Alex Taylor, machinery sales at i-Sub, distributor of Roq folding and packaging machines, reports on why there has been a surge in demand for these types of systems, and the properties of different plastic bags

What trends are you seeing at the moment?
The key trend we are seeing at the moment is for folding machines to be able to give a perfect finish on all garment types, every time. For example, many folding machines on the market aren’t fully automated to fold long sleeve garments, which means that the operator must manually fold the arms in. This means slower speeds and tired operators – we find that the loading process must be as simple as possible to get the best output.

Have you noticed an increase in demand from UK garment decorators for folding, packaging and bagging machines recently?
I-Sub has experienced a huge increase in demand for folding and packaging systems over the last year or so. We believe this is due to the rise in labour cost in the UK, and businesses realising how dependent they are on their employees’ productivity – some of our customers run 24/7 so they need something they know they can rely on.

Online sales also play a massive part in the need for folding and packing machinery. For our larger customers, they get online retail runs of +10,000 garments and as the saying goes, ‘They want it yesterday’, so being able to fold and pack a large volume of garments quickly can prove difficult. This is when folding and packing machinery comes into play.

On the smaller scale we have customers that use drop shipment services such as Amazon. They have folding and packing machinery to create a uniform look across the brand.

How often does Roq update its bagging, packaging and folding machines?
Roq is always updating its machinery to the latest technology; Roq’s motto is that it grows and learns with its customers. Currently the team is working on a new system that we expect to see later on next year – I’ve seen the prototype and it’s going to leave the competition behind!

How have bagging, packaging and folding machines changed since Roq began making them?
The Roq systems haven’t really changed as a concept since they began making them over 20 years ago as the former company SRoque. The reason for this is because they work well; Roq has, however, made themmore reliable and faster (up to 600 garments per hour).

What should people consider before purchasing a machine?
Anyone who is looking at investing in a system should test thoroughly the garments that they will be using regularly. Set up times are also very important as time in between jobs is money lost.

What is the main mistake people make when using a bagging, packaging or folding machine, and how can they avoid it?
The main mistake is under investing in the machinery–when you are looking at high production outputs over a long day you can’t affordmachine breakdowns. It’s vital that you buy from a reputable supplier with a good support network in place.

What one piece of advice would you give to garment decorators to help them get more out of their machines?
Choose the right type of bag plastic – they give very different results, which many people don’t realise. For example, polyethylene (PE) heat-sealed bags are durable, tear-resistant, translucent, soft and pliable, whereas polypropylene (PP) pre-fabricated bags have a crystal clear, ‘retail ready’ finish, are made from a stiffer plastic and protect against moisture and odours.

How would you convince a decorator that a bagging, packaging or folding machine is worth investing in?
A simple way is to work out total spend on workforce and the average output on an hourly basis. It doesn’t take long to see a return on investment when a Roq Fold & Pack machine requires a single operator and outputs 550 garments a hour.