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Making the Switch From Barcodes to RFID

RFIDA long-term GIMS™ client recently converted to RFID technology. The conversion occurred during a major facility expansion. The client had been reaping the benefits of the barcode version of GIMS™ for approximately ten years. As transactions grew over the years and especially with the facility expansion, the barcode technology became less effective from a cost and efficiency standpoint.

 
Background

The property, a major casino in Detroit, Michigan, has a uniformed staff of approximately 3,000 employees, each having three sets of uniforms - some with as many as five separate garments. The casino provides the uniforms as well as dry cleaning and laundry services. The wardrobe department manages the garments by tracking who is responsible for the garments and verifying that garment cleaning charges are applied to the correct departmental budgets. In addition, the wardrobe department determines the number of new garments to purchase to maintain optimum inventory levels and to replenish aging inventory.

The Challenge

The wardrobe department processes about 7,500 daily transactions, 95% of which required scanning individual barcodes. This volume translated into approximately 24 labor-hours each day. With rising labor costs and a significant error rate associated with barcode scanning, the casino needed a more effective way to manage its inventory while minimizing costs and maximizing operational efficiency.

Situation Snapshot

  • Company Location: Detroit, Michigan
  • Industry: Hospitality/Gaming
  • Uniformed Employees: ~3,000
  • Garment Inventory: ~35,000
  • Existing Uniform Control Method: Barcodes and Laser Scanners
  • Existing Software: GIMS™ Uniform System (Barcode Version)
  • Daily Transactions: ~7,500
  • Daily Labor-Hours for Uniform Processing: ~24

Solution

InvoTech recommended that the client convert their uniform tracking system from barcodes to high-frequency, multi-read RFID technology. RFID would drastically reduce scanning time; and because the system was fully automated, it would also eliminate human and scanning errors. The project entailed upgrading the GIMS™ Uniform System to the RFID version, the provision of high-frequency RFID chips (pre-inserted in woven pouches), and the installation of specialized RFID antennas and readers including RFID laundry drop-chutes. All hardware and software was provided by and installed by InvoTech and integrated into an efficient labor-saving system. Four (4) soiled garment RFID laundry drop-chutes were installed at strategic locations. RFID vertical antennas and readers were added to process clean garments, and table-top antennas and readers were provided to process employees and for adding new inventory (and deleting worn-out garments). One of the unique features of GIMS™ is that the system can process both a barcode and an RFID chip. This capability greatly facilitated the conversion from barcodes to RFID.

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In addition, existing garment storage conveyors were upgraded to an automatic storage and retrieval system. The new conveyors automatically bring the employee's uniforms to the issue door and allow employees to store and retrieve their garment bags on a self-service basis.

Here's How It Works

Employees deposit their soiled uniforms into the RFID drop-chutes for cleaning. The RFID chips on the garments are read automatically — without any human intervention. Instantly, management is aware of which garments have been checked-in for cleaning, including any garments loaned to employees for the day. When clean garments are returned, those that are not assigned to an employee and are simply passed by a vertical RFID antenna. The use of multi-read RFID chips enables must faster processing speed. The RFID system reads ten times faster than the former barcode system. In addition, up to twelve (12) items can be read simultaneously within a second or two, and the GIMS™ Uniform System precisely records exactly what was processed. Assigned clean garments are loaded onto the automated conveyors. Again, there's very little human intervention. The garments are loaded simply by passing them over an RFID antenna on the conveyor. The conveyor then automatically brings forth the proper loading location and GIMS™ notes the receipt of the garment from cleaning along with its location on the conveyor. When new garments are purchased, rather than scanning each item's barcode to add it to inventory, a stack of 10-12 items is simply placed on a table-top antenna and all the items are automatically added to inventory by GIMS™.

Business Benefits

Implementation of the RFID project was a resounding success. Uniformed employees received faster service from the wardrobe department. Inventory data and accountability were more accurate. By far, the most dramatic result was a 67% reduction in daily labor hours — from 24 hours to 8 hours! Within just one year, the labor savings alone have more than offset the initial equipment investment. And the savings continue to add up. The property no longer needs to buy new barcodes when replacing worn uniforms. Thanks to the high performance of the RFID chips, they simply remove the chip from the old uniform and place it in a new garment, further extending their investment and savings. "The quick payback and the improved operating efficiencies of RFID made it the right choice for our newly expanded facility." – Wardrobe Manager

InvoTech has hundreds of satisfied clients worldwide in more than 30 countries, including hotels, resorts, casinos, theme parks, stadiums, arenas, convention centers, medical centers, cleanrooms, and laundries.

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