Managing and handling linens can be a major pain point for hotels, which can lose both time and money in the process of sorting, counting, packing and separating clean and soiled linens.
In an effort to overcome these challenges, Venus Group—a Foothill Ranch, CA-based textile and linen manufacturer and supplier—has collaborated with Fujitsu to develop a process that fully automates the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag insertion process. These tags can be used in counting and identifying soiled and clean linen without physical handling.
The current processes use manual labor, not only accounting for associates’ time but are also prone to error and don’t account for loss.
“For businesses that rent or provide textile linens, such as hotels and industrial laundries, it can be challenging to keep track of each individual piece of linen inventory,” said Nipun Patel, director, strategy & innovation, Venus Group. “It’s prone to error with minimal control on accuracy. Not to mention, this manual process requires physical handling of each piece at the cleaning facility. This is where advancement in technology can be applied to tag and accurately keep tab of each linen item, throughout the laundering process.”
According to Venus, with RFID tags installed, thousands of linens can be read in seconds without having to scan individual barcodes. This makes managing soiled and clean linens easy and improves asset tracking.
However, installing an RFID tag on every individual item can be time-consuming. Manually sewing RFID tags into linens would slow down Venus’ production system, leading to the collaboration with Fujitsu.
To fully automate the process of inserting the Fujitsu RFID tag into the Venus linens, the two companies created a continuous roll of custom-designed RFID tags in fabric pouches. Each pouch includes an embedded RFID linen tag and a cut line with a heat seal. During the automated manufacturing process at Venus, the RFID pouch is cut off the roll and inserted into the hem of each linen, then thermally sealed or welded onto the item.
“The RFID capability requires the customer to invest in an RFID data infrastructure, such as Fujitsu or Datamar, and partner with a textile manufacturer like Venus to insert individual RFID tags into each textile item,” Patel explained. “Once RFID tags are embedded into the linen, the customers RFID technology scans the individual barcodes at its laundering facility and is able to accurately track each piece of inventory.”
This process reduces the amount of manual labor needed to integrate RFID solutions and provides consistent quality for each linen. The heat seal prevents RFID tags from slipping out of linens, while the fabric material protects the tag from fraying and damage.
“In partnership with Fujitsu, who is a leader in RFID technology, Venus scaled its automated manufacturing process in the U.S. to automate the process of RFID tag insertion vs. manual insertion,” Patel said. “RFID technology virtually eliminates the physical handling of each item and provides accuracy in inventory management. Venus has the automated manufacturing ability to add these RFID tags to a range of textile items, such as table linen.”