LOUISVILLE, KY—2021 marks the 30-year anniversary of the creation of Flexo Wash by Henning Kongstad. In 30 years, this family-owned business now employs 50 cleaning experts at their Denmark headquarters and produces cleaning machines for the print industry worldwide.
The story of Flexo Wash actually begins in 1989 with the invention of the first cleaning machine from a dishwasher, but to understand the complete story we need to go back even further—to 1977. Henning Kongstad started a label printing business in 1977 and bought his first printing machine in 1978. It was this business that served as the impetus for inventing Flexo Wash almost 10 years later. During that time, the equipment was washed by hand, which was fine with the types of inks used at the time. However, in the late 80s the business changed to water-based inks due to environmental concerns.
Water-based inks were not easy to clean: “When the change came to water-based inks, my guys could spend all their time in-between jobs cleaning the parts because it was so difficult to clean water-based inks. And I had a guy working for me who thought this could be done smarter, so he builds the first cleaning machine prototype from a regular dishwasher. Of course, it was not perfect, but we knew we had something here,” said Kongstad.
The journey had begun and the second prototype for a cleaning machine was built at the local blacksmith. Most importantly, it could handle the inks and the intense workload that comes with the repeated cleaning that is necessary at a label printer business.
From here on, Flexo Wash spent the next 30 years working hard and exhibiting the resilience it takes to bring the machines out into the world. In 2021, Flexo Wash can proudly say they have sold more than 5,000 machines in 70 countries. Also, they are still a family-run business, with Kongstad’s sons at the helm.