BeMicron – Purity Propels Belgian Independent

Posted January 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm

European independents engaged in the cleanroom laundering field face two fundamental challenges.

First—like their U.S. counterparts—they must meet the exacting requirements of customers in sensitive operations such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, which demands employee garments that are free of microorganisms, as well foreign particles, such as lint, dust and hair. Second, they must strive for a share of the market amid fierce competition from other independents, as well as large companies such as Elis, a French multinational launderer with operations across Europe; CWS-boco, a German multinational operator; and Initial Textile, a British-based launderer.

Vincent Vanneste, managing director of BeMicron®, a division of Scaldis St. Martin SA,Péruwelz, Belgium, takes these issues in stride. Maybe it’s because his company, a 20-year-plus veteran of the cleanroom trade, has a long record of quality and innovation in both cleanroom services and industrial laundering for customers across Belgium.

Culture could play a role as well. For centuries, Belgians have confronted larger countries such as France, Germany and Holland in conflicts over land and markets in Europe and beyond. As a company, BeMicron has found its niche by partnering mainly with comparable small-to-midsize companies engaged in pharmaceutical production, food processing, computer hardware assembly and more. “It’s a very specialized business,” Vanneste says, in accented, but clear English. “We prefer to work with small producers … rather than large cleanrooms. That is the difference.”

To survive and ultimately, to thrive, niche players like BeMicron must be nimble as well as efficient and reliable.

During our visit, which coincided with last October’s World Textile Services Congress in Bruges, Belgium, Vanneste described a garment innovation his company had just introduced. It’s a trademarked system dubbed the “BeMicron folding system and donning procedure.” Promoted on the homepage of the company’s website at, a video shows how the garment is designed for a wearer to don in 30 seconds or less—without touching the outside of the garment. It unfolds simply and the wearer puts the garment on from the inside, thus reducing the risk of cross-contamination as employees come on for their shifts. The garment also improves productivity because less time is spent gowning up before work. “It’s the simple way of gowning,” Vanneste says. “It’s really easy to use. It’s also faster. Everyone is happy with the system. It’s new on the market.”

BeMicron teamed up with a couple of U.S.-based specialty garment manufacturers to develop the new gown, he says. It premiered in 2015 in the Far East and the fast-donning suit will be promoted worldwide, including the U.S. in 2017.


Along with entrepreneurship and the development of new products, BeMicron’s formula for success relies on ISO-approved management procedures that are in place in its plant. These measures help ensure that the quality and reliability of the processes used to clean and finish workwear meet the high standards its customers require for cleanliness and for the absence of foreign particles, as noted above.

We saw this process in action during a walk-through of the plant. At the outset of our tour, we donned white lab coats, shoe covers and a hairnet. While access was restricted to some areas of the clean side of the plant, we could see each operation through windows looking onto the equipment in use in the 3,995-square-meter (43,000 square-foot) facility. Located in central Belgium, about an hour southeast of Bruges, the plant’s main equipment supplier is Lapauw, a Belgian manufacturer whose headquarters is located about 40 minutes from BeMicron.

Vanneste led the tour; others included David Bernstein, president of Lapauw USA, LLC, the company’s North American division; and Wim Demeyer, a Belgium-based sales representative.

The plant consists of two buildings, including a cleanroom facility and an industrial laundry. The latter plant processes conventional workwear as well as specialty goods, such as flame-resistant (FR) and high-visibility (hi-vis) items. Virtually all the garments are rental apparel. The market area of Belgium is roughly equivalent in size to the state of Maryland.

We first toured the cleanroom area of the BeMicron facility. Soiled goods brought in by the plant’s 17 trucks arrive at a loading dock, where carts are removed for sorting. Employees sort and divide the goods into 80 kilo (176 lb.) slings in carts. Sorting staff scan barcodes on each sling of garments. Dust control items such as microfiber mops are tracked through radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. This process allows BeMicron to follow the goods throughout the process, Vanneste says. “The most important thing is to fill the batch,” he says. “We need to follow the load. We always know where it’s going because we scan the bags.”

On the soil side, we saw goods going into one of two 110 kilo (242 lb.) Lapauw Mediwave washer/extractors. These machines are specifically designed and approved for use in the exacting environments of cleanroom laundries. Staff underload the machines with 80 kilo loads from the batch system to give the goods more room for agitation in the cylinder. “Because it’s polyester, it takes a lot of volume in the washer,” Vanneste says, noting that this is a common practice for processing cleanroom garments. Soiled items are walled off from the clean side to prevent cross-contamination.

As we often see in healthcare laundries, the plant has full functional separation of clean and soil goods. However, the setup in this case is in fact quite different. In a cleanroom laundry, there’s not only separation, but an absolute barrier between the two sides. No air is allowed to transfer between the soil and clean areas of the plant, Bernstein says. Plant managers closely monitor this air seal. “There are filters on incoming air, which are strictly monitored and specified,” he says. “There is a mandated number of air changes per hour.” ISO standards specify the use of filters, the number of air changes permitted and more. Each cleanroom laundry receives an ISO classification, so that the laundry’s customers can know the levels of cleanliness in that facility. In BeMicron’s case, the plant operates under ISO 4 GMP (good manufacturing practices). The International Standards Organization (ISO) rules set the standards for cleanroom operations, while the GMP system is designed to guarantee the reproducibility of product quality to meet these set specifications. 

Dryers are located on the opposite side of the wall from the washer/extractors with a pass-through area, so no goods can enter the clean side prior to washing.

On the clean side, we see petri dishes where tests are conducted to ensure that the area is free of harmful bacteria that could contaminate the garments. Random tests are conducted on garments as well. “We can enter each batch to certify to our customers that every step in the process is right,” Vanneste says.

Clean wet goods are moved in carts specially dedicated to each batch, he adds. This is part of the rigorous effort to control the processing of cleanroom goods. “We always use dedicated carts for the wet garments,” he says. Staff then move the goods to the dryer. This process enhances both quality and safety. “We avoid cross-contamination between the wet and dry goods.”  

After drying, we watch from behind a glass window as staff move goods from folding machines to wrapping equipment that covers and seals the textiles in plastic. They then are placed in lockable plastic bins and stacked into large metal cages for packout.   

Sterilization is outsourced to a third party for those goods that require the highest level of hygiene, Vanneste says. Synergy Health is the main partner that BeMicron uses for this service.

The plant runs two shifts, from 6 a.m. to 10 pm. M/F. A staff of 24 people work in the cleanroom side of the operation. Another 30 staff members work in the conventional workwear facility. The latter plant is similar to modern midsize industrial laundries that we’ve seen in the United States.

For the processing of conventional industrial garments, BeMicron scans barcode labels on each item of clothing and moves them through a garment-sortation system. Two large Lapauw 330 kilo (727 lb.) open-pocket washer/extractors are used for the bulk of these goods. Healthcare and various specialty items are washed in one of two 200kilo (440 lb.) Lapauw open-pocket washer/extractors. The large washer/extractors tilt and move their cylinders back and forth to drop loads onto a shuttle system that’s hung from the ceiling. Clean wet goods move on this conveyor and are dropped into one of two dryers. A Lapauw tunnel finisher completes the processing of workwear, including FR and high-vis garments.


Whether it’s processing industrial/protective wear or cleanroom garments, the Belgian market is—like that of the U.S.—both competitive and demanding in terms of hygiene quality. Customers in pharmaceutical, food processing, computer chip manufacturing and similar industries require work garments that are free of microorganisms and other impurities. Moreover, industrial customers using FR or high-vis wear require launderers to ensure that the protective qualities of these goods aren’t compromised through processing during the normal lifespan of the garment.

A family-owned company, BeMicron/Scaldis St. Martin, guarantees customer satisfaction. As its website states, the company supplies garments—including the easy-doffing gown noted above—and high-quality industrial laundry services, “Our clothing is produced with the greatest care, and you will immediately recognize its superior quality,” a message on its homepage says. “For this reason, our products must be maintained and handled by genuine specialists.”

Our tour of BeMicron demonstrated that the company has the systems, machinery, people and attention to detail necessary to make these claims credible. That, in turn, helps BeMicron compete effectively in Belgium by meeting the demands of rental-garment and dust-control customers in exacting fields such as information-technology-related manufacturing. To put it another way, BeMicron’s ability to ensure purity, hygiene and quality in its laundry processing is propelling this company forward.