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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.
The UBI Solutions software tracks a variety of details regarding the inventory and its movement, Munier says. It monitors the return rates (the number of days it takes for an individual customer to return items), the percentage of items that have been returned (based on the number of bags or roll cages received) and the time required to process every item in the laundry. Because the technology tracks individual ZHEN linens, it can also count how many wash cycles those linens can sustain before they need to be replaced.
The software also provides 30-day stock-level alerts indicating when a customer has kept linens on their own premises for an extended period of time. This enables the company to contact that customer and make sure that those items have not gone missing.
A customer can use a password to log into UBI Solutions' software and view details about the linens. "Customers, through a standard Web interface, can see, in real time, the flow of linens they receive and then ship back," Munier states. Customers have full visibility into their level of stock per category as well.
"Our system," Munier says, "is based on an application engine we have been developing over the last eight years and have been using for over 300 installations—not only in the laundry market, but also in logistics, tool-management and planning applications."
Jones says his goal was to understand where linens are located. If the technology continues to work well, he expects Fishers to install RFID readers at some of its customers' hotels, or to provide those customers with handheld readers for even greater visibility. The return on investment, he notes, will be centered around the ability to confirm what has been shipped to a hotel and then returned, thereby preventing the need to ship out additional linens to replace items that might not, in fact, be missing.
In the long run, Jones expects intelligence in the system could help him make decisions about Fishers' products, such as which items require replacement more frequently. It could also reveal which of Fishers' customers are experiencing a higher frequency of losses, or damage to their products, enabling the company to then speak with those customers about finding solutions.
Fishers may opt to install the RFID technology in at least four of its laundries during the coming years, Jones says. The company will tag other linens, though it has no plan at present to tag anything for which the tag would represent more than 20 percent of the item's value.
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