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Linentracker Automates Management of Towels, Sheets

A hotel has attached rubberized RFID tags to 20,000 items, enabling it to know if storage closets are adequately stocked, and to improve laundering and replenishment processes.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 29, 2009A number of hotels employ radio frequency identification technology to track uniforms, provide keyless entry or simplify registration (see Hotel Keeps Uniform Inventory With RFID and At Nelson Lodge, RFID Will Unlock More than Doors). Now, a startup called Linentracker is offering an RFID system that a site can use to take inventory of its towels and sheets, while also making the process of laundering and replenishing those items more efficient.

The company initiated its first pilot project with a California hotel early this year. The project was initially scheduled to run for six months, says William Serbin, Linentracker's executive VP, but it was extended indefinitely based on the positive results the technology provided the hotel.

LinenTracker's RFID tag contains an EPC Gen 2 inlay from Alien Technology.

Linentracker's solution is based on passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and interrogators compliant with the EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6c) standard. The system is designed to enable a hotel to access real-time inventory levels of its linen stock throughout its property, as well as optimize its linen laundering and ordering processes.

At the pilot project site, which Serbin declines to name, an Alien Technology RFID reader is mounted inside a linen closet on each of the 10 floors of guest rooms. Interrogators are also installed at various points throughout the hotel's laundry room. An RFID tag is attached to each of the facility's 20,000 pieces of linen, from towels to sheets and pillowcases. The tags, also provided by Alien Technology, are sealed within a waterproof flexible material designed to protect the inlay from the extreme temperatures and shock to which the linens are exposed during laundering. A tag is sewn into the seam of each piece of linen.

According to Serbin, most hotels count linen inventory manually, so employing the RFID system would greatly reduce labor costs, while also improving accuracy.

As housekeepers clean rooms during the day, Serbin says, they typically place soiled linens in a chute leading to the laundry facility. The soiled items are cleaned throughout the day. At night, a staff member checks each closet's inventory, then stocks the linen cart assigned to that floor with all of the towels and sheets the housekeeper will need to restore that closet's inventory level.

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