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St. Olavs University Hospital Finds a “Smart” Solution to Garment Logistics

RFID Tags Save Major Norwegian Hospital Time, Money and Storage Space

St. Olavs University Hospital, of Trondheim, Norway, has more than 7,500 employees, 1,200 beds and treats approximately 50,000 patients each year. This translates into more than 130,000 garments, including operating gowns, robes and pants, which need to be collected, laundered and stored. 

St. Olavs needed a real-time method to keep track of its inventory and re-order garments when necessary so staff always had the right uniforms on hand.

Hospital garments are traditionally supplied on bulky, difficult-to-handle hangers that require expensive storage space.  In addition, with its previous system, stock could run low, or run out altogether, causing unnecessary work disruptions while St. Olavs staff tried to find the correct garment in the right size.

Working with Texi AS, also of Trondheim, St. Olavs installed a complete garment logistics management system that uses both “intelligent” RFID closets and tags.  The rugged overmolded RFID tags from Texas Instruments, supplied by distributor Electrona-Sievert AB of Stockholm, Sweden, are sewn into each garment and are designed to withstand the harsh laundry process.  The high-frequency tags are pre-programmed with a unique identification number which is linked to a database holding information on the garment’s type and size. Clean garments from the laundry are placed in rows of specially designed closets equipped with built-in RFID antennas. The intelligent closets automatically “read” the tags, register the closet’s contents (i.e. 35 robes size M, 59 slacks size M, etc.), and detect when garments are added or removed.  Inventory is continuously updated on the main hospital database in real-time.  If inventory falls below pre-set levels, orders are automatically sent over the network to ensure items are always available in the correct types and sizes.

To collect garments, staff members access the closets using their ID cards and remove the required items which are immediately and automatically registered to that employee and corresponding department. Each cabinet is clearly labeled with the types of garments it contains so staff can quickly find the required items. After use, staff members simply return their garments to any number of storage bins in the hospital where the RFID tags are automatically read, and the garments correctly credited to the appropriate department.

Using a PC connected to the hospital’s server in conjunction with Texi’s management software, the operations staff has visibility at all times to garment inventory in the more than 100 closets and 10 storage rooms around the hospital. The system’s reporting capabilities provide usage trends so St. Olavs can more effectively plan and allocate future garment and logistics tracking investments.

St. Olavs expects more than $6 million in space savings alone. They also project ongoing operational savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars due to more efficient data collection, improved logistics management, automated ordering and a reduction in staff time to find the correct garment.  The hospital staff has found that garments in the right sizes are available when they need them and the time-consuming paper forms they had to complete before getting their uniforms are a thing of the past.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Employee Crushes Hand on Ironer

SOMMERVILLE, Mass. — A commercial laundry has been fined by OSHA after an employee’s had was crushed while lubricating the chain of an ironer that was running. The OSHA inspection found that the machine was not de-energized prior to the maintenance that was attempted. Royal Institutional Services Inc., has been cited by OSHA for four alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The laundry, owned by Angelica Corp., faces a total of $49,935 in proposed fines.