BEIJING, China — The growing China laundry services industry is in the market for high-production equipment, so a Texcare Asia show that traditionally has featured smaller laundry machinery “grew” this year to include seven tunnel washers in the exhibition.
Demand for high-quality, energy-efficient equipment is on the rise, thanks in part to the Chinese government’s push to reduce the country’s CO2 emissions by 45% by 2020.
And as China’s middle class grows more affluent and the country becomes a more desired international tourist destination, the hospitality industry is capitalizing by building more hotels. For example, Marriott recently announced plans to open one hotel in China each month for the next three years.
“There are so (many) people and so (many) needs, so they look for bigger machines,” says Bengt Bruce, president of laundry equipment manufacturer B&C Technologies, Panama City, Fla. “That’s why you see tunnels here.” Bruce was on hand to assist Accurate Technologies, the Thailand-based manufacturer for which B&C is a distributor in the United States.
“I’m amazed about the interest for our products,” says Bruce. “In general, I see a trend in the industry that you would see more quality out of the Chinese manufacturers. Overall, in the last three years, I have seen a big change. Overall, it’s a very good exhibition.”
Tony Regan, senior vice president for sales and marketing for American Dryer Corp., Fall River. Mass., took note of the increased number of China-based companies exhibiting equipment here this year.
Will their stronger presence make it more difficult for foreign companies to compete for business here?
“I’m going to say no, because as the market opens up even more and there is growth going on, we just have to approach it differently, we being the Americans, Europeans and the other parts of the world coming to China,” Regan says. “I think there still is potential for everybody.”
In September, the Jensen Group opened a large manufacturing facility in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, as its new base in China. The 91,000-square-foot plant includes a sales and servicing center.
“Our machine systems are more than a match for future laundry requirements, a fact that is entirely in line with our promise to offer sustainable laundry automation,” says Kai Anderson, Jensen’s regional business director. “We are extremely pleased with the number of visitors and are confident that we have the right solution for every laundry requirement.”
Consultant Glen Phillips of Minnesota-based Phillips & Associates attended Texcare Asia to meet with several Chinese manufacturers interested in participating in projects with his firm, as well as to visit with American and Canadian vendors attempting to gain a foothold here.
“China today is 40 to 50 years behind the Europeans and Americans in the delivery of quality laundry service,” says Phillips, whose firm has advised several Chinese national entrepreneurs in laundry projects. “Some of the international in-house hospitality laundries are acutely aware of the quality aspects of delivering quality linen service, but most are ambivalent about the benefits that service brings, particularly if the general managers don’t demand better service.”
Of the seven reported tunnel manufacturers on the floor, three were from Europe/USA and the remaining four were “copycat” Chinese manufacturers, Phillips says.
“Close inspection of these (Chinese) machines revealed welding flaws and errors, wiring irregularities that violated UL (Underwriters Laboratories) codes, and under-designed drive and safety features.”
He believes the Chinese-made machines were designed and built to meet certain “Chinese price points” without regard to good design and safety features.
Chinese manufacturers are “very naïve in the technical aspects of the laundry industry, particularly in the proper use of chemicals when dealing with contaminated healthcare textiles.”
David Tingue, CEO of Georgia-based Tingue, Brown & Co., attended the show in support of his company’s Hong Kong operation, now in its third year. Tingue, Brown supplies a variety of flatwork ironer products.
“It’s a very full conference hall, but it’s very easy to see this show, the way they have it laid out,” Tingue says. “I’m impressed by how many ‘big equipment’ guys are here vs. what I saw a few years ago. You’ve got all kinds of different manufacturers that, frankly, I’d never heard of.
“We need to see their business grow, so we can get the (orders for) after-market supplies they need to buy from us,” Tingue says. “It’ll trickle down to us soon.”