Over the last 30 years, RFID tracking has become an increasingly prominent means of tracking textiles in the commercial laundry industry. Although, when compared to other methods such as weight tracking and barcoding, RFID seems to be the costliest tracking method, RFID’s unparalleled level of accuracy and KPI generation makes it the most efficient and effective method that has proven to generate a significant return on investment

Thanks to some industry pioneers and declining tag prices, RFID has become much more popular amongst North American laundries. Still, it is not the most commonly used tracking method. According to an American Laundry News survey, approximately 38% of American laundries use RFID in their process, with weight tracking leading the way at 52%. Barcodes are also common, though they are mainly used as an auxiliary tracking tool due to their efficiency limitations.

Why don’t all laundries use RFID?

The implementation process

Implementing an RFID tracking system in a laundry is definitely no walk in the park.
From a financial perspective, embedding RFID chips in all circulated garments and linens will marginally increase their cost and will require dedicated resources. Equipping a laundry with the necessary antennas and ERP system will also require a significant initial investment.
From an operational perspective, RFID tracking will bring a new level of complexity to a laundry’s process, requiring additional training and effective change management.
For these reasons, the implementation process is often seen as a significant hurdle that steers laundries towards less accurate tracking methods.

Reluctance for change

Weight tracking has been the standard approach ever since the inception of the commercial laundry industry. While many business owners have an appetite for innovation and are always looking to improve and get ahead of the competition, others prefer to stick to the status quo.

As success stories and educational resources that can be used to benchmark expectations continue to surface, it is plausible that RFID will eventually become the norm. We are just not there yet.

What if RFID tags had more to offer?

When we think of RFID tags, most of us who are familiar with the technology picture small computer chips hidden somewhere in garments and textiles – an additional cost component that is necessary for the tracking process. But what if there were additional ways to leverage an RFID tag? What if the implementation of RFID tags allowed for additional synergistic benefits that helped laundries generate peripheral long-term savings?

ABG Systems Combo Tag

Thanks to our one-of-a-kind combo tags, an RFID tag can now be more than just an RFID tag. Our combo tags embed an RFID chip in a durable fabric casing that can be customized to include woven logos, barcodes, QR codes, garment specific information, and more! How do these features create additional value for laundries?

Logos

What better way to promote your brand than have your beautifully woven logo on the collar of every garment!

Barcodes

It is common for laundries that track with RFID to use a barcode system simultaneously. Traditionally, laundries embed printed barcode labels and RFID tags separately on each garment and textile. How does our combo label make this process more efficient?

Reduce labour involvement and costs

The printed barcode labels used by laundries have a very limited lifespan due to ink fading, and consequently need to be replaced several times throughout the useful life of a garment. Whenever a label is deemed worn-out, a worker must print a new one and seal it back onto the garment. This is a time-consuming process and can be a source of inefficient labour spend for large laundry operations. Printed barcode labels are also not cheap, and using several of these labels throughout the lifespan of garment can end up being quite costly.

If instead, barcodes were woven into the same labels as the RFID tags, there would be no cost redundancy. The barcode and RFID tag would be embedded on the garments simultaneously, and the barcodes would never require replacement.

QR Codes

QR codes are not commonly embedded on garments and textiles, mainly because the use-case is seldom explored by laundries. Similar to barcodes and RFID chips, OR codes are another way to uniquely identify items. For laundries, the benefit of using QR codes is mainly on the customer side, since unlike barcodes, QR codes can be scanned with any smartphone or tablet. How can laundries leverage QR codes to create value for customers?

Quality assurance

Garment integrity is important in many industries. This is especially true in in a healthcare environment. Hospital employees are constantly at risk of exposure to pathogens and bacteria, and as such, laundries must ensure that uniforms such as barrier tunics, isolation gowns, scrubs and other garments are pulled from circulation once they have reached their maximum number of washes. Otherwise, the uniforms may not be effective in protecting hospital employees and patients from infection. For laundries that use an ERP system to track metrics like total number of washes and repairs, developing a simple web-based platform that allows customers to scan garment QR codes to verify these metrics can be a great initiative to assure their safety. QR codes also make it easy for laundry staff to verify this information themselves, directly from their smartphones.

Repair management

Some laundries use repair management platforms through which customers can flag garments that are in need of repairs or disposal. Most laundries that offer this service have made considerable investments in the development of repair management apps. Using QR codes can simplify this process for both laundries and their customers. Laundries can implement a simple web application to manage garment repairs. When a QR code is scanned by the customer, they will be redirected to a unique webpage where they will be able to report any damages. Using QR codes for repair management is less intrusive and simpler for customers, and is also less expensive for laundries, requiring minimal development. A true win-win.

Data Entry

Tracking barcodes and RFID’s through an ERP system usually requires a lengthy data entry process upon implementation. This is because RFID codes and barcodes must be registered to their associated garment for identification. For example, when embedding an RFID tag or barcode on a medium hospital scrub, the RFID and barcode ID numbers must be registered as a medium scrub in the ERP system. Otherwise, only the ID number will be visible when the scrub is scanned. To make this process more efficient, we provide a file containing all the data required for garment registration. This file allows our customers to significantly reduce implementation time and labour hours and makes it easier to implement more flexible tracking and distribution systems.

Here you can see a video illustrating the advantages of our combo tag.

Although RFID will significantly improve efficiencies for any laundry, implementation costs seem to be a primary constraint to its industry-wide adoption. We have seen that using a combo tag that provides peripheral cost savings, efficiencies, and advantages, can increase the overall project ROI and help laundries improve their competitive positioning. The more we continue to find innovative ways to mitigate RFID implementation costs and create additional value, the more we can accelerate the industry-wide transition towards better textile tracking.


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