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RFID Helps Mentally Disabled Laundry Workers Do Their Jobs

The system tracks various processes regarding the washing and sorting of linens and clothing, and provides alerts if mistakes are about to be made.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 22, 2016

Switzerland's Foundation of Valais in Favor of Mentally Handicapped Persons (FOVAHM) has been employing radio frequency identification technology to simplify the process that its mentally handicapped job trainees use to launder linens and clothing belonging to individuals enrolled in FOVAHM's programs.

The FOVAHM foundation provides job-training workshops for people with disabilities. The association houses and trains approximately 360 individuals at its center in Valais. The training includes 17 different professions, one involving work within laundry departments. The facility, known as the mARTigny boutique-hôtel, has a built-in laboratory for training, which serves as its own laundry facility. The La Romaine laundry facility, located in a 360-square-meter (3,875-square-foot) basement, was created both to launder the clothing of all residents and linens used for bedding and dining, and to provide training for about 10 residents who clean those items.

RFID readers installed above the conveyor belt read each item's RFID tag, prompting an air jet to push that item to the appropriate trolley. (Copyright: Richard Aufreiter, HID Global)
The laundry is separated into two zones. The dirty zone is dedicated to the sorting and washing of soiled linens, while the clean zone is used for the processing of the clean clothes and linens before they are loaded onto trucks destined for the housing areas. Both zones are separated by a tight partition.

To provide a straightforward, error-proof training environment, the association opted to use EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags and readers. By using the technology, the facility can ensure that the linens are properly sorted, laundered and returned for re-use by the residents.

The RFID system, provided by HygieClean Ltd., consists of HID Global LinTag RFID tags, either heat-sealed or sewn to linens, towels and other laundry, as well as readers installed at the laundry facility, and HygieClean's RFID software to manage data regarding tag reads, store information and display alerts. The software displays information and alerts on computers installed onsite. Small items, such as socks and underpants, are not tagged, but instead receive a 2D thermo-bonded patch.

The deployment includes two RFID tagging stations, where LinTags are affixed to the linens, which include napkins, bed sheets, towels and clothing worn by the residents. The system also comes with two RFID reading stations: one at the conveyor belt at the sorting area within the dirty zone, the other where clean linens and clothes are collected and folded. (HygieClean declined to name the make and model of RFID readers and antennas used to interrogate the tags.) HygieClean software, residing on FOVAHM's server, manages the collected read data.

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