Customer Visit: Alsco in Metzingen, Germany

Posted on 11.01.2013 by Bonny

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I am Bonny Maltby the Lead Technical Writer at Abel Software responsible for maintaining our system documentation, online help and other written material. I was on holiday in Germany recently and took the opportunity to visit one of Abel’s customers – Alsco in Metzingen. Globally, Alsco is a leader in the textile services industry and uses Abel ERP software to manage 1 million transactions daily across 135 branches. Being a new member of the Abel team, this was my first customer visit and it was pretty special to visit a site on the opposite side of the world!

Metzingen is located 35km from Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemberg in the South West of Germany. Baden-Württemberg has the third largest population of Germany’s 16 states.

We met with Branch Manager Jan Schultze-Berndt who took my partner and I to lunch and gave us an overview of Alsco Metzingen’s business. He then took us on a very interesting and informative tour of the branch and explained the textile services processes in detail.

Alsco Metzingen provides personalized uniforms, flat linen, mats and consumables. European Union regulations more or less require food handling garments to be leased – attention to hygiene is paramount – and the Metzingen branch specializes in garment services. The branch manages the supply, laundering, repair and replacement of uniforms for customers all over the state – keeping a track of over 200,000 uniforms and laundering thousands daily! Alsco runs 11 collection and delivery routes, visiting each customer once or twice a week – the longest route requires an overnight stay in the picturesque area of Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the South.

Standard garments are kept in stock while custom-designed uniforms are manufactured to order. Garments moving into or out of service are managed in the large on-site store. Staff introduce new garments, retire old ones and provide replacements when necessary ensuring each garment has its individual barcode identifying the customer, the wearer and other key information.

Alsco Metzingen has a sophisticated set of ceiling-mounted conveyors which conveys bags of dirty laundry ready for washing, and the cleaned and pressed garments on their individual hangers all the way to the outbound loading area where there is a hanging conveyor for each van. To streamline garment handling, some of the Abel software functions have been modified to provide spoken commands.

Dirty laundry on it’s way to being washed.

The garments are scanned on arrival at the branch and are sorted according to the washing program required. Washing solutions are mixed automatically for each wash program. After washing, the garments are sucked out of the washing machines then dried and steamed in an automatic steam chamber. Garmets requiring a high standard of finish such as pharmacist’s uniforms are individually pressed.

One of the washing machines .. and the automatic detergent mixer.

The dried and pressed garments on their hangers are scanned again and ‘verheiratet’ (meaning ‘married’) to an intelligent hook containing a microchip on the conveyor system. Each hook then ‘knows’ the barcode data of the garment it is carrying so it can proceed to the sorting floor where a number of conveyors sort the garments by customer and delivery route. The garments are delivered either folded or on hangers according to Alsco customer’s preferences. Each delivery van has it’s own conveyor and the automated sorting system ensures the right garments get to the right van on the right day of the week.

‘Marriage’ of the garments to intelligent hooks        … and the sorting floor.

The outbound loading area.

Günter Gottschalk is the Abel Manager for Germany and is based in Köln (Cologne). Jan says Günter is key to the smooth management of Abel throughout Germany. Günter communicates with Alsco’s IT department in the USA and ensures that all the branches are kept informed about new Abel functionality and pending software upgrades. Günter provides staff training programs for Alsco Germany’s configuration of Abel.

The Alsco model of management allows Jan autonomy in the management of the Metzingen branch and his staff. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and found it to be a well organised branch with a pleasant culture.

P.S. If you ever visit Metzingen, make time to visit the outlet stores! Metzingen is the home of Hugo Boss and there is a large Hugo Boss outlet store and many other designer brands as well! And I can recommend the Hotel Gasthof Schwanen for lunch!

With Jan Schultze-Berndt outside the plant …… lunch the Hotel Gasthof Schwanen – thank you Jan!

An Alsco van on its rounds in picturesque Tubingen.