RFID Laundry

RFID Optimizes and Automates Laundry Management

12 Min
May 11, 2024
Laundry use case

What to Expect?

Many industrial laundries, public institutions, and facilities worldwide use RFID for laundry identification, management, and tracking. Today, laundry management is industrial and largely automated. The keyword: RFID laundry. How? A french industrial laundry uses an RFID solution to manage all 60,000 laundry items in circulation. An RFID cabinet system can be used to supply hospital staff with clean workwear around the clock. These are examples show how RFID is used to optimize laundry flows.

1. Status Quo

What is Laundry Management?

The key to success for laundry businesses is to efficiently manage all laundry operations. Automation is also important, especially for large laundries. This, in turn, improves customer service, and as a result, increases customer satisfaction. This does not apply only to laundry businesses, but also to places where large volumes of textiles need to be cleaned and managed. This includes hotels, healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics, nursing homes, factories, restaurants, and cleaning companies.

Laundry management covers the tasks and processes designed to ensure that textiles are efficiently cleaned, maintained, managed, and promptly returned to their intended destinations. Key components include the collection and sorting of textiles by type, color, and level of soiling; the washing and cleaning process, which involves pre-treatment, appropriate washing cycles, and specialized cleaning methods for delicate items; and drying, either through machine dryers or air drying for sensitive fabrics. Additionally, it involves ironing and folding to ensure textiles are smooth and presentable, and the repair and care of damaged items to extend their lifespan. Effective laundry management also includes packaging and transportation, inventory management, and regular inspections to maintain high-quality standards. These are the main laundry processes that take place in commerical and industrial laundries.

These laundries also offer textile and laundry services to commercial or industrial businesses. An example of a textile service is the provision of rental workwear or rental laundry items. In order to ensure that all laundry items stay within the circulation of laundry to, and from different locations, laundries must be able to effectively and accurately track and trace each individual laundry item at anytime, and at any location. In most cases, RFID technology is used for laundry identification and tracking.

How Can Laundry Management Be Optimized and Automated?

With the integration of advanced technologies, laundry management can be optimized and become more automated. A key technology is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID tags are attached to textiles to enable precise tracking and automated sorting throughout the laundry process.
Modern washing and drying systems, equipped with sensors and programmable controllers, optimize resource use and enhance textile longevity. The real-time monitoring of machine performance and energy consumption is made possible with IoT sensors. This enables predictive maintenance and efficiency improvements.

Specialized laundry management software centralizes inventory management, wash cycle planning, and order tracking, often integrating data from RFID and IoT devices for comprehensive control. Automated sorting and folding machines streamline the process, reducing manual labor and ensuring consistent quality.

Robotics further automate the handling of textiles, enhancing speed and precision. Energy and water management systems monitor and optimize resource usage, promoting sustainability. Cloud computing and data analytics facilitate the collection and analysis of large data sets to improve operational decisions. Mobile apps can provide real-time access to laundry management systems, offering flexibility and coordination.

Advanced software solutions and IoT integration further enhance the efficiency and control of the laundry processes, reduce costs, and improves service quality in laundry management. This makes laundry management a critical function in industries such as hospitality, healthcare, and manufacturing.

In the healthcare industry, for example, RFID room solutions or RFID cabinet solutions can be used to manage the flow of laundry within hospitals or healthcare facilities. Staff are supplied and provided with clean workwear 24/7.

In today’s domestic world, smart washing machines and dryers enable remote laundry monitoring and control via BLE and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Wireless IoT Technologies and Laundry

  • RFID

    Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can be attached to laundry items. Wireless RFID readers are used to capture the data from these tags.

  • Sensor Technology

    Wireless sensors can be used to capture data like water level, temperature, and load in washing machines.

  • WLAN

    Wi-Fi enabled washing machines and dryers can be remotely controlled and monitored via a smartphone app.

  • Bluetooth LE

    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled washing machines and dryers can also be remotely controlled and monitored via smartphone app. The smartphone must have Bluetooth activated.

Products Designed for the Laundry Industry

RFID-based laundry management solutions are being increasingly used by industrial laundries. UHF RFID laundry tags and transponders are specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of industrial laundry processes. These tags are attached to each item of clothing via either via heat sealing or sewing. Laundry items may also have been embedded with RFID yarn during production. The RFID tags are read by fixed or handheld readers. An RFID software is used to manage the data captured by the readers.

Hotels and hospitals are starting to use RFID cabinet and RFID room solutions to manage laundry on-site. These solutions typically involve an RFID employee ID card or badge, RFID gates, portals, or doors installed with RFID readers, an RFID-enabled return cabinet, and a centralized laundry management system and software that manages the data.

Smart washing machines are connected devices that utilize IoT sensors and gateways. The IoT gateway is a central hub for IoT devices and connects them to the cloud, and to each other. The gateway has a computing platform that enables the management of data, devices, security, and communication via an application. Load, temperature, and water level sensors in the washing machine collect laundry process data. This is then transmitted to the IoT gateway. Through either BLE or Wi-Fi connectivity, the IoT gateway enables communication between the washing machine and the user’s smartphone. The user is able to manage and monitor the laundry process remotely via this app.

Facts & Figures

Automation and the integration of the right IoT hardware and software is crucial for efficient laundry management. This can result in numerous benefits. According to a report by the market research platform “Gitnux”, labor costs account for 40 to 50 percent of the total operating expenses of textile service companies. In order to reduce labor costs, laundry businesses can invest in automated laundry machinery and laundry management software. At the laundry company Neutripuro – Lavagens Industriais in Portugal, the counting process of hundreds of laundry items was reduced from 20 minutes to one minute.

2. In Practice

Successful Examples of RFID in the Laundry Industry

Are there examples of wireless IoT technology deployments in the laundry industry? Yes! Almost all sectors of the economy use the services of industrial laundries: Hotels, hospitals, research institutes, rescue stations, food industry companies, or car repair shops. Textiles like dirt-trapping mats, which are used by authorities, supermarkets, and office buildings for cleaning, also need to be washed. Innumerable textiles are in circulation every day. Transparency in the laundry supply chain is crucial for logistics process optimization.

Numerous RFID-based solutions exist to provide employees with workwear around the clock without waiting times. Depending on requirements, cabinet, room, or vending machine solutions are used. The main focus lies on the comfort for the user. It is an absolute no-go if an employee has to wait 15 minutes or longer for his or her garments at the beginning of a shift. At the same time, the use of RFID creates transparency and ensures optimized management, shrinkage reduction, inventory minimization, and increased availability.

IoT sensors can be used to monitor vibration, temperature, and energy consumption to enable predictive maintenance of industrial laundry equipment. These sensors are also used for the control and monitoring of laundry processes in domestic washing machines.
Discover in the examples below how IoT technologies offer advantages by digitalizing laundry logistics in industry and healthcare.

Laundry Management at the German Red Cross

The German Red Cross (GRC), one of the largest welfare organizations in Germany, has deployed an RFID cabinet system from Deister Electronic in order to manage staff workwear in Schwenningen. An RFID laundry tag is attached to over 300 garments by a textile services company. All tagged garments are registered in the GRC’s management software and stored in four cabinets. In order to remove workwear from the cabinet, an RFID-enabled member ID card is held against an RFID reader installed in the cabinet door for digital identification. The removal of each workwear is registered in the management software. An RFID-enabled return cabinet registers the return of each piece of used clothing.

Teaser: RFID Laundry Management at the German Red Cross
RFID Laundry Management at the German Red Cross

Laundry Management at Les Lavandières de Provence

French industrial laundry Les Lavandières de Provence is using an RFID-based solution to manage all laundry items. 60,000 laundry items were equipped with LinTRAK RFID tags from HID. These tags contain unique IDs that contain information about each laundry item, such as the laundry type, age, or color. Laundry items are tracked at the area of incoming goods. Laundry carts and trolleys are equipped with RFID tags. The carts and trolleys pass through an RFID transit portal. The linen management platform Acuity documents how many textiles enter the laundry.

In the sorting area, RFID scanners are used to perform quality control checks and to count the laundry. Several hundred items can be counted every few seconds. Clean laundry are placed on RFID-enabled trolleys and pushed through the RFID transit portals to be shipped to customers. The Acuity platform provides an overview of linen inventory movement.

Teaser: Les Lavandières de Provence: Laundry Management with UHF RFID and CLOUD SERVICES
Laundry Management with UHF RFID and Cloud Services

“The RFID solution is seamlessly integrated into our laundry processes and provides complete visibility into linen inventory and customer transactions. Reliable and clear information means transparency between us and our customers.”

Laurence Hakimi

General Manager, Les Lavandières de Provence

Logo Les Lavandières de Provence

Laundry Inventory Management at Neutripuro

Laundry company Neutripuro – Lavagens Industriais in Portugal uses RFID for laundry management. Here, between four and five tons of linen are processed daily on an area of 700 sqm. 30,000 rental laundry items were fitted with UHF RFID tags from Axem Technology. Laundry is picked up directly from customers and transported via trolleys to the entrance of Neutripuro. Here, inventory is counted using an RFID handheld, or via a special cabinet that is equipped with an RFID portal and two UHF RFID antennas. All laundry items are captured and registered. 50 trolleys, each with 100-200 laundry items, are counted daily. RFID has reduced the counting process from 15-20 minutes to between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The RFID solution provides a clear overview of on-site laundry inventory.

“We quickly understood that doing things manually was not the way forward, and that we should invest in stock management technology. We found that RFID was the best solution, and the best fit to our activities in the laundry.”

Felipe Gameiro

Business Analyst, Neutripuro

3. Panorama

The Future with Smart Laundry

The laundry industry is becoming more and more user or customer-centric.

Smartphones will play a big role in shaping the laundry industry in the future. More and more companies and laundries will use specially developed laundry apps in order to remotely monitor and control laundry processes and operations. Smartphones are also increasingly being used as a contactless payment method for launderettes.

Laundry apps can use AI algorithms to enhance customer experience. These apps allow users to check for machine availability, and select washing programs. For laundry companies, AI can be used to track the order progress and customers can be notified via updates. AI algorithms can even recommend customized washing programs based on prior user choices.

Laundry will also be made more and more sustainable in the future. By integrating AI in modern washing machines, resources are managed more efficiently. Optimal quantities of detergent and water required for each load is determined. This minimizes waste, conserves resources, and reduces costs. Cloud-based systems and comprehensive data analysis are increasingly being used to continuously improve processes.

The Advantages of Wireless IoT in the Laundry Industry

Integrating wireless IoT in laundry management offers numerous advantages. This includes enhancing efficiency, monitoring, and the control of processes. Real-time monitoring and data collection enable immediate response to issues, reducing downtime and optimizing operations. Condition monitoring of laundry machines also enables predictive maintenance in order to minimize unexpected breakdowns and extend equipment lifespan.

Inventory management is improved through the precise tracking of textiles with RFID, reducing losses and ensuring availability. IoT sensors and devices optimize water and energy use, leading to cost savings and sustainable practices. The integration of IoT platforms in laundry management systems enhances operational efficiency and customer experience. IoT platforms provides users with a comprehensive overview of laundry information across a network of washing machines. Information such as the number of loads processed, the volume of chemicals and water utilized, as well as the detection of abnormal conditions, and maintenance needs is made visible on a dashboard.

Data-driven decision-making, facilitated by extensive data collection and analysis, further improves efficiency and service quality. The flexibility and scalability of wireless IoT systems allow for easy expansion and adaptation to changing needs.

Laundromats can use IoT technology this way to become smart. Geolocation technologies can optimize customer and machine pairing. Washing machines and dryers can be booked online. Consumers using IoT can also get instant updates on washing machine availability. Contactless payment systems for laundromats can also be set up with wireless IoT technologies.
Overall, the integration of wireless IoT results in significant cost savings, improved profitability, and a more efficient and customer-friendly laundry operation.

Advantages of Wireless IoT

  • Energy and water usage monitoring to reduce costs
  • Remote monitoring of laundry processes
  • Increased asset visibility and transparency
  • Reduced inventory counting times
  • Enabling predictive maintenance and reducing machine downtimes

Partners Spezialized in Laundry Solutions

Challenges with IoT in Laundry

In order to deploy wireless IoT devices for laundry applications, it is important to understand and overcome associated challenges.

One of these challenges involves the connectivity between Wi-Fi and IoT devices: Connecting IoT sensors on the washing machine to the Internet. Current Internet protocols are not yet built for IoT. To solve this, groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) are working on creating new standards. These standards help IoT devices communicate over the internet more efficiently and securely. Some examples are IPv6 over Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN), IPv6 Routing Protocol for Low power and Lossy Networks (RPL), and Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP). These standards help make sure that IoT devices can connect to the internet without sacrificing security or privacy. Ensuring the proper security of IoT devices is crucial in protecting both customer data and business operations against cyber threats.

Larger laundry facilities may require extensive coverage in order to enable comprehensive track and trace. RFID readers and antennas need to be placed in locations where they are able to effectively capture data from the RFID-tagged laundry items in circulation. Ensuring adequate range and coverage while maintaining signal strength can be challenging, particularly for facilities with complex layouts or multiple floors.

RFID tags attached or embedded in laundry items must also be robust enough to withstand industrial washing cycles. Tags should be replaced once the maximum number of wash cycles has been reached. These tags should also adhere to specific certifications, in order to be safely used in textiles. These include the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) compliance, the European Union’s REACH regulation, and the Oeko-Tex Standard 100.

Outlook – Next-Level Laundry

With the digitalizlation of the laundry industry via wireless IoT deployment, laundry processes are becoming more automated. The next steps for the laundry industry include the use of AI and machine learning for optimized laundry data analysis, and contactless payment for increased user experience and hygiene.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are being used to make washing machines smarter. AI-analytics can be used to optimize wash cycles according to various factors, including stain level, fabric type, and load.

Contactless Payment

Self-service laundries have increasingly been focusing on increasing hygiene. Replacing coin payment systems with contactless payment systems using NFC technology, for example, enables a more hygienic, and convenient payment approach.

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