Ibernex Ingeniería is an international company belonging to Pikolin Group and has more than 20 years of experience in design, development and manufacture of modern and innovative solutions of communications systems and software for health care and safety sectors.

In laundry services, it is very important to monitor and control all garments during all cleaning process (washing, drying, ironing, classification and distribution). This process presents difficulties that delay the work of employees and assumes additional expenses.

Ibernex propose a system to identify and classify garments for laundries, based on RFID technology (radiofrequency identification) and labels attached to garments, that determines the checkpoints

One of the latest developments of Ibernex has been the Laundries Management, that allows a perfect monitoring and control of garments in each stage of the washing process. This facilitates the control and classification for ideal distribution.

This solution is based on RFID, technology used for identification objects in the distance without needing physical contact or vision line. Users do not need to scan one by one the products, but with only one reading can identify a lot of labels at the same time. In addition, it allows to have total traceability, because it is possible to know by what operations or  agents has passed each piece of clothes through writing/reading the information in the tag. Also, it is possible to track specific objects along the distribution chain.

The system consists of:

1.       RFID reader: Through the antennas, waves to the RFID tags are sent. It returns the stored  information in its memory, and when the reader receives the information contained in the tag, it sends it to the management applications to treat it.

a.       Desktop: It allows to manage the garments in the system, with a range up to 15 cm.

b.       RFID Gun: Portable reader with reading performance up to 8.5 meters. It allows to read several tags at the same time.

c.       RFID antennas: They detect the tags and can create different checkpoints inside the laundry.

2.       RFID tags: Small tags are attached to garments by sewing. They are encapsulated to protect against liquids and detergents. Resistant to washing and high temperatures and pressures.

3.       Laundry management software: Complete and intuitive application for the integral laundry management. It allows to manage a single laundry in a nursing home/hospital or a centralized for several centres. It allows:

a.       Identification of garments

b.       Report management to know the garments more washed, averages of washings, stock control in case of hiring external laundry services…

c.       Administration:

i.      User management

ii.      Creation and edition of garments and identify them (name of the owner, type of garment, room number, number of washes…).

iii.      Allocation of garments, rooms…

iv.      Alarms setting (number of washes, needs of washed…).

v.      Allocation of type of garments.

vi.      Staff management for garments identification.

Solution features:

1.       Radiofrequency identification allows to identify garments quickly and correctly during all wash cycle.

2.       Automatization of tasks, facilitating the work process of system:

a.       Easy system to register garments.

b.       It allows previous classification before washing (type of garment, suitable washing temperature…).

c.       Compatible with systems and processes of washing, drying, ironing…

d.       While the garment is folding, the classification is performed, identifying and  showing the owner, location, location in tray for distribution, shelves…

e.       It allows a correct classification and delivery of garments to each user reducing incidents or exchanges of garments.

3.       Inventories and stock control of garments belonging to centre.

4.       It allows the automatic mass Reading of garments.

5.       Long range Reading, avoids theft and loss of garments, being able to know the amount of clothes in each point.

6.       Control of items in case of hiring of external laundry services and entry of garments.

Example of system operation:

The first step is to label, by sewing, the garments that will be managed. It is possible to perform that process progressively when the garments pass through the laundry. Once all garments are labelled , it is possible to achieve the 100% solution performance.

Then, the dirty garments are transported to the laundry and from there, as shown in Illustration 1., the garment passes through six different stages.

1.       Entry: The garments arrive at the laundry in a container and are read without being taken out of it. The garments are marked in the database as “In laundry” and they are sent to wash or to a warehouse for waiting to be cleaned.

2.       Washing: The garments are transported to the washing machines through a conveyor belt, where the antenna reads the garments labels. Automatically they pass to “Washing” state.

3.       Drying and checkpoint: Once washed, the clothes enter in the dryers. After that, the antenna reads the garments allowing to generate alarms.

For example, in case some garments have been washed “X” times in a row, they could be removed and renamed as “End of life”. Another example would be when the antenna detects a garment that does not match expectations (for example, a garment configured to be washed at 40º when the washing machine is ready for 60º). In that case, it sends a warning to the system.

4.      Inspection, ironing and pleating: The clothes are visually inspected to detect stains that have not been eliminates in the wash. If any garment is not completely clean, it is returned to the wash chain. If not, it is ironed and pleated.

5.       Classification: While the garments are pleated, the RFID system identifies them and displays in the computer: which it is, where it should be located, bucket location guides, etc. This feature allows to the worker knows where to deposit them. The classification of the garments could be facilitated by the information of coordinates or colours of the cups.

For example, each column of positions for residents has few cups of one colour (red, yellow, blue, etc.), and inside those of the same colour are identified with 1, 2, 3, etc, the rows. In the screen would show the colour blue and number two, being very easy to visually locate the resident’s position. However, with an automatic light system, this process would be automated since once the system identifies the garment, it would turn on the light in the position where the garment should be located.

6.       Packaging and exit: The garments are put in cars or bags and are packed for their return to origin. It repeats step 1, marking the garments as “Exit of laundry”, and are returned to their owners.

By means of the management reports, the laundry can know the most washed garments, the residents who consume more this service, average of garments washed per day according to type, or configure warning alarms in the identification process; For example, it is possible to let users know when an underwear carries more than 50 washes, and in this way, it is possible to warn the relatives who perform a provisioning to its family.

At business level, it is possible to know the productivity of the workers in the identification and classification. The program can manage several users (employees) and see their performance.

Benefits:

1.       Time saving

2.       Cost reduction

3.       Process automation

4.       Loss prevention, avoid theft

5.       Detection of deteriorated garments

6.       Optimum garment distribution

7.       RFID technology

In summary, the Laundry module allows to track the garments in all their stages in the laundry. It allows to control that all garments processed are of the right type, avoiding garments to go to a process that does not belong to them and could cause damage. It also tracks the number of total washing of a garment to warn when it has reached its end of life. It also indicates when a garment has not been cleaned properly and must be discarded.

With this development, Ibernex aims to contribute to the sector with a solution to the constant daily problems caused by:  the lack of knowledge of the exact number of garments inside a centre, quantity of dirty clothes and clean clothes, how many garments are  in the process of washing and finally, the loss of garments with their corresponding economic impact.

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