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Ironer technology

Developing a two-brand strategy TWO RANGES: Laco has two distinct ranges to allow it to serve a wider market. Laco Machinery heavy-duty ironers (right) will target larger projects. They feature technical advancements including a new design of chest and heat-exchanger. Its Secom Machinery branded products (below) will appeal to semi-industrial/commercial laundries by providing a chest style ironer that meets both their technical and budget requirements

Having firmly established itself as a fully independent company and expanded its premises and production capacity, Laco is now focussing on product development. It is also planning communication strategies to maximise its impact in the global marketplace


uring 2013, Laco Machinery’s plans will focus on developing both the company and its

ironers. First it will develop strategically with distinct ranges for the semi-industrial/ commercial sector and for the industrial market. Second, it is introducing advanced technology. In addition it is taking a more specialised approach to marketing and effectively re-branding itself. Export manager Wim Opsomer says that the company’s long-plans are well on schedule. Following the sale of its former owner in 2010, the now fully independent Laco expanded production with its own forming and welding

May 2013

department and doubled its storage of pre-production parts. This expansion was put in place during 2011 to meet shorter lead times and ensure the quality of critical parts such as chests and rolls. By the end of 2012 these changes had been fully integrated and Laco has achieved its target production of one ironer per day. Opsomer says the company is now focussing on its product strategy. It is introducing a range of semi-industrial chest ironers under the brand name Secom Machinery. This is specifically intended to compete against 350 and 500mm diameter cylinder ironers and will be marketed separately from the

Laco Machinery branded products. This year the company is further developing the portfolio for its traditional market. It has introduced advanced technology to its Laco Machinery brand that will “again revolutionise the ironer industry, as it did in 1994 when it brought out its first mono-shell flexible chest for gas and electrically-heated ironers.” Laco’s owner, Dominique Lapauw, has been working on a chest design that increases machine capacities by 25 to 30%. He has also developed a heatexchanger that heats up the machine 50% faster while at the same time reducing the temperature of the gas exhaust from 260 – 180C. The company’s effective re-branding takes in marketing tools such as the website, leaflets and logo and ranges will have a fresh modern look. The Laco Machinery HD range itself will now be more focussed on industrial or heavy-duty applications, which could eventually lead to the introduction of bigger products. The high-tech Air-Stream concept, which features in this range is perhaps the most important development for the company. This includes a new design of flexible chest, a pre-heated air chamber and an improved airflow circuit inside the roll. Opsomer explains that a traditional chest, whether flexible or rigid, first heats both the flatwork and its water content and moisture is only removed when the linen emerges from the chest. There is no airflow between the roll and the chest, so moisture cannot be

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Ironer technology

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES: The Air-Stream® flexible chest featured in Laco HD ironers increases capacity by up to 20 – 25%

removed while roll and chest are in contact. The Air-Stream chest allows ventilation and as a result moisture removal at an earlier stage. The chest is permeable from a point around a third of the way along the ironing path. The air is pre-heated as it passes through the chest while on the open part of the roll the airflow is restricted and focussed on the ventilated section of the chest. Tests show that Air-Stream raises capacities by up to 20 – 25%. So an 800mm diameter roll can now handle hospital linen at a rate of 14 – 16m/minute, which is comparable to the capacity of a single-roll 1,200mm ironer or a deep-chest model with two 600mm diameter rolls. Opsomer explains that Laco Machinery HD ironers will also feature a gas heat-exchanger that avoids the need to use coils to collect/absorb heat from the burner. The new system reduces heat-up times by up to 50%. Raising the temperature of an 800mm roll ironer from 20C to 175C used to take 15 –17 minutes but this is now achieved in 8 – 9 minutes and uses just 1.056m³ of natural gas. A secondary benefit is that the heat exhaust is now only 180C on the exhaust pipe, rather than 260C. This means that much more of the heat generated by burning gas is


transferred to the wet linen. As a bonus, the new system requires only 40litres of oil to be replaced as opposed to the 80litres required in the standard coil system. Traditionally Laco’s ironers have been designed around industrial technology which places it beyond the budgets of smaller commercial projects. To broaden its appeal it is now introducing the Secom Machinery semi-industrial range that will appeal to customers with production capacities from 30kg/hour up to 80 – 100kg/hour, both in terms of their budgets and of quality, and reliability. Secom Machinery ironers will also satisfy demand for low maintenance and low energy consumption. The critical parts of these ironers, such as chest and roll, are always made and designed by Laco. As with the established Laco range, Secom ironers have an energy consumption of 0.35kW/kg linen at 50% residual moisture and the company says these figures compare favourably with those for the average cylinder ironer (0.90 to 1.10kW/kg depending on make and age.) The company also plans to promote Secom Machinery ironers at a price level which is typical of that in the cylinder market so in terms of energy saving, customers will see a payback on

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Secom products from day one. The smallest Secom Machinery ironer M30-18 has a drying capacity of 30kg/hour and will even be available in an electrically-heated 10kW single-phase version. Opsomer says that the third part of the company’s strategy is the way it handles the marketing. All the developments in product ranges and in technology need to be explained and promoted. The company feels that it now needs a specialist in marketing and media communication and has appointed a consultancy to review the way this is done. The redesigned logo is the first result of this partnership and represents both the best of the company’s traditions and a step forward to the “new” Laco, lean, efficient, technically advanced and ambitious. Websites, leaflets, videos and other marketing tools that reflect this image will be introduced shortly. To sum up Opsomer says that Laco is now ready to become a global player. The two product ranges, Secom Machinery and Laco HD will address a broader market. The Air-Stream concept and the redesigned heat-exchanger show that it can develop innovative technology and its specialised approach to marketing will help to get its message across.

May 2013