The Big Bang Theory
23 October 2013
Miele Professional is making major investments in eco-friendly equipment as it believes it is the future of commercial laundry
While also manufacturing dishwashers and sterilisation equipment, laundry equipment makes up 41% of its professional business and is where the company sees itself as a leader of new technologies and innovation.
The journey to zero
There is a central reason for Miele’s focus on new ideas. The company employs over 17,000 people globally, but over 10,000 of the workforce and 90% of its manufacturing are in Germany. As joint owner Dr Markus Miele explained during a visit to its headquarters in Gutersloh: "Most of our operations are in higher wage countries, which creates a higher costing product and so we have to come up with higher user benefits."
At present, the manufacturer is confident that customers of commercial laundry equipment are looking for machines that, among other things, are economical to operate and protect the environment. So much so that it has invested heavily in plant and machinery, as well as research and development, to bring a range of 'eco' products to market.
The launch of its commercial heat-pump dryers in 2011 is seen by the company as the first significant step in an eco-friendly dryer portfolio entitled the 'Big Bang'. With a reduction in energy consumption of 60% and short cycle times, the machines are designed to save costs for businesses with a high laundry turnover as well as actively contributing to protecting the environment.
Miele followed this up at the end of 2012 with the launch of an exclusive product: the H20 commercial tumble dryer, which is heated using only hot water and at lower process air temperatures. This water can come from various sources – solar-thermal energy, district heating, an on-premise co-generation plant or residual heat from laundry.
According to Miele, the H20 dryers reduce heating costs to virtually zero if the source of heat is a co-generation plant. In this case, the hot water is a by-product of cooling the generation plant and does not need to be heated separately.
Senior product manager Carina Ghosh says: "It makes sense to opt for the H20 dryer if you already have cheap access to hot water on site. If you don't have cheap access to hot water, you should go for a heat pump dryer. These products are an addition to our standard portfolio but I believe they will become more important in the coming years as the price of fossil fuels continues to rise."
Hotel puts hot water into action
Hotel proprietor Günther Glander is already thinking of the future. Cleaning Matters visited the Höltje Hotel in Verdern, northern Germany, where Glander has installed a co-generation plant that provides all the electricity the hotel requires during the summer months. This cuts electricity costs by more than 20,000 euros per year.
Glander has also been trialling an H20 dryer since June in a bid to save even more money. The process air in the tumble dryer is heated using 80°C hot water from the storage tanks connected to Glander's co-generation plant. This heat is available to Glander to run his Miele dryer at no extra charge.
The hotel dries at least 200kg of laundry each day, which it used to outsource. "Before, partner companies would take the wet laundry twice a week and would charge us the wet weight,” Glander explains. "This meant we were not only paying for the water when the guest took the shower but for the water in the laundry too. H20 uses 10% of the energy of the previous method, and it will have paid for itself after two years."
As well as saving money, the hotel is able to offer a daily 12-hour laundry service; its fabrics last longer as it is no longer using chloride detergents; and more control in-house leads to less damage.
Thousands of Miele's heat-pump dryers are in use across Europe, while a handful of the H20 dryers are currently in use at sites in Germany – a country that has introduced a number of incentives for using renewable-generated energy and heat, such as reduced tax rates. However, Miele Professional is optimistic that the H20 dryer will soon be taken up by businesses in the UK and it is currently in serious talks with five companies.
Dr Markus Miele concluded: "The challenge for the future is making innovative products and understanding what customers are doing and how we can make their lives easier."
Further developments may be in the pipeline but, for now, the focus is simple: Miele firmly believes the future is sustainability that can protect both the pocket of business owners and the environment.