Nedlin has once again significantly expanded its laundry capacity. A new company for the processing of hospital textiles was built at the company headquarters in Elsloo. This is not only one of the most advanced in Europe, but also particularly environmentally friendly. Through a high level of automation and numerous climate protection measures, the owners are responding to the most pressing future problems: global warming and a shortage of skilled workers.
Nedlin's headquarters are located in the border triangle where the borders of Holland meet those of Belgium and Germany. The company, which was originally founded in 1952 as a coin-operated laundry, has long since grown into an important textile service provider in the Netherlands. The family business supplies Dutch hospitals and industrial companies as well as hotels in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium from two locations. Due to constant growth in all sectors, the company is constantly expanding: in 2018 and 2019, the capacities for processing workwear for industrial customers were expanded and in September 2023 a completely new hospital laundry was put into operation. It was built on the opposite side of the street from the company headquarters in Elsloo.
The starting signal for the new laundry operation was given in February 2021, in the middle of the Corona period. During and after the pandemic, the weekly amount of laundry required by Dutch hospitals increased. This growth pushed the Nedlin laundry to its limits - the capacity in the original premises was completely exhausted. The de Win family therefore decided to build a new building that would be dedicated exclusively to the processing of hospital textiles. When planning, the brothers Stef and Luuk, together with their father Erik de Win, had big things in mind: A state-of-the-art, sustainable laundry was to be built on an area of 20,000 m², in which automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and clever process technologies were to be built for the benefit of people and environment should be used optimally.
The plan worked: Like in a science fiction film, robots and an automated i-Collector storage system that reaches to the ceiling of the huge hall do a large part of the work. The company has thus responded to a particularly urgent problem: like almost everywhere in Europe, the Netherlands also lacks employees who can lend a hand in the numerous work steps. Wherever technically possible, automation was used. The service and work clothing delivered from the clinics is examined for items that should not be included in the washing process: This is similar to an immigration check at an airport. A robot grabs each item of clothing individually, the technology visualizes foreign objects such as pens, keys, etc. and, thanks to AI, removes the affected clothing from the process. Employees then take care of the relevant part, remove the items left behind and return it to the regular process.
The sorted goods are then passed through the washing and drying process fully automatically. Then it's time to put it together. Nedlin also uses robots for this; They fold terry towels, stack them and tie them into compact packages. The packages are then transported on a conveyor belt to the storage section and sorted into an assigned compartment. A merchandise management system records inventory levels at a precise time. Using the “first in, first out” system, it ensures that the laundry is removed evenly and prevents the formation of “camp corpses”.
Thanks to the high level of automation, Nedlin has relieved employees of all the “heavy” work. “Thanks to the robots, we have achieved significant improvements in ergonomic working conditions,” says Gert Kap, Commercial Director Hospitality at Nedlin. “We also consciously avoid night and weekend shifts. But we are also committed to attractive jobs and the best possible support for our employees in other places.
The air conditioning in the new hall is designed to ensure consistently pleasant temperatures in summer and winter. The building has been particularly well insulated - according to the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM), it meets the “Outstanding” quality class - and is equipped with an intelligent ventilation system. This ensures fresh air and transports away the heat released by the treatment processes and possible summer heat. This allows us to create a pleasant working atmosphere in the hall.” To make getting there as easy as possible, Nedlin is well connected to public transport and has its own carpooling center.
The new laundry operation also sets standards in terms of resource consumption and CO2 emissions. A huge solar park was created on the roof of the hall. With its 2,568 solar panels it can generate 1,168,440 watts peak (Wp) per year, which is used, among other things, to preheat process water.
The second major factor in reducing greenhouse gases is heat recovery. The waste heat from the dryers and ironers is passed through heat exchangers in which the hot exhaust air is used to heat the washing water. The wastewater itself is collected and converted back into process water using state-of-the-art water treatment, to which filtered rainwater is then added. Through further measures, Nedlin's latest operation has achieved an environmental balance that is impressive.
“We use 0 liters of fresh water every year, save up to 22,500 GW of electricity and reduce our CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019. We are very proud of that,” says Gert Kap. King Willem Alexander also seems to have seen it that way: He ceremoniously opened Nedlin's new laundry in September 2023!