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Company Profile

POLYMARK (GB): SIXTY-YEARS YOUNG nteresting things happen when you place advertisements in the columns of The Times newspaper and no one really knew what would be the outcome of such a notice to the high and mighty readership in the now faroff days of 1948. The advertisement in question was a plea from a by-now forgotten laundry owner who was, presumably, searching for a solution to the ‘missing sock’ problem. In processing domestic laundry items the problems associated with reliable marking of each item from different customers was an essential but time-consuming task and a constant source of grievance to the long-suffering client whose laundered bundle went out containing perhaps 12 items but quite frequently returned a week later, with one – or more – items missing, hence the ‘missing sock’ problem and the acute need to overcome it with a reliable system capable of high productivity. The advertisement offered a prize to the successful solution provider of £1,000, a very large sum in 1948, approximating to at least £50,000 in 2008 terms. Hans Meyer was one who saw the advertisement and after months of trials and research into wash chemicals to test resistance in the wash, he came up with the idea of a temporary marking system for laundry items which worked in every instance, without regard to temperature, chemical attack, drying heat and ironer pressures. Meyer’s temporary laundry marking system was – and remains - one of the world’s

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Irving Scott reports best practical solutions to an industrial problem of international significance. In short what Hans Meyer had done was to invent, develop and subsequently patent the Holy Grail for the domestic laundry market. Hans Meyer was also a gifted entrepreneur who saw the immense significance of his temporary marking system and recognised that to submit his theories, drawings and working models of his invention to the glare of publicity which would result from his potential success should he win the competition, then one certain result would be that another, bigger, richer, and established company, already dealing with laundries, would steal the enormous commercial prize from him. So, working alone and with little capital, Meyer persuaded the Lakeland Laundry plant in Whitehaven, Cumberland, to test the idea on his behalf. These tests proved highly successful and the Polymark Company was formed in 1950 and commenced delivery of large volumes of the Mark 1 Polymark temporary marking system in 1951. Such was the success of the Polymark concept that within eight years over 90 per cent of the UK and Irish Laundry market was using the Polymark system and the ‘missing sock’ problem had more or less gone from the scene. From the temporary marking system many other innovative laundry machines followed. These include a further five models of the original system for laundry marking items:

auto-pricing versions, sorting, storage and conveying systems, to enable the finished, processed, items to be efficiently distributed after ironing and packing. In 1960 the growth of sales meant that the Polymark company came to the London Stock Market for a full public listing only 10 years after its foundation. Subsidiary companies were set up in France, Belgium, Germany and Italy and the product range by then had broadened dramatically. Using distributor agreements and sole agency arrangements, Polymark’s success as an innovator in laundry systems’ efficient and highly engineered machinery continued unabated as the company expanded. In 1961 Polymark delivered the first R 100, continuous batch washer, made in Germany by Engelhardt and Förster. By 1964 several of these five-and six-stage, continuous processing ‘contra-flow’ serial washing machines had been installed in several laundries around the UK as well as in Lakeland Laundry in Barrow-in-Furness, and the larger Co-op laundries. The Pellerin-Milnor agency agreement was signed in 1971 to be followed by a full service and support distribution agreement in 1978. In 1979 the agency with Jensen was signed and in 1980 the Futurail, monorail distribution system for laundry use was acquired at the same time as the Polymark business moved from Jeddo Road, Shepherd’s Bush, to Banbury in Oxfordshire. The relationship with Milnor continues to this day and several heavy-duty washerextractor installations continue to prove the virtues of this American icon in wash technology. Now, once again re-located to a 15,000 square foot manufacturing and office building in Daventry, Northamptonshire, Polymark markets its services as Polymark (GB) Ltd with Rob Bonney as general manager, UK, Dennis Rutland as business development manager and Richard Wheatley as commercial manager. Bonney and Rutland are ‘old’ Polymark hands and along with Bob Smith the service manager, these very experienced and well-known stalwarts of the industry have been involved at various stages over the past thirty years with most of the Polymark products and services. After a somewhat interesting financial history the Polymark business is now owned by Ian Elliot, who acquired the French and British companies in 2002 and realigned the product offerings to fit the buoyant parts of the UK and French markets. The

ABOVE: One line showing half the 39 Polymark Temporary label fixing operators working at the large domestic laundry at Glennifer Rd, Laundry in Catford, S. London in 1958. Domestic laundry in bundles and bags can be seen in profusion beside the operators. A continuous belt conveyor takes the 'marked' items onwards to the wash house. (Photo Polymark archive)

Jim Pellerin and Karl Schubert are presented with photos of themselves from 1978 by Ian Elliott of Polymark who received the Milnor agency in that year

product focus is now very much concentrated on Polymark’s traditional core products but in a style and range of products that continue to lead the markets they operate in. The Polymark Label division supplies, from the Daventry printing and design base, an amazing array of types and sizes of product identity markings to a host of domestic and international customers. These include labels in a variety of sizes, through to sewn on or heat-fixed, multicoloured badges which are not susceptible to chemical erosion in their washing or after-care treatments, and therefore remain bright and legible for the life of any garment. Transfers are a growing part of the Polymark business and these in many shapes and formats can be supplied in small batch lots to meet the personal identification requirements of corporate customers large and small. Behind all the physical manifestations of the ‘identity marketing’ business where Polymark is a leader the field in innovation and computerdriven solution provision, lies the significant investment in software and printing technologies which give the necessary ‘edge’ to the company’s offerings. Having been innovators for nearly 60 years, the 21st century Polymark range of options is, as it always has been, at the forefront of the latest laundry and textile handling technology. Developing the market penetration of these products

exercises the daily activities of Dennis Rutland and his focus is on selling Gartner and Distrisort, sortation and package handling systems to warehouses and textile storage and distribution centres in the UK and Ireland. Success for these efforts has been found in the distribution centres of ACS in Glasgow, French Connection in London as well as, very recently, Tesco in Daventry. Capable of sophisticated high speed sortation down to route and van delivery destination, these systems deliver the essential efficiencies which the current cost constraints on all businesses are working towards in their quest for bottom-line improvement. Taking product location, identity and stock control to new levels of sophistication are the systems which Polymark GB markets on behalf of one of the world’s leading innovator in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) control and location technologies. TAGSYS is an American company which designs and develops the systems and Polymark is the UK distributor of the devices and their control systems on behalf of the French distributor for TAGSYS in Europe. Capable of being subjected to high temperatures allows the tags to be attached to fine textiles and processed through an ironer or included in the manufacture of heavy duty dust control mats. RFID chip technology is currently attracting serious interest from laundries in the UK and in the far south of Ireland, where a large processor of hotelstandard duvet covers, controls

the processing and product lifecycles and costs through their attachment of TAGSYS RFID chips to the covers. Recently a major UK processor has contracted to use the Polymark/TAGSYS RFID chips for its industrial garment, rental and processing control. The latest technology to be added to the Polymark portfolio is a market-leading product which is the result of thirty years of continuous development and installed customer satisfaction; the Wientjens trolley and cart washer from Holland. This stainless steel disinfection system is specifically designed for cleansing and disinfecting the metal, linen and garment transport trolleys, which are found in the majority of healthcare laundries. The system provides thorough disinfection through high pressure steam, without the addition of chemicals and gives the user the assurance that the processed results of trolley-washing by Wientjens systems are guaranteed to be clean and fit for purpose after processing. Always and at all times, it seems that Polymark is quick to take the lead in the markets in which its products are designed to excel. This was the case 60 years ago when Hans Meyer read a small advertisement in The Times which resulted in the Polymark marking system - in 2008 the same concentration on excellence in design and performance, remain the hallmarks of a remarkable solution provider to the textile care industry – solutions delivering excellence in performance both before and after the sale of the individual products.

TAGSYS RFID stand at the 2008 Texcare Exhibition in Frankfurt

December 2008/January 2009 LCT 15


LCT December 2008 POLYMARK @ 60