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French Laundry Company Cleans Up Linen Losses

BIH adopted RFID to save costs and improve customer service.
By Barb Freda
Mar 27, 2016

The Blanchisserie Inter-Hospitalière (BIH) de Saint Germain-en-Laye laundry service provider had a problem on its hands. The company cleans 20 tons of laundry daily, including sheets, bed pads and uniforms, for 20 public hospitals in the Ile-de France region (near Paris), and it was losing some 50,000 sheets annually. Replacing the linens was costing the public hospital system, part of France's national health system, roughly €250,000 (US$272,000) each year.

BIH performed random hand counts on soiled linens as they were returned. When major differences arose between what was sent out and what came back, additional hand counting was required. "We were losing 25 percent in our productivity," says Luc Videau, BIH's technical director.

Luc Videau, BIH's technical director
Moreover, Videau says, the manual counts could not reveal why there were differences between what was shipped and what was returned. These differences might have been true losses, or a hospital might have been retaining high stocks because it had not used all the sheets. "We had only one physical, formal, manual hand count per customer each year," he says. "We were then seeing that the amount of linen bought during the year had disappeared. The linens were supposed to last two to three years." The losses were paid for by the hospitals through higher service fees that had to be charged to cover those losses.

To address these issues, BIH began RFID-tracking 60 percent of its sheets in September 2013. The solution, provided by UBI Solutions, delivered a return on investment within months, Videau says. Currently, BIH is tracking 80 percent of its sheets, with plans to expand the solution to cover more laundry items.

Finding a Solution
In 2011, Videau began seeking an RFID solution to automate the tracking of sheets. He was familiar with a high-frequency system for monitoring hospital clothing, and he had heard about and wanted to explore an ultrahigh-frequency solution. In early 2012, he tested the RFID-tagging of some linens, but the supplier's UHF tags could not stand up to repeated washings and dryings at high temperatures. Still, he says, the idea of tracking the linens using RFID was appealing.

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