Frequently Asked Questions
about the
Continuous Roll Towel (CRT) Machine


How much can the CRT machine save me?

This is one of the toughest questions to answer, because many plants do not accurately track the cost of processing a roll towel. Since the towels are processed in the same washers, dryers, and ironers as everything else, many plants simply tabulate the total cost of chemicals, water, labor, gas, and other overhead items, then divide that into the number of pounds (of all products) produced. Since a roll towel weighs about 4 pounds, a roll towel costs 4 times the average cost per pound, under this theory. And the only way to "save money" on towel processing would be to reduce the overall cost of processing goods in the laundry.

In reality, though, a roll towel does not cost the same to produce as a uniform, shop towel, napkins, or table cloths. Each item has unique handling costs and processing needs. The profitability of basing costs of any product you rent on the average cost of production figures can leave you short on cash if your production mix switches from items that have little labor involved, such as shop towels, to high labor items, such as uniforms, before you can catch the trend.

In the case of the roll towel without a CRT machine, this "special handling" includes unwinding the towel and tying it, washing and extracting, drying, feeding it through the ironer, then rewinding, with the labor involved at each step. The tying operation damages the towels, as well, reducing quality and necessitating more frequent replacement.

Where exactly are these savings found?

The CRT machine reduces the labor costs in many ways: it eliminates the separate unwinding and tying operation;  there are no manual transfers between conventional machines; and the rewinding operation is automated.

Its continuous process allows it to reuse water and chemicals more efficiently than conventional washers and washer/extractors, as well as avoiding the energy lost in the heat-up and cool-down cycles of a dryer.

And removing the roll towels from your conventional wash mix can increase your wash room's capacity, without purchasing additional equipment.

Detailed studies of the economics of roll towel processing costs are, unfortunately, rare. However, Arrow Uniform Service, based in the Detroit area, conducted a very thorough study in 1980. This study took all of the above factors into account... plus reduced inventory costs brought about by reducing turn-around time for towels, and reduced replacement costs attributable to the damage done by conventional processing (It should be noted that Arrow has had a policy of recycling, rather than repairing, customer-damaged towels.).

The results? The cost to process a roll towel by CRT machine was reduced by approximately 50% over conventional processing. This translates directly to a higher profit margin, a more competitive rental rate, or both.

Show me some examples that apply to me!

Labor is where one of the most obvious savings is found. The unwinding/rewinding operations alone consume more than double the CRT Machine's labor costs!

Let's take the case of a typical operation, where one worker will be able to unwind or rewind 50 to 70 towels per hour. Producing 300 towels will take 4.25 to 6 hours of direct, hands-on labor, to prepare for the washer. They are next loaded into your washer, transferred to the extractor (unless you're using washer/extractors, which saves one step), put in the dryer, fed through an ironer, then moving the load back to the rewinder... where it will take another 4.5 to 6 hours to reroll them, ready to rent.

The turnaround time? 1-1/2 to 2 shifts, unless you throw more people into the mix. But more people means more costs.

With a CRT Machine, one person can process those same 300 towels from rolled-up-dirty to rolled-up-clean, ready to rent, in less than 4 hours. And operating the CRT Machine does not require significantly more skill than an unwinder or rewinder!

What are your hourly costs for labor, including taxes and benefits? At just $10/hour, your labor savings already exceed $0.35 to $0.50 per towel. When you factor in lower water consumption, energy and chemical costs, as well as increased capacity returned to your washers, extractors, dryers, and ironers, the picture only becomes better.

These savings can accumulate quickly; for a plant producing 1,000 to 1,500 roll towels per week, the CRT machine can pay for itself in a couple of years or less. This is, by the way, only 13 to 20 hours of work per week for the CRT machine.

You don't have to take our word for how well the CRT Machine works. We will put you in touch with REAL users of the CRT Machines we've built. These are people who have been where you are now, and are happy to be CRT Machine owners.

Sure, it sounds great, but I only do [insert small number here] towels per week, not 1,000!

When you don't have enough towels to justify single ownership of a CRT machine, a partnership with another linen rental company for this one item might be a viable alternative. Several already exist, both among local competitors and within larger organizations, which consolidate roll towel processing for several plants into one that has a CRT machine. An alternative is to increase your market by simply offering your competitor a better price to process their towel than they can do on their own; something the CRT machine makes possible.

Once you drop below about 500 towels per week, the return on investment gets to be longer than many accountants want to think about. Consolidation also brings about its own costs, which have to be examined. However, in many instances, the reduced production costs far out weigh the added transportation and administrative costs.


How does the CRT machine work?

The operator takes each towel, and stitches the loose end to the end of the last towel fed into the machine. The roll is then dropped into a bin, and a button pressed on the operator's console to start unrolling and feeding the towel into the Dry Feed Hopper, its first stop in its journey through the machine. A photocell in the bin stops feeding the towel before its end is pulled into the machine, leaving it so that the operator can attach the next towel.

From this point, the towel is pulled into a soaking tank, called the J-Box, where it spends 7 minutes or so soaking in a strong chemical bath, which breaks up the dirt and oils..

Next, the towel is pulled out of the bath, into the Wash Box, where a more dilute mixture of chemicals and water, heated by steam, is sprayed through the towel under pressure. This knocks the dirt and oils, loosened by the soaking process, off the towel, and begins the process of reducing the soap content of the towel.

The towel next enters the rinse section, where it is alternately extracted between rollers and sprayed with clean water, to remove the last of the soap.

From here, the towel enters the drying section, where it makes six passes over each of two steam-heated drums. This both dries and irons the towel.

Coming off the drums, the towel is pushed into an accumulator, across several rolls and drag devices, to the rewind section. During rewinding, a device that is officially called the "Towel Alignment Assembly", but affectionately called the "Wiggle Woggle", straightens the edge, yielding a nice, even edge to the roll.

A switch detects the sewn-together end of the towel, and stops the rewind shaft automatically, so that the operator can remove the thread holding the two towels together. By stepping on the towel eject foot switch, an air cylinder pushes the towel off the rewind mandrill, and onto a delivery shaft, while the operator starts the next towel winding on the mandrill.

A skilled operator can handle 80 to 85 towels per hour, which is significantly higher than the rate for just unwinding and tying.


How much steam does the CRT machine use?

The English Mark 5 and Mark 6 CRT machines are rated at 700 pounds per hour for steam consumption, at a minimum supply pressure of 100 psi (6.7 BAR). This is regulated to 80 psi (5.3 BAR) at the machine, and the regulator will accept up to 150 psi (10 BAR) input pressure. Since we are using the same size drums at the same pressure rating, we believe that the machines we overhaul use approximately the same amount of steam.

For comparison purposes, this works out to approximately 2 pounds of steam per pound of goods processed, based upon a weight of about 4.3 pounds per 40-yard towel, at 80 towels processed per hour.

How much water does the CRT machine use?

All the water put into the CRT machine, after the initial filling of the water tank and J-Box, passes through the rinse section jets. These jets are rated for a total of 3.2 U.S. gallons (12 liters) per minute, at a supply pressure of 40 psi (2.7 BAR). At a more typical supply pressure of 60 psi (4 BAR), the flow is 4.8 gallons (18.1 liters) per minute. A gate valve is provided to allow flow adjustment of this rinse water to achieve the "ideal" value of 4 gallons (15 liters) per minute.

Typically, you will want this water to come from your hot water supply, for better rinsing and to avoid cooling the towel before it reaches the drying drums. Cold water rinsing will increase the steam load, as the drums reheat the towel.

Based upon the same assumptions as the steam numbers above, this is approximately 0.65 gallons per pound processed.

How much soap does the CRT machine use?

This is difficult to say; the brand and type of soap, the form that it is delivered in, the typical soil level of your towels, and the judgement of your soap supplier's representative will all have an influence on soap usage.

At one time, we had available a "CRT soap", which had been formulated by the original manufacturer. This powdered soap was intended to be mixed in the original soap tanks that were mounted on the drying drum section. However, better soaps have been developed over the last decade, and better delivery systems are available.

How is the soap added to the CRT machine?

The machines we rebuild do not come with any soap delivery system as standard equipment. We can provide the equivalent of the original "soap dispenser", intended for gravity fed, liquefied soap, if you have such a system available. However, we do not provide the tank itself for such installations.

We do provide an electrical contact, actuated once for each towel ejected, that can be used to trigger a peristaltic pump, or some other mechanism for injecting soap. We also know of several systems that use a continuous titration sensor, which allows the soap system to maintain a specific solution level under variable conditions. One such system, available through Ecolab, uses a solid block of detergent, which is mixed with water as needed. It is typically mounted to the side of the machine, and a block of detergent lasts for 600 to 800 towels.

What is the best soap to use for the CRT machine?

The answer to this question depends upon your soap vendor and typical towel soil level. Some customers use a soap that is formulated for institutional dish washers in their machines; they find that the mix of grease cutters used for cleaning pots and pans works equally well on industrial grease and grime. Others use special "CRT blend" soaps.

This is one area that is best left to your chemical supplier, since they will know which soaps in their line best match the mix of soils in your plant.

Floor space:

What are the overall dimensions for the CRT machine?

We've just added the CRT Layout diagram (below) to this page, to help you with finding the "best" place for the CRT machine in your plant. In general, you should allow an area of approximately 25 by 15 feet, to allow room to operate and maintain the machine, as well as get carts around it.

The height is approximately 10 feet at the highest point. The drying drum section is 8 feet high, and we recommend a steam hood over the drying drums and rinse section, to remove excess humidity from your plant.


How much drainage capacity will I need for the CRT machine?

During operation, the CRT machine will discharge less than the 3.5 to 4.5 gallons (13 to 17 liters) per minute that is fed into it, due to the amount that is evaporated from the towels during the drying process. The exact amount is dependent upon the composition of the towels, and how much water they carry with them onto the drying drums. In at least one installation that we know of, the CRT machine is not directly attached to the drainage system, but instead dumps into a pit. This pit contains a float-actuated sump pump, which then lifts the water as needed to another location, where it is discharged into the waste water system.

Only during times when you drain the machine completely will the flow exceed this rate. The wash water holding tank holds approximately 100 gallons (380 liters), and the J-Box contains another 60 gallons (225 liters). If your drainage system has limited capacity, it will be important to drain the machine slowly, so as to avoid overflowing the system.

What kind of waste water can I expect from the CRT machine?

The quality of the waste water will depend upon the soap used, and the chemicals that are being cleaned off the towels. The shaker-screen filter on our units makes the effluent low in particulate matter; virtually all the lint in the water is removed, and placed in a separate collection bin. This allows the waste water to be fed into heat recovery systems with little or no additional filtering.

I have other questions - who should I contact?

You can reach us via email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; we check it often, even when home. The address is .

We can also be reached via telephone during "normal business hours", which for us is 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Central time, at (815) 338-2771.

Our 24-hour FAX number is (815) 338-2852.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, October 10, 2001.

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