Globally, RFID technology is revolutionising and transforming garment rental and laundry management systems by replacing outdated manual processes with automated, computer-based management solutions that help with the accurate tracking of items.
The Bidvest Laundry Group continues to implement cutting-edge technologies, by collaborating with partners to bring the efficiencies of ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID tagging and scanning into various sectors within the commercial and industrial landscape.
RFID in a nutshell
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a system that transmits the unique serial number of an object via radio waves. Within the laundry and garment rental context, RFID uses special tags that get sewn or heat sealed into the fabric. These tags/chips then transmit the unique serial numbers – as well as any other pertinent information associated with a garment’s movements – to a tag reader, to be stored in a real-time database using the RFID’s own management software system.
Who needs RFID?
- RFID is for any business looking to manage staff uniforms in a more economical and efficient way over the long term.
- RFID is for businesses that need to prove HACCP compliance in their day-to-day operations, as well as those that require critical data and believe in the value of forecasting.
- RFID is for businesses that struggle with uniform stock control and for those whose garments need to be frequently washed and rotated.
- Most of all, RFID is for forward-thinking businesses that understand the value of investing in solutions that help increase overall output, productivity and the bottom line in today’s ever-growing digital workspace.
The benefits of RFID
Every enterprise will have their own reason/s for wanting to implement RFID, but there are many other benefits to this technology that reveal themselves over time….
- Accurate tracking, counting and reporting
RFID gives you the ability to scan multiple items simultaneously and accurately, thereby eliminating manual counting, which in turn leads to increased productivity. You can use it for laundry, inventory and/or garment management and pull reports specific to each process. When a garment is read by the system, the software can display important information to the user. This information can then be customised according to your particular business requirements. You can see how many garments you have in stock, how many have been issued and/or returned, as well as where the garments are at any time, etc.
- Reduction in theft and other losses
A shortage of workwear can lead to high replacement costs and industry leaders often complain about garments going missing, being stolen or simply disappearing. RFID helps eliminate theft and other losses by providing an accurate reporting of missing items, allowing for proactive loss control management. With RFID you can track who the garments were issued to, as well as when or if the garments were returned. Readers at exit points can help prevent people from walking out with garments, discouraging staff from taking items home when they’re not meant to. Furthermore, specialised garments, such as freezer suits, can also be better monitored using RFID, due to their high replacement costs.
- Fair accountability
Scanning and tracking items can result in less finger pointing when it comes to disputes regarding the short supply of garments, no returns and other stock discrepancies that cannot be fairly argued or resolved due to a lack of data or keeping proper record. With RFID there’s an audit trail to follow, making it easier to work out exactly where and when the losses happened. RFID can even help in instances where the fabric lifespan promised by a supplier in terms of colour fastness and tensile strength over time proves to be sub-standard.
- HACCP (and other) compliance
To keep both consumers and staff safe and mitigate risk, many industries have to comply with strict hygiene and safety regulations, not to mention union demands. From a garment perspective, if a factory gets audited, RFID can help you pull wash and wearer reports to help prove compliance. RFID can also be used to control or restrict access and/or for area designation where people can only work in certain spaces, so there is more control in terms of verification and the prevention of possible contamination.
- Track laundry activity and wash cycles
RFID’s unique identification allows you to follow a garment throughout the wash cycle – from issue, to return, to re-issue and so on, to ensure proper stock rotation. Also, thanks to this accurate tracking ability, garments with anti-static, acid- and flame-retardant coatings, which only last for a specified number of washes, can be monitored and replaced when the coating has been degenerated by the wash process.
- Unnecessary additionals
Businesses often spend a lot of money replacing garments due to staff rotation and temp-staff turnover, for instance, when the original garments may still be hanging somewhere in the building and merely require a reallocation to someone else. A quick RFID report would help isolate the ‘dormant’ users, right down to the last time the garments were used.
RFID is robust
In terms of the lifespan and hardiness of the tags themselves, the Bidvest Laundry Group uses ‘passive’ RFID chips (meaning they do not have their own internal power source but wait for a signal from an RFID reader) and are guaranteed for at least 200 washes. Passive RFID chip comes in different shapes and sizes and are made for precisely the material or function they are most suitable for. In the laundry and garment environment, they are designed to be put through industrial ironers, steam tunnels, autoclaves, MRI machines, even cold rooms.
For more information about our managed RFID service offerings, which are locally developed, supported and made to work within the South African context, click here.
With thanks to Bidvest Laundry Group preferred supplier, IntelTagRFID, for their assistance in compiling this article.