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Bollman Industries Uses New Scouring Train to Make Wool Processing More Efficient

By Ross McSwain, Special Correspondent

It’s big, it’s blue, it’s noisy and its six wash bowls can easily handle a mid-sized city’s dirty laundry in a matter of a few hours, but this giant washing machine is being used to scour wool that is made into hats.

"It performs much like a washing machine, except the wool is sent through the various washing cycles on a conveyor belt," explained Jason Bannowsky, general manager of Bollman Industries scouring operation in San Angelo, Texas. The huge Andar Company scouring train is a state-of-the-art operation designed and manufactured in New Zealand. The equipment is fully twice or more efficient than old scouring equipment that Bollman had been using since 1940.

Bollman of Texas, a division of Bollman Industries of Adamstown, Pa., replaced its old scouring line last year with a loan from the Sheep and Goat Fund administered by the National Livestock Producers Association of Colorado Springs. The fund is made available through the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center in Washington, D. C.

According to Bannowsky, the new equipment allows the company to scour 2,500 pounds of wool per hour, more than double the capacity of the old equipment. During test runs last year, the new scouring train was able to wash and dry up to 50,000 pounds of wool per work day. It has been in full operation since last August, he said.

Bollman Industries, founded in 1868, is a long-established business and user of wool, mostly in the production of mens’ and women’s hats. The firm also does commission scouring for some of America’s leading woolen mills, including Pendleton, Frostmann and others.

Before locating its scouring plant in San Angelo, Bollman had a scouring operation in San Marcos, near San Antonio.

Bannowsky said Bollman specializes in handling short, fine wools that are sought by the felting trade. The wool staple is generally from 1-1/2 to 2inches in length and paint free. San Angelo is an ideal location for the plant since this particular type of wool is produced within a 200-mile radius of the city. At the height of wool production in western Texas a number of years ago, more than 1,000,000 pounds of short wool was produced annually. That has declined to about 700,000 pounds per year.Bollman Industries

Bollman has a hat factory in San Angelo, but it is operated separately from its scouring business. There are about 60 workers in the hat finishing division and 13 work in the scouring operation.

Bannowsky said the new equipment purchased from New Zealand is all automated and is much more efficient than the old equipment.

"We had to have new technology to stay in business," he said, noting that the new equipment removes more heavy solids from the wool, reduces the amount of water needed in the wash cycles, and can extract most of the wool grease, or lanolin, from waste water rather than lose the by-product down the drain.Bollman Industries

"We are now able to sell the lanolin to the cosmetic industry," Bannowsky said. The greasy substance, removed from the waste water through a separator process, brings about 40 cents a pound.

The machinery has huge shakers at one end that will remove a lot of dirt and vegetable matter before the wool is plunged into the vats of soapy water. The new machiney, controlled from a central control system, decreases water consumption, reduces soap use by over half since the water is recycled.

"Wedump wash bowls once a week. We used to have to dump daily using the old equipment," Bannowsky said.

The investment has paid off for Bollman. It gets cleaner wool with less vegetable matter, more even moisture content of wool coming through the dryers, and twice the production.

"We are pleased and our commission customers are pleased with the results," Bannowsky said.


Ross McSwain lives in San Angelo, Texas. He has been a journalist for the past 40 years and was a farm and ranch editor for 25 of those years. Throughout his career he has worked very closely with the sheep and goat industry in the San Angelo area.

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