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Less stress for the staff thanks to the innovative soundproof wall at the Metricon loading stations

The most cutting-edge laundry in Switzerland situated in Solothurn

Some Swiss cities are popular travel destinations for tourists hailing from all over the world. Others receive their visitors as the centers of major economic sectors, the pharmaceutical industry or the watch-making industry. Not so with Solothurn: Practically unheard of outside of Switzerland, Solothurn is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. And yet, something extremely unique can be found nestled here at the edge of the Jura mountain range: As the most cutting-edge laundry in Switzerland, the central laundry for Solothurn hospitals is setting a national standard in ecology and industrial safety. 

Opening up new horizons

When the need for a larger central location arose for the Solothurn public hospital, it was decided that the existing laundry be moved to the outskirts of the city. This relocation was subject to numerous decisions regarding new investment, whereby the machinery had become obsolete and the laundry was bursting at every seam. In collaboration with JENSEN AG Burgdorf, a new state-of-the-art CleanTech laundry, most notably with gas heating, was planned and installed to the very latest standards.

Sorting is handled by an extremely compact, ergonomic Futurail Trans-Sort sorting system. A Senking Universal SL tunnel washing machine with continuous bag loading is installed in the laundry room, in addition to multiple free-standing washing machines. No water recovery tank is required for the Senking Universal SL (no standing water) and all pipework is made from stainless steel to prevent corrosion and contamination. This is ideal for textile types with high hygiene requirements in particular. Up to 7 tons (15,400 lbs.) of laundry is fed into the washing drums on a daily basis, amounting to almost 32 tons (70,500 lbs.) per week. Capacity is measured at 10 tons (22,000 lbs.), and with 27 employees and one apprentice, the laundry is more than capable of taking on extra orders. Customers include the Solothurn public hospital, the Olten Cantonal hospital, the hospital in Dornach and the Solothurn psychiatric services, as well as external customers such as restaurants and residential homes throughout the entire canton (region) of Solothurn. Flatwork and terry products make up the majority of the handled textiles, with approximately 30% work clothing and residents clothing from nursing homes. The residents’ clothing is washed in the JENSEN JBW Barrier Washers. These pass-through washers allow the laundry to be loaded on the soil side, and then unloaded on the clean side. This ensures reliable protection against the spread of bacteria. Potential contamination during the wash is avoided, and maximum disinfection guaranteed in conjunction with the washing process. The JBW machines are appreciated by young and old alike: As well as the residents’ washing from the nursing homes, stuffed animals provided for the young patients to make their stay in the pediatric hospital a little bit more enjoyable are also washed in these machines. 

Safety first

The new location is bigger and offers many advantages with regard to safety. On the whole, the new facilities create more comfortable working conditions for the employees due to the management prioritizing an active reduction in the noise levels. Noise can be a tremendous factor in stress suffered by the staff, and the Swiss authorities are pulling out all the stops in this regard. During re-planning of the Solothurn central laundry, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, as well as the Swiss accident insurance companies reinforced the already extremely strict requirements in place across the regions. These ambitious targets necessitated additional investment which ultimately paid off. All statutory thresholds for the loading stations of the Metricon plant proved to be well within the limits, whereby separating walls made from veneered wooden panels were employed to curtail and condense the prevalent noises. Additional adaptations to the Butterfly Fox folding machine are to reduce the noises to an absolute minimum, with the authorities all agreed in one aspect: There is one more thing to clear up. Industrial safety is of the utmost importance to the JENSEN developers when it comes to their CleanTech concepts, and consequently a lot of effort was invested in this regard. The central laundry in Solothurn is now looked upon as a national reference facility with regard to a comprehensive ecology. 

Maximum efficiency wherever they are to be found: the WR dryers

The sophisticated design of the WR dryers from JENSEN enables roughly 10% higher evaporative capacity, and energy consumption is reduced by approximately 10-15% in comparison with conventional dryers. Shorter drying times increase productivity and energy efficiency is markedly improved. Newly developed frequency-controlled high-performance fans and an optimized drum geometry improve the air flow and the heat distribution in the drum. This ensures an outstanding energy balance and consistent, reproducible drying results. The large diameter of the drum enables an optimal fall curve and guarantees an outstanding air flow through the laundry. As a result, the finish quality is improved considerably with the prevention of wrinkling and roping of larger laundry items. The WR dryers in Solothurn are also installed directly alongside one another as a left and right version to create a mirror image. This saves valuable floor space of installation area. Upon completion of the drying process, the washing is conveyed through a VacuTrans system to an intermediate storage position. This ultra-fast vacuum transport system accelerates the production flow between the machines and allows the linen to be stored prior to entering the finishing area. 

Robots for maximum productivity

One of the very first Evolution Cube robots produced by JENSEN for fully-automatic feeding of towels into a towel-folding machine helps key to increase the productivity in the laundry. Long-term testing and optimization of the machine was carried out in collaboration with the first owner of the Evolution Cube, a hospital laundry in the neighboring city of Liestal. For the past few years, this same machine has been installed in Solothurn. It has long since paid for itself and is now considered the “most productive member of staff”. 

The Evolution Cube is in operation for the entire day in Solothurn and assumes the work equivalent to a part-time employee, allowing another position to be filled elsewhere in the laundry. The Evolution Cube is the first system to feed and fold towels without the need for any human intervention. After washing and drying, the towels are conveyed to the Evolution Cube by way of a chute. From the loading position of the Evolution Cube, the towels are fed automatically into a separating unit in which each towel is received individually. The first corner is detected from here and prepared for the next step. Both corners of the side edge are spread out, centered and transported onto a belt conveyor. During transport towards the folding machine, the Evolution Cube performs a shape detection as quality assurance. 

The management at the central laundry are also highly impressed with the fully-automatic separation of the larger laundry items by the Viking 2000 Separator, the fastest separator in the world. 

JENSEN recognized the advantages of robotic solutions in laundries many years ago. As can be seen here in Solothurn, the courage of innovative approaches achieves far more than just the economical payback. 

Finishing touches for larger items and garments

In the finishing area, an ironer for larger items and a fully-automated finishing system with Metricon sorting system, an Omega Pro tunnel finisher and two Butterfly Fox folding machines provide the perfect finish for all laundered garments. The laundry also welcomes new approaches in this area, as evidenced by the changeover from bar code identification to RFID chips. The Metricon sorting system is ideally adapted to the spatial conditions and the working procedures. A rail splitter has been installed to minimize waiting times when switching between different customers. This special feature allows a new customer order to commence at one section of the Metrifeed loading stations, while the remaining laundry from the previous customer can be fed into the other loading stations. This ensures that different customer orders remain separate at all times. 

Tiny Laundry

The central laundry in Solothurn has earned its distinction as the «Tiny Laundry». Much the same as the planning for the trendy Tiny House, the smallest of spaces has been designed to accommodate maximum content. This sophisticated planning is key to our CleanTech concept: Maximum output with minimal resources. The dryers were positioned on a steel mezzanine, with the towel folding machines placed beneath. As a plus, the noise and heat emissions remain at height, creating a more comfortable work environment. The tunnel finisher was also placed on a steel mezzanine to create more room for storage in the laundry. 

“Every square meter of the floor, as well as the space beneath the ceiling has been fully utilized. All of the conveyance routes are extremely short”

explains project manager for JENSEN Thomas Eichenberger. 

What is the current outlook for the after-sales-service?

Konrad Ledermann, head of the central laundry, and his team are still as impressed with the new system as they were in 2018 when it was initially put into operation. Working with the new machines proved to be just as user-friendly as we would ordinarily expect from JENSEN systems, however, the new technology makes the work that much quicker. 

A continuous collaboration with the JENSEN Sales & Service Center in nearby Burgdorf was a significant element of this success. Both teams worked together extremely well throughout all phases of this project. And even with a mere 24 km/15 miles separating the two companies, the Jenassist 2.0 was nevertheless introduced for remote programming. This online diagnostics and support tool provides remote monitoring of machines and systems, JENSEN technicians can respond to all queries regarding the system and provide real time support, analyze log files, perform diagnostics, and even rectify any errors which may occur. Downtimes are reduced significantly due to the rapid support provided by the Jenassist 2.0. At the same time, this also benefits the carbon footprint as the JENSEN technicians are no longer required to come out to the site. 

The investment in CleanTech solutions, sophisticated planning of the layout and the measures taken for noise reduction have proven worthwhile. And from an economical standpoint, the laundry can now offer very competitive prices which is crucial in attracting new customers. 

“Taking all parameters into account, the new system is 20% more productive than the previous system”

attests an extremely satisfied Konrad Ledermann. 

Ergonomy and productivity in the smallest of spaces: The Futurail sorting system
The Senking Universal tunnel washing machine with automatic loading realizes the lowest consumption values.
“Bath day” for the stuffed animals from the pediatric hospital, with maximum hygiene factor thanks to the JENSEN JBW Barrier Washers.
The most energy-efficient dryers in the world, installed here in space-saving configuration
The VacuTrans vacuum transport system adapts the flow of laundry to the respective availability, thus increasing overall performance of the laundry.
“Just as awesome as before, only that much quicker”, the employees are delighted with their new machines.
The courage to opt for completely new solutions was evidenced by the central laundry in Solothurn with installation of the very first JENSEN “Evolution Cube” robot.
Perfect finishing for the wardrobes of the doctors and care specialists from Solothurn hospitals
Delighted with a prosperous, enjoyable collaboration: Konrad Ledermann, head of the central laundry in Solothurn (right) and Thomas Eichenberger, project manager of JENSEN AG Burgdorf.
Solothurn – Regional capital with a charming city center and home to the most cutting-edge laundry in Switzerland.

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