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Laundry Company Commercializes Its RFID Sortation System

Village Uniform and Linen's system, codeveloped with Datamars, enables industrial laundry companies to track the washing process of customers' uniforms, mats and linens automatically.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 03, 2012When Scott Meyer, the owner of Village Uniform and Linen, joined his father's family business in 1996, to help grow the firm's industrial laundry division, he began experimenting with a radio frequency identification solution to manage the sorting of piles and bags full of uniforms, mats and linens. The resulting solution, which he developed with assistance from RFID company Datamars—a Swiss RFID firm with a U.S. office in Woburn, Mass.—has helped Village Uniform grow its industrial business. Meyer is now marketing the system, known as Simple Sort, to other laundry and cleaning companies worldwide.

Meyer's spin-off firm, known as RFID Laundry Consultant Inc., is providing the Simple Sort system, which consists of Datamars' RFID readers, tunnel antennas, and high-frequency (HF) LaundryChip RFID tags complying with the ISO 15693 standard, as well as RFID Laundry Consultant's software.

One overriding problem facing industrial laundry companies such as Village Uniform is how to efficiently manage the volume of items traveling from and to customers. Most such businesses not only provide cleaning services, but also products—such as floor mats, linens or uniforms. On a regular basis, a delivery worker picks up the soiled items, transports them to a location for laundering and sorting, and then returns them, cleaned and ready for use.

Tracking floor mats can be difficult since they are heavy to lift, and additional lifting is exactly what is required for visual inspection to identify a printed bar-coded or text label, in order to determine whether the item has been laundered, and where it should be routed after being cleaned. Uniforms pose their own challenges, as they are typically issued to a specific employee, and thus the pants, shirt and any other clothing items must be packaged together after cleaning. In addition, all items must be sorted according to the customer, and must be placed on the appropriate truck for delivery—all of which can be time-consuming and provide a potential for error.

Traditionally, tracking by industrial cleaners is performed via labels printed with serial numbers in the form of bar codes or text. But recently, says Daryl Kuna, the VP of sales for Datamars' U.S. office, RFID technology has been providing a solution, by enabling laundries to more easily identify each item being processed.

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