Medical centers, casinos, hotels, and laundries are discovering the value of ultra-high frequency, radio frequency identification (UHF-RFID) systems to improve their operations. This technology is a game changer for laundries that transport tons of goods.
Many companies now use it to identify and track linens, uniforms, and scrubs as they make their way to and from laundry facilities.
A UHF-RFID system lowers labor cost, improves billing accuracy, significantly reduces shrinkage and replacement, and in most cases, pays for itself within 18 months.
Nevertheless, laundry tracking is still a manual process for some of the largest hospitals, hotels, and casinos. These businesses handsort and manually track huge numbers of linens and uniforms utilizing processes that are laborintensive and error-prone. This is rapidly changing. A growing number of companies are introducing UHF-RFID technology to automate inventory accounting and track the movement of individual linens and uniforms without hand sorting and counting. Organizations including the largest VA medical centers, professional laundries, hotels, and Las Vegas casinos are automating their laundry operations with high-tech systems.
HERE IS HOW IT WORKS
Durable, waterproof UHF-RFID tracking tags are sewn into uniforms and linens. Each tag has a unique signal. Special software identifies the tag with information on the type of item, purchase date, cost, vendor, repairs, and the number of washing cycles it has undergone (particularly important for healthcare related processing). With the tags in place, UHF-RFID antennas at processing stations near loading docks, storerooms, and staff uniform centers can scan and “read” entire batches of tagged inventory as it passes. UHFRFID antennas are sensitive enough to instantly identify and record full laundry carts or rolling racks with hundreds of linens or uniforms up to six feet away. As carts, racks, or bales of laundry travel to or from storerooms, laundry trucks, and loading docks the system records their movement in real time in the company’s software.
Where it is not practical to have a fixed antenna, mobile handheld wireless UHF-RFID readers are frequently used to hand-scan racks of uniforms, bundles of towels or linens. These portable readers work anywhere a facility has a WiFi network or the information can be stored and downloaded later. They add greater flexibility and instantly update inventories.
TRANSPORTATION TRACKING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
During transportation, UHF-RFID antennas are often positioned on loading docks to provide exact counts of items entering and leaving delivery trucks. This creates instant accountability for each shipment and simplifies recordkeeping since the system automatically generates reports for each client pickup and delivery.
MEDICAL LAUNDRIES USE RFID PROCESSING FOR GREATER SAFETY
Today we are seeing a growing demand for RFID processing by healthcare institutions due to special handling requirements for hazardous materials. Hospitals face unique laundry handling demands surrounding biohazards and contaminated articles. These facilities usually put soiled articles in closed bins to prevent airborne contamination. Knowing what the bins contain, where the items have been, and where they are going is vitally important to comply with infection control regulations. A UHF-RFID antenna or wireless handheld reader can identify and document each item in a special hazardous material container without staff touching the materials.
In addition, doctors, nurses, and aides wear scrubs treated with a special material that blocks the penetration of biohazardous liquids. The protective effectiveness ends after 20 washings, making it extremely important that medical facilities accurately track the number of times the scrubs are laundered. UHF-RFID systems do this automatically when the items—in bulk—pass through a processing station. Not only do the systems eliminate the inconvenience and expense of manually sorting each garment, but they also reduce the risk of contamination to staff members.
RFID SYSTEMS BENEFIT EVERY TYPE OF BUSINESS
- Operators have lower labor expenses through greater articlehandling efficiency.
- UHF-RFID eliminates shipping errors since each item is registered as it passes to and from the laundry facility. The result is more accurate billing and better customer relations.
- Accurate transportation tracking eliminates shrinkage or loss of high value items. Operators can immediately identify any items lost in transit or misdelivered.
- More accurate records help operators budget accurately.
Medical centers, hotels, casinos, and laundries all benefit from UHF-RFID systems. This is one technology that lives up to the promise that computers would make our lives better
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Harvey Welles is President of InvoTech Systems and innovative inventory control systems for hotels, casinos, resorts, theme parks, and sports arenas.
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