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U.K. Linen Service Cleans Up With RFID

Fishers Services is using passive UHF tags to track the receipt, washing and delivery of towels and sheets, thereby gaining visibility into where those items are located, as well as which are delayed or may be missing.
By Claire Swedberg

UBI Solutions offered a better alternative, Jones says, since its system came with hardware including touchscreens to access software on a cloud-based server. "It was much simpler for us," he states.

Fishers operates from a total of seven sites. For the new facility in Glasgow, the company saw the opportunity to launch an automated system to track the new ZHEN products, as well as the bags and metal roll cages it uses to deliver all of its linens—both tagged and untagged. The firm signed a contract with UBI Solutions in mid-December 2015, and the system was taken live in March with the opening of the new laundry, says Renaud Munier, UBI Solutions' business development director.

UBI Solutions' Renaud Munier
Fishers opted to tag the Glasgow laundry's 4,000 roll cages and approximately 7,000 bags. Nearly 200,000 ZHEN linens have been tagged as well by the linens' supplier, Pegasus Textiles. The bags and metal cages are fitted with tags supplied by Inotec. (Munier declines to provide the specific make and model of the tags or reader antennas used.)

Fishers installed a portal for receiving soiled linens with an Impinj Speedway Revolution R420 reader and four circular-polarization antennas. Two additional Impinj readers are installed on the two soiled linen conveyors.

After being cleaned and sorted through a manual process, the linens are placed in cages or bags destined for delivery to specific customers. On the way to the delivery dock, employees move the loaded bags and cages through a tunnel reader in the form of a cabin with a built-in Impinj reader and a UBI solutions multiplexer and antennas. Munier declines to reveal how many antennas were installed there. At that location, personnel use a touchscreen to select the customer to whom the items are being delivered, along with details related to what is being sent—for instance, the quantity of towels, sheets or tablecloths. That information is then recorded, along with the unique ID number encoded to the tag of the bag or container in which those items are packed.

In addition, if ZHEN linens are being sent, the unique ID number of each item's RFID tag is captured and linked with the customer data, so that Fishers knows not only the quantities and types of items shipped, but also the exact identity of each item. UBI Manager middleware captures read data and forwards that information to its software on the hosted server.

When soiled linens are returned from the customer, they are moved to the washing area via conveyor. The Impinj reader installed at that conveyor captures the tag ID numbers of the containers and ZHEN linens, updating the details in the software to indicate what has been returned. Once those items are then received in the washing area, the tags are read one more time for the purpose of redundancy, and to create a record of the actual washing of those linens.

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