RFID in Laundry: Tracking Textile Items Reduces Costs

July 18, 2013 Joey McFarland

RFID in Laundry: Tracking Textile Items Reduces Costs

From bed sheets and towels to bathrobes and uniforms, hospitality establishments of all sizes must manage tens of thousands of textile items each year.  Hotels, fitness clubs, casinos and theme parks around the world are rapidly turning to UHF RFID to decrease shrinkage, automate linen management and distribution, and increase visibility into a garment’s laundering and usage. Continue reading for examples of some of the most common uses of RFID in laundry.


RFID Manages Linens and Uniforms

For hotels and resorts, managing uniforms for hundreds to thousands of workers can be a laborious process, with some places tracking tens of thousands of apparel items individually assigned to each employee.  Keeping track of other textile items is also a tricky task, with hotels balancing the need to never run out with their limited storage space for safety stock.  And as many locations have to send items off-site for laundering, linen and uniform stocks can slowly deplete as hotels have minimal visibility into what percentage of items are returned. UHF RFID offers a solution to each of these issues.

A typical UHF RFID linen management solution works as follows: sewn into each garment are rubber-encapsulated inlays built to withstand high-temperatures and repeated washing, drying and ironing. RFID readers are installed in doorways – either to the site’s laundry room or to the loading dock for hotels that outsource laundering needs – to monitor garments as they move to be cleaned.  Readers also register items as they are returned.  RFID software updates the status of the garment depending on its location. The software holds information such as how many times an item has been used and laundered, as well as how long it was at the cleaners and if it hasn’t returned. Resorts can use this data to determine how many washes an item can withstand before needing replacement, as well as how many items are being lost at laundry facilities.

In addition to the setup described above, a typical uniform management system offers dispensing cabinets where employees can collect their uniform. Upon scanning their ID badge, the cabinet door unlocks and the worker is presented with their assigned outfit. Employees return uniforms for cleaning by sending them down a chute where a reader will register their return.

Two solution providers offering these types of systems are Foundation Logic Systems and InvoTech Systems.  Each company has provided solutions to Four-Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Westin properties, among others.

Disney Tracks $100 Million in Costumes

Disney saved over a million dollars one year after switching from barcodes to RFID to manage nearly $100 million worth of costumes at most of its parks and cruise ships globally. The system enables easy, self-service costume checkout and return for employees, expedites inventory counting time, and provides Disney real-time visibility into a garment’s status and frequency of use.

In total, 3 million garments and accessories worldwide are tracked with rubber-encapsulated RFID tags which have been affixed to items either by the vendor or by a Disney employee. On-site, workers locate their required costume pieces in a storage room and head to a Disney-designed RFID checkout kiosk to swipe their ID badge.  A reader registers the selected garments and displays them on the screen for the employee to accept.  Upon approval, the process is complete and the checked-out garments are recorded by the system. To return items, workers simply toss them in a returns chute with an RFID reader that updates the garment’s status.

Disney found a return on investment (ROI) in less than one year and reports that an increase in employee satisfaction has been an unexpected benefit of the RFID system.

RFID Reduces Towel Theft

Fitness centers and health clubs offering courtesy towel service can spend thousands of dollars each year replacing missing towels.  Some large facilities report losing hundreds of towels every month because members take them home or throw them away.  To solve this issue, Towel Tracker designed an RFID solution that curbs towel theft, while also reducing labor and laundering costs.

The Towel Tracker system consists of two vending-machine-sized RFID-enabled cabinets. Guests simply swipe their membership card to open the dispensing cabinet and retrieve towels which are each uniquely identified with a washable RFID tag. An RFID reader registers which towels were taken and the system associates them with the customer’s account.  When guests are finished, towels are placed in the returns cabinet where another RFID reader registers the return, removing the towels from the account.

Riverside Health & Fitness Center is saving over $69,000 annually from decreased manual labor, laundering costs and towel theft since beginning to manage towels with the Towel Tracker system.


The examples above show how hospitality establishments can cut costs by using RFID to manage linens, costumes and/or towels. To learn more about this topic, I encourage you to view our webinar presentation, Tracking Linens & Uniforms with RFID or contact Impinj with any questions.

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