The Role of RFID in Laundry Automation
Dated: 20-03-2019

Technical assistance, automated decisions, information transparency and full networking - these are the four essential principles of any digital laundry. Especially when it comes to networking machines, movable goods such as individual laundry items and people, this concept can be implemented in a modern laundry using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) and state-of-the-art IT technology.

In the wake of the increasing demand for automation, RFID technology is gaining new momentum in this area. The reason: Industry 4.0 requires digital identification of individual laundry items, containers and machines. In addition, all of these system components must be able to exchange data with each other. However, this data exchange only works in conjunction with intelligent software. In this context, as an innovative IT service provider, SoCom Informations systeme GmbH provides both consultancy services and the necessary software.

How does it work? 

TIKOS, the complete solution for laundry service providers, supports communication and cooperation between people, systems and products along the entire production process of a laundry. The RFID transponder remains attached to a laundry item and contains all of the information required by the production process. This way, laundry items can be turned into intelligent items. Current data is read out by means of either an RFID reader or a smartphone app. Subsequently, automated status messages can be sent to pre-defined recipients. Thus, TIKOS serves as the foundation for continuous operational data acquisition and optimal process control; manual tasks are eliminated. For example, an order can be triggered automatically directly at the laundry input point. The software detects how many items have been collected at the input point. Automatically, TIKOS generates an order based on the items read in and then sends it to despatch.

In conjunction with RFID technology and functioning as a ‘smart factory’, TIKOS now offers the option for laundry items to communicate bidirectionally with a reader. This means that data can be read out with either a reader or a mobile terminal. TIKOS immediately tells the other machines involved how to process an individual laundry item. That means the information on the attached RFID transponder is not just read in, but the data in the relevant database is also updated or supplemented. This has the additional advantage of ensuring complete transparency. At all times, TIKOS can provide information about what production process steps a given laundry item has gone through and what step will be next. One positive by-product -better data quality.

Efficient wash schedules can also be created through consistent recording of operating data at different cost centres using TEXPRO - a software application specially designed for production data acquisition and production planning. Any laundry order can be tracked at any time during system operation - which cost centre it is currently located at, which employees are logged on to that cost centre, whether the cost centre is overstaffed or understaffed, whether the required performance target will be reached.

Communication

In addition, the importance of communication with machines in the context of ‘person-free’ production is increasing. Using the requisite interfaces, TIKOS communicates with individual machines directly. The RFID chip in the laundry item is read in and reveals details of the item itself, such as its condition, care instructions and any required handling. In the future, for example, a deficiency might be eliminated automatically. The same principle applies to the sorting system, amongst other things. Here, data is also read in using the RFID reader and then reported to TIKOS. TIKOS prepares the data and sends the necessary commands to the sorting system. Laundry items are sorted automatically. SoCom already works with a number of machine manufacturers and offers numerous interfaces to individual machines, all as part of a smooth, person-free and automated production process.

Last but not least, laundry items cannot only be read in at fixed locations but anytime, anywhere. Thanks to an app called ‘texScan’, which is a smart solution from SoCom, mobile quantity recording via a smartphone can be carried out within seconds directly at the customer's site. Using this app, the customer can scan his own inventory or other movements himself. Goods and container stocks are updated within the system directly and fully automatically. At the same time, the system automatically responds to bottlenecks or congestion.

With numerous app solutions, such as texRoute, texOrder, texUniScan and texEasyPick, and with the aid of intelligent software processes, SoCom offers further options during digitised operation for even more flexible and automated design and control.

SoCom is the software specialist in the textile care sector. With TIKOS, the fully fledged ERP system, they offer a modular solution for comprehensive process management. This solution is ideal for large as well as smaller businesses.