clova are dressed for success. 

The new garment sorting and handling installation looks amazing. Clova is very satisfied with the new installation, as are their clients with the fabulous finishing of their garments. 

One day of production lost
On top of the investment in new equipment, this also led to a complete office makeover: Walls were pulled down, additional floors were built in, and the entire first floor was packed with storage lines. The new equipment had to be installed under full production circumstances. Full production meant that the present sorting and bag system could not be dismantled whilst the new system were being installed using the same space. Stopping the tunnel washers was not an option for Clova.

It all came down to one long weekend. Clova anticipated as much as they could by stocking linen at the customers and reducing the linen volume around that weekend.
The key element proved keeping the two current lifts in operation for as long as would be possible and maintaining the tunnel washers’ operation even without proper sorting.
On top of that, where possible, Futurail equipment like bins, belts, lifts and storage lines were installed above, below, and next to the existing bag system including the additional support steel. Also, the temporarily installed Inwatec line was moved aside to create space for a big concrete slab cut out of the first floor – at that very weekend.

The journey started on a Thursday evening, when all components from the existing system were removed, support steel mounted and new Futurail components installed. With two Clova and JENSEN teams working in shifts, bit by bit the new bag system and discharge lines saw completion. With the lower storage lines in place on Sunday evening, the first bags made it through the reduced system, at least being able to provide production for Monday.

Once the production resumed on Monday, there was no resting on one’s laurels. The whole storage area on the first floor needed completion, along with proper finishing and guarding too. The Inwatec line was put back in place and then hooked up to the Futurail bag system for automatic loading of garments. The complete rebuilt of the laundry with such a high degree of material handling solutions could only be successful thanks to proper planning, clever install management, and great teamwork. The entire job was completed within the time frame set – one working day and a weekend. 

Great job, guys
“In the past, the soiled linen was stored outside, just because space was so scarce. Now we are able to double our stock capacity and wash the linen in a more efficient way and better utilize the tunnel washers. We can now wash how we want to wash and be more productive”, says Dirk Peeters, Director Finance, Operations & Projects.

Both tunnel washers consume 1.82 l/.48-gals water in average.

This is a result of state-of-the art technology in the Senking Universal tunnel washers from JENSEN and a perfect planning of the laundry flow with the latest material handling solutions. 

Ronny Belmans, Director HR, Relations & Purchasing adds: “It was a tough challenge to face, setting up the entire new installation including breaking through concrete ceilings with almost no production stop, but the JENSEN team managed very well. We were amazed, because it was a really tough job. Great team!”

Futurail bags with linen waiting to be processed
Inwatec’s revolutionary new way of automating the soiled side
The new Inwatec line consists of a robot separator….
….and an X-Ray scanner.
Clova puts its trust in Globe by Gotli Labs, the most modern data management tool for laundries
Because the first impression counts: Automatic sorting and handling of washed garments with a perfect finish
Ergonomic feeding stations with stepless height adjustments
The free space under the ceiling is gainfully used thanks to the multi-level design capability of the JENSEN Metricon system.
A Jenrail 2000 Automatic system with double buffer line capacity automates the feeding of large pieces.
Once both corners are clipped into the tandem clamp, the clamp is led to into the bufferline.
Both tunnel washers consume 1.82 l/.48-gals water in average.
The smart way to automate production flows: Jenway FT is an innovative logistics and storage system for stacked goods.
Top-quality folding and stacking of towels with the renowned Tematic Pro
The Clova laundry in Wommelgem/Belgium is a well-known and highly respected supplier of healthcare linen and uniforms.

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