Linen Supply : Pursuing "usability" for custemers' satisfaction.
Interviewed in March 2020
Linen Supply Promotion Section
Cleaning & Medical Division
Cleaning Chemicals Development Laboratory
Institute of Surface Science and Technology
"Linen Supply" refers to a combination of leasing and cleaning services that rents textile products such as sheets, towels, cloths to hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc., and collects, washes, and finishes them after use. NICCA Chemical develops and sells detergents and finishing agents used at linen supply factories. We provide facilities and systems that promote efficiency in the cleaning processes in cooperation with a group company to meet further custemers' demands. We interviewed two staff members at the forefront of development and sales.
Utilizing "voices of the customers at sites" in developing
NICCA Chemical entered the cleaning industry in 1958 by leveraging its expertise and technologies accumulated in the textile field, which we have cultivated since our establishment in 1941. We started from mainly commercial detergents used in laundry stores called "home cleaning" and have grown to the top share. In 2003, we entered the linen supply market . Having held "Linen Technology Presentations" in the three main areas in Japan, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya received favorable reviews from customers. As a result, the name of NICCA had spread in the linen supply industry.
We are the latecomer in the linen supply industry, but we have met customer demands to competitive edge, using our expertise and knowlege cultivated in textile processing chemicals. This leads NICCA to be respected company from customers. The first hit product was the "re-wash" detergent that exhibits high detergency. In the linen supply factory, large-scale machinery collectively cleans textile products in large quantities. If the stain cannot be completely removed by normal detergents, placing it in the machine and washing it again (called "re-washing"). If the stain does not come off even after re-washing, the process is repeated or textile products will be thrown away. Reducing the number of washes directly contributes to preventing degradation of textile products and reducing costs. Our products that reliably remove dirt by a single re-wash were highly praised and spreaded all at once. In addition, the SR(soil release) agent developed by applying the technology of textile processing chemicals was very popular, while polyester, which is week to oil and stain, was easily removed during subsequent laundering.
These agents have been supported by many customers from their launch until now.
Synergies with affiliated companies expands the proposal widths
Control System remotely monitors the amount of agents remaining in the tank. The System can manages multiple factories.
In developing agent, we pay attention not only to high functionality and environmental considerations, but also to the added value of "usability" for our customers. This philosophy has led to new proposals for labor saving at linen supply factories.
At the linen supply factory, it was necessary to manually set several agents used in the cleaning facility in the respective dedicated tanks and to visually check the residual amount of agents on a regular basis. On the other hand, the aging of workers has led to an urgent need to deal with labor shortages and safety management. In response to this, we have developed "Automatic dispenser" for agents to support factory automation and labor saving. We are also strengthening our lineup of liquid detergents that are suitable for auto-dosing, as the cleaning facilities and textile products that we handle is different depending on each factories. In addition, in recent years, we have developed and proposed a "Control System for Agents" for Automatic dispensers in cooperation with EMORI Engineering(*), our affiliated company. The system remotely monitors and manages the remaining amount of agent tanks installed in various parts of the factory, including the introduction of agents.
In the linen supply industry, where agents and systems are subcontracted by different companies, we are one of the first company to provide a one-stop service for both of them, and able to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in order to reduce the burden on our customers even in the event of trouble. To date, more than 100 Automatic dispensers have been introduced, and new Control System for Agents are expected to be introduced as well, as they have received popular comments such as "The time to patrol the tanks has been drastically reduced" and "The daily agent consumption can be controlled and is convenient."
We would like to be a company who with customers try to talk their idea/problems first. Actually, after we have developed Automatic dispensers and Control System for Agents, we are increasingly receiving customers' opinions from factory planning stage, and we feel that expectations for us are growing.
Linen supply services are used in a variety of industries, and we are focusing on three fields: hotel linens, hospital linens for which stable demand can be expected, and industrial linens with a focus on food factory for which uniform hygiene control needs are increasing. Moreover, from the perspective of environmental consideration, it is clear that the entire linen supply industry will continue to keep agent consumption as low as possible in the future. We are proud that our unique approach, which involves engaging in the development and processing of textile products that can easily remove stain, will give us an edge in these situations.
Currently, we have the leading market share in the domestic market for agents for cleaning products that combine home cleaning and linen supplies. Our current share limited to linen supplies is about 15-16%, but by 2025, we aim to increase this to 30%, with the goal of becoming the top not only in the entire cleaning market but also in the linen supply. We will continue to use the total technological capabilities to provide customer support while differentiating ourselves from competitors.
(*) Emori Enginieering
Established in 1995 (headquarters: Fukui), our subsidiary acquired in 2015. The company is engaged in construction and installation maintenance, from the design and sale of various systems and equipment mainly used for industrial use.