We wash, fold, pick up and deliver laundry. How might RFID help us?
Radio frequency identification technology has been employed in the laundry sector for a long time. I would suggest that you start by looking at operational issues you might face. Do you, for example, sometimes deliver items to the wrong customer? Are items sometimes not returned from a customer, causing losses for your company? Do items sometimes become lost within your facility? Do you spend a lot of man hours counting or searching for items for a particular customer? Do items need to be discarded after a certain number of washings—and does tracking that process involve a lot of labor?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes,” then it might be worth using RFID to track the items that are laundered. Typically, you would sew a tag onto each garment. Convergence Systems Ltd. recently introduced an interesting new tag for this purpose (see Uniform Maker Sees a Market for CSL’s Thread-Antenna Tag). There are other companies, such as HID Global and William Frick & Co., that make laundry tags as well. Readers would need to be installed in areas in which items are received from customers, sorted after washing and prepared for shipping.
You would likely need to work with a systems integrator to install the readers and set them up so the captured data would be sent to either your existing software application or an RFID application. The software would record how many times an item was laundered, and would issue an alert if one or more garments needed to be discarded. It would record how many items were shipped to a particular customer, alert workers if the wrong items were in the shipment and record how many were returned. It would also indicate how many items were missing from the shipment. In addition, you could utilize handheld readers within your operations to quickly count items and find any that might be missing.
I would recommend conducting a pilot to determine whether an investment in an RFID system would save you enough money in terms of labor costs and lost items to make it worthwhile. My guess is that it would, given that many commercial laundries use RFID. But you won’t know until you conduct a return-on-investment study.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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