As part of our commitment to improving the experience that our customers receive, we’ve installed RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) scanning stations in our Linen processing plant in Doncaster.  We have 2 stations to scan linen into and out of our facility; the linen arriving into our plant is unloaded from our delivery vehicles and placed into the sorting conveyor system and is continually scanned throughout the day to record every item that’s returned to us.  The clean processed linen for delivery to customers is scanned in its cage in a purpose-built scanning cabinet before being loaded into the vehicle that will take it to the customer.

RFID Technology

RFID Tags with Ruler

RFID Tags with Ruler

Each piece of linen or garment has a small electronic tag either sewn into the hem or a attached using a specially designed RFID pocket or, in the case of Workwear garments is sealed beneath a printed barcode or ID label.  The tags contain a tiny chip and an antenna, which are powered by the radio field produced by our Speedway scanners.  Each tag has a unique identification number that is stored in a database, linking each unique ID to a product type – enabling us to not only see how many items are being passed through our scanners but what type of item too.  It works similar to the anti-theft detectors found in almost all shop doorways and in fact the same devices can even be installed at our customers’ premises to detect any items being stolen by their customers.

Traceability

Speedway RFID Scanner

Speedway RFID Scanner

The system enables us to trace every item of tagged linen from delivery to receipt for cleaning and processing and we are able to see the turnaround time for each item.  As well as providing customers with details about their linen usage, they will also be able to see how long items are being held onsite, enabling them to better circulate their stock and order the correct quantity of items at the correct times – helping to reduce unnecessary ordering and therefore cost, improving cash-flow.

Improved Inventories

Tagged linen can be easily counted onsite by either the customer or a member of our team using handheld RFID scanning equipment, which will easily enable counting of all tagged items within their linen store.  The handheld scanners work very much the same as our static scanning equipment but in a much smaller package that can link via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone for storing and forwarding of inventory information.

rfd5500 Handheld RFID Scanner

rfd5500 Handheld RFID Scanner

The Future

While it’s still a very new technology to us and only a small percentage of our stock is fitted with RFID tags, it is definitely an important area of development both for Abbey Glen and for the linen hire industry in general.  We believe that in the future almost every piece of linen will be tagged and and will be able to be tracked in this way, making ordering, counting and inventorying much easier for laundries and customers no matter the size of the business.