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tagging along with RFID housekeeping today uk

Tagging along with RFID

Keeping track of linens passing through the laundry helps with efficiency, margins and stock control. RFID adds many benefits to this process. Housekeeping Today UK’s editor Fiona Henry explores the latest options available to hotel professionals keen to improve their linen management.

CLEAN full service concept using UBI Solutions RFID Solution at PPHE Hotel GroupSteve Clarke, CLEAN’s chief commercial officer tells us, “RFID technology is revolutionising the industry and at CLEAN, we have already seen first-hand how it can save time for housekeeping and laundry teams and improve efficiency. “Without clean linen, hotels can’t be confident in selling bedrooms and housekeeping teams need to ensure they always have an adequate supply onsite. Tracking linen stock movements using RFID technology helps alleviate this pressure in an instant. Using this technology housekeeping staff can count stock levels within each linen room or store at a hotel in just minutes, compared to the 30 minutes it takes to count manually. “Our solution consists of an RFID chip discretely attached to each product along with a series of RFID readers strategically located throughout the hotels and laundry.

CLEAN full service concept using UBI Solutions RFID Solution at PPHE Hotel Group

These readers – which can detect the chip from several metres away – allow each piece of linen to be tracked and inventoried. “When hotel staff take delivery of clean linen they can check all items are there through the RFID technology installed at delivery points. Stock counts can also be made with a hand-held scanner in the hotel’s linen room to avoid the manual sorting of linen. All information is held in a data cloud which also enables housekeepers, and CLEAN, to know where stock is. This helps with stock rotation management, reordering and identifying missing items. “The process gives housekeeping teams more control over their linen supply and deliveries, removes human error and offers more time to focus on providing first-class hospitality to their guests. “Last year we partnered with UBI Solutions and Park Plaza to develop an RFID-enabled stock management solution, designed to transform how linen is managed between our laundries and the Park Plaza properties. By implementing the intelligent management of stock, CLEAN can ensure that each hotel has the right amount of linen in stock of the right quality at the right time. Along with the improved stock rotation, the process has resulted in Park Plaza benefitting from a 20 per cent reduction in annual linen spend, while ensuring the highest quality linen goes into the rooms with minimal rejects.

Tex ID’s managing director Tabish Aiman says: “Hotels offer a unique opportunity to leverage the tracking ability of RFID to increase productivity, lower losses and optimise stock levels. “In its simplest form, RFID can be used to create a digital window to see where linen is at any given time. The three most likely places would be in the hotel rooms, on the shelves in housekeeping or being processed by an in house or outsourced laundry. Why is this information important? With knowledge of linen location, housekeeping staff are able to identify whether enough stock is available for the immediate future demand. “By applying transponder (chips) to linen and scanning at strategic points in the cycle, the resulting knowledge allows staff to check if the production rate is keeping up with demand.

thermotex texid rfid technology housekeeping linen
Thermotex’s F10 allows for the printing of barcodes as well as company branding on each RFID tag

“A hand-held RFID scanner can be used to take an inventory count of an individual room in seconds. By carrying out this check, management can quickly check if the required number of pieces are physically in the room. When the rooms are stripped, the bulk soiled linen can be scanned through a RFID gate antenna capable of identifying 500 individual pieces within three seconds. Manually counting these many items is typically over 20 minutes saving valuable time and increasing accuracy.

“At this point, if the linen is sent out to an offsite laundry, a detailed list of items can be created ensuring that no misunderstanding occur relating to what left the hotel. On return from the offsite laundry, a Gat antenna confirms receipt. Alternatively, production cycle time for on premise laundries can be tracked.

“Inventory stock counts of the linen room can be carried out quickly and efficiently using a RFID hand-held scanner. This completes a dynamic picture of linen movements at all points of the process giving both management and staff the information needed for planning.

Fishers Services Ltd demonstrating how easy and fast it is to read RFID
Fishers Services Ltd demonstrating how easy and fast it is to read RFID

“As RFID tags are assigned to individual items, the quality of the linen, throughout its lifecycle, can be monitored. How many wash cycles has the item gone through? Has the item prematurely worn and an alert needs to be sent to the linen supplier? Was the item damaged by either the in house or outsourced laundry? These are some of the questions RFID addresses. RFID can be a useful tool in security. Higher value items such as bathrobes equipped with RFID, can be checked through pass through panels at hotel reception. Reception staff would be alerted of any guests who inadvertently put a bathrobe in their luggage as they leave the hotel. Hotel staff, knowing that the linen is tracked using digital technology, are less likely to take linen home as they know that a record of the last scan exists. “For smaller scale installations, the next generation of small form factor RFID antenna bring the benefits of RFID to hotels at a much lower initial project cost than previous traditional systems. A table top RFID station can now be purchased for less than £1400.00 which is incredible value considering the on-going savings in labour and efficiency.”

UBI Solutions Renaud Munier, director, international business development at UBI Solutions, says that “UBI Solutions is a RFID system integrator that has more than 150 textile sites in Europe using our solutions, amongst them attractions (Disneyland, Parc Asterix, Le Puy du Fou), hotels (Rosewood group, PPHE hotel group), hospital laundries (Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Lille, Barcelona) and commercial hospitality laundries (Fishers, CLEAN, Locatex, CleanLease).”

The common link is the need for customers to better track their product flows, customer needs, stock reduction and therefore increase their productivity while reducing their costs. Interestingly, Munier says his best customers are those that have deployed RFID but without the expected results – “these customers have learned where the technological pitfalls are and are ready to appreciate why UBI Solutions offers the best solution for their needs.” He thinks the key to a successful textile tracking application “is the capability of a system architecture to handle in real-time millions of information connecting to multiple IT systems in different companies.” He says that UBI Solutions can “produce and deliver compatible RFID special tags that can be applied automatically to linen production lines and registered into customer UBI cloud-based systems for immediate tracking.” This includes bespoke multiple fixed and mobile reading devices in linen production line, laundries, multiple customer sites in multiple countries; being able to read, filter, consolidate, exchange read information through the all production and usage flows at multiple customer and laundry sites; and collecting, analysing, and predicting the data.

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