Innovative Garment Tracking Technology for Industrial Laundry
WHAT IS RFID?
Radio frequency identification (RFID), a technology that has been around since the 1970s, uses radio waves for the identification of people or objects. Most commonly, a microchip with an antenna contains a series of identification numbers. Together, the chip and the antenna are known as RFID tags and are passed through chip-readers that can place the information onto computers for many uses.
Why is RFID better than bar codes?
Before barcodes and RFID technology, employees in the industrial laundry industry manually counted garments. Bar code technology was more commonly used in the 1990s, and is still used today; however, RFID technology revolutionized the industry.
Today, the RFID system is more efficient and accurate than the bar code system. With bar codes, the device that scans the bar code has to be able to directly pass over the bar code itself. This usually means that people have to physically orient the bar code within accurate range of the scanner. Furthermore, bar codes can rip or become dirty, making it difficult for the scanner to read the object.
What is the difference between low-, high-, and ultra-high frequencies?
Similar to radio channels, RFID tags are tuned to different frequencies in order to communicate. The most common frequencies are low- (around 125 KHz), high- (13.56 MHz), and ultra-high (850-900 MHz).
Which applications use RFID technologies?
The most common applications for RFID technology include tracking objects, as well as animals. From tracking cattle to pets, to tracking goods in the supply chain or tracking parts in a manufacturing production line, the limits for RFID technology are endless.
The industrial laundry industry uses RFID technology to track individual garments in the laundry facility and throughout the laundering and delivery process.
Overall Benefits of UHF Technology
As previously mentioned, ultra-high frequency (UHF) technology has the capability to span many markets as it is the most sensitive tracking and sorting system available. The benefits of a UHF system include:
- Long read ranges often up to 12 meters
- Bulk tracking of goods rather than tracking piece-by-piece because of UHF’s long read range capability
- Faster data transfer rates
- Reduced shrinkage and prevent inventory stock-outs
- Prevented use of expired or recalled products
- Improved overall business operations
UHF TECHNOLOGY AT CITY
At CITY, we use the UHF RFID chip technology to track garments. With this technology, we are able to track each individually chipped uniform throughout every step of the laundering process.
“We are one of a few companies in the entire laundry industry that has taken advantage of UHF technology,” President of CITY Colin Wetlaufer said. “With UHF tracking, everything has gotten a lot simpler for the customer. It’s become a no-nonsense thing.”
As Part of Our CQM Process
Our UHF technology plays a vital role in our CITY Quality Management (CQM) System. As part of our continuous improvement management system, our CQM system pushes us to maximize quality and efficiency all while providing our clients with an excellent service.
Additionally, every garment is outfitted with a chip that contains valuable information that helps us provide a quality service to our clients. This information includes the following:
- The location of the garment within the laundry facility
- The client to which the uniform belongs
- The individual wearer to which the uniform belongs
- The garment’s delivery schedule
- The garment’s life cycle history, including number of washings, mends, and repairs
ABOUT THE CHIPS
Our UHF chips from Positek RFID are made of a flexible material that allows for excellent durability through the laundering process of washing, drying, and steaming. With an accurate reading distance of more than eight feet, CITY is able to pass hundreds of soiled garments simultaneously through a portal, which reads each individual garment all in one pass-through.
Each garment is additionally scanned three times throughout the rest of the laundering process. This ensures we are able to deliver accurate inventories after picking up garments at a client’s location and laundering them at our own facility.
Each chip is sewn directly into the seam of the garment making it nearly undetectable. Because it is sewn into the garment, the chip itself is difficult to remove, making this ideal for clients that manufacture products that are susceptible to foreign objects.
Benefits of UHF Technology for Garment Tracking
- Delivers Accurate Inventories
By using the most sensitive tracking and sorting system available, we are able to scan every garment. This ensures that all garments picked up at the client’s location are processed, cleaned, repaired, and returned to the client.
- Eliminates Cross Contamination
UHF technology ensures that we use the appropriate wash formulas for each specific client’s needs. We are able to scan the garments, sort them accordingly, and then process them based on their classification. This eliminates cross contamination issues.
- Tracks Garment’s Life Cycle
We provide our clients with clean and comfortable uniforms because every chip tracks the numbers of washings, repairs, and mends a garment has endured. Because of this, we are able to know exactly when a garment should be removed from service and replaced with an upgrade.
- Allows for Inventory-Based Billing for Bulk Rental
CITY is also unique in that we only bill based on actual usage instead of a percentage of a client’s inventory. Most other industrial laundries set up an inventory to match the number of employees that need uniforms, and then they add a percentage of that for overhead. The client is billed for everything whether they use it or not. CITY clients typically save up to 30 percent with usage based billing rather than inventory based billing.
“We considered ways in which we can be a better vendor and partner with our customers so that what we do makes good business sense for them,” Wetlaufer said.
- Enables a More Efficient Process
After scanning all garments, determining their soil classification, as well as the number of items that need to be processed, we then know exactly what needs to be done in order to stay on schedule. This predictability is crucial to maintaining an efficient and effective process.
- Improves Trust and Confidence in Supplier
Because of the benefits of UHF technology, our clients can be confident in their decision to partner with us. We ensure client satisfaction with a system that achieves quality, consistency, and efficiency.
- Provides Meaningful Information
By tracking garments and using the available detailed records, we can determine client preferences and item popularity. This allows us to provide a better service for our clients.
- Supports our Hygienically Clean Certification
Without UHF technology, it would be much more difficult to maintain a quality management process. And because our Hygienically Clean Food Safety certification is dependent on a properly managed process, our UHF technology is fundamental to our success.
Our UHF process helps us preserve efficient operations; however, we also maintain a fail-safe system should something ever happen to our tracking system or to our UHF chips. To reinforce our accurate and consistent service, every garment contains a bar code that can be manually scanned if necessary. With this backup, we provide additional confidence for our clients.
Our success stems from being able to provide an excellent service. Clients have noticed that due to our UHF technology, the accuracy, cleanliness, and consistency of their uniform programs have improved.
“Consistency, consistency, consistency! The technician’s uniforms are always clean, well-pressed, never mismatched or missing items, nada! Anyone can be great for the ‘honeymoon phase’ but to MAINTAIN the same level of service for all these years is impressive! With all the daily stressors of running a business, it’s really nice to have one less thing to worry about.”
– Michael Bauer
Vice President, Midway Outdoor Equipment
Our CQM system and UHF tracking technology conveys our commitment to our clients. As a total-solutions provider, we want our clients to focus on more important aspects of their own business, rather than worrying about their supplier.