- Created on Sunday, 03 December 2006 04:17
- Written by Peter Corr
Many nursing homes hand write their labels instead of using an ID label system. The reason is they are on a tight budget, and don’t think they can afford one. You may be surprised to know you can purchase a system while minimizing the discomfort and pain.
Not sure what you need or how to get it at reasonable cost. This article will explore equipment and products needed as well as purchasing options. There are several pieces of equipment to be considered. There is a printer, printer program, labels, and printer stand; in addition, you need to consider a heat seal machine, and a computer to run the program.
If you are a small nursing home, you either have a computer or you will need to purchase one. Before you think about purchasing, decide what options you may have. If you can afford a new computer, great – problem solved. If you are on a “really” tight budget don’t worry. You don’t need the latest fancy technology. If you have a computer running an old version of Windows, it will do the job. A computer that does not have Windows will even work. At a bare minimum, if you can turn the computer on and it runs, that’s all you need. If you have an old lap-top, it will even do the job. Don’t narrow your search just to work; just think about where you might find a working computer period. Hopefully, you can get one at little or no cost.
You will also need a printer to print labels. Printers are set up to print on paper or labels, so forget about purchasing a printer at your local OfficeMax. You need a dot matrix printer that has been prepared by a supplier to print ID laundry labels. This usually involves an accompanying ID label software program that runs on your computer and controls label printing.
Make sure that you purchase a printer to handle expected volumes of labels based on number of residents. Don’t become oversold on an expensive printer that is overkill for your facility. Many times vendors will try to sell you what they want, not what you need. For example, a lower speed printer such as the Epson LX300+ is suitable for up to 200 beds. For up to 500 beds, consider a higher speed printer such as the Epson FX890.
If you are on a really tight budget, you might want to consider a refurbished printer. You will need a printer stand and label holder to feed labels into the printer. This is an additional cost.
ID Labels & Ink Ribbons
Be smart and educate yourself a little about the ID labels you will need. This is important given your tight budget. Here are two options: if you only put the first and last name on a label (with no room number), a smaller label such as ½” x 2 ½” will do the job. If your Administrator likes the look of a larger label, and nothing else will do, then consider a larger label such as a 5/8” x 3 ¼” size.
The point again is this. You make the decision, not the vendor. Remember you are trying to acquire the best label for your facility at the best possible price. Rolls of labels come 2,000 per roll or there can be more labels per roll. You need to ask: how many labels can I afford per month based on my budget. The cost of fewer labels per roll may be just right, whereas more labels per roll may be outside your budget needs.
When it comes to printer ribbons, you need to know how long the ribbon will last in relation to a roll of labels. If you have a roll of 2,000 labels usually you can expect the ribbon to easily last for all labels on the roll and then a bit more. The “a little bit more” means that you make a “judgement” call when you see the print become too light. At that point it is time to change the ribbon. Beware! In order to squeeze the last ounce of ink from the ribbon, some facilities adjust the print head on the printer closer to the point of contact with the ribbon. Be aware that the downside of doing this is that the life of the printer head is reduced and the cost of a new print heat us upward of $95. In the short run, you will print more labels, but in the long term, you will either have to purchase a new print head or decide to replace the printer. Be careful.
The Heat Seal Machine
Some facilities think they can get by using a standard housekeeping iron to put the labels on clothing. It doesn’t work. To properly seal labels you need a heat seal machine. Why? There are three components of a good seal – time, temperature, and pressure. The first two are possible with the iron but not pressure. A heat seal machine with top heat will work fine. Set the temperature to around 354F for a dwell time of around 6 seconds for light weight garments, and 8-9 seconds for heavier garments. The heat seal machine is probably the biggest expense, but you should be able to find a good machine for under $700.
Keeping the Costs Manageable.
You can acquire an ID label System for under $1600 including a computer. So how do you pay for it? You might want to inquire if the vendor is running any specials on products which will reduce the total cost. If you can acquire a refurbished printer, this will also lower the overall expense. If you can acquire a computer internally or elsewhere, do it. Your next option may be a refurbished computer. You can also acquire stripped down computers that are suitable for just printing labels. Educate yourself about the label size you want before you call any vendors. Decide on a label size that meets your needs. This is important for your budget.
One way to manage the overall cost is to ask your vendor if you can spread out the payments over several months. This is different from financing the equipment- through your vendor. With financing, you pay financing charges. By simply agreeing with your vendor to make an initial payment, and then subsequent payments on say the 15th of each month, you can save money and it also make the decision about purchasing an ID label system easier.
The issue of putting an ID Label system into the budget can be rationalized. If you are losing resident garments, because they cannot be identified, and are reimbursing residents the cost of those garments, you have a clear case. The ID label system is an identified way to reduce this expense and will pay for itself. Determine what the lost resident clothing expense is annually, and use this information to justify the expense. Here are some more tips. Your costs don’t end with the equipment purchase. Think also about subsequent ownership costs. For example, does your service allow you unlimited toll free technical assistance, or do you have to pay a fee after the first year. If your equipment breaks, does your vendor offer an equipment replacement program, at no charge to you, while your equipment is being repaired.
You know you’ve been thinking about purchasing an ID label system. You may have a better opportunity of success if you first think through exactly what it is you need, how you can save money while maximizing value, and what the purchase price is as well as the ownership costs. Also if you can figure out what your garment replacement costs are versus the cost of an ID label system, this should strengthen your case.
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