Running the Numbers Shows Bottom Line Impact of Manual Laundry Inaccuracies
Today, advances in ultra-high frequency RFID technology make laundry processing and real time tracking much more efficient.
Why are CFOs in the hospitality and gaming industries giving a single thought to the laundry business? Because the cost of keeping linens clean significantly affects a property’s profitability. And, high-tech UHF-RFID laundry automation can give a healthy boost to the bottom line. Running the numbers in the following example offers a dollars-and-cents explanation.
Safeguarding a six-figure investment from five-figure losses Hotel A is a 400-room, high-end, full-service property with an inventory of 40,000 linens valued at approximately $500,000. This includes items such as towels and sheets for guest rooms, and table cloths for restaurant outlets and catering facilities. The property also maintains a $150,000 inventory of 5,000 uniforms for several hundred employees.
Laundry billing errors of only 2% can cost $20,000 annually Because linens and uniforms are continuously reused, a significant percentage of the property’s inventory is cleaned every day. Hotel A uses an outside laundry service, as do most similar properties, to clean about 8,500 items each day at an annual cleaning cost of approximating $1,000,000. Billing errors of only one or two percent can result in overcharges of $10,000-$20,000 a year.
The hotel distributes $150,000 worth of linens and uniforms seven days a week: $35,000 in uniforms go to employees; $15,000 in uniforms and $100,000 in linens go to the laundry service. The huge volume of items issued to employees and sent to the laundry creates loss rates that frequently surpass 10 percent, which adds up to $75,000 annually. This is considerably greater than any hotel can justify as “normal shrinkage.”
It is not surprising that controllers and CFOs demand accountability for laundry activity. Hotels have tried various methods over the years to gain some semblance of control.
In the past, accountability for uniforms has been successfully addressed by attaching barcode tags to uniforms to track individual garments and ensure that employees and the laundry provider returned uniforms to the hotel. In 2007, Hotel A implemented InvoTech’s GIMS™ barcode Uniform System for apparel inventory tracking and to improve the overall uniform operations. Control has been established and losses have been largely eliminated by individually scanning the roughly 1,000 garments handled by the uniform department daily.
For linens, hand counts cannot keep up
Barcode tracking is not practical for linens because of the large number of items processed daily. To gain better control, Hotel A manually sorts and counts soiled linens, recording how many items in each category go to the laundry. When clean linens are returned, items are again hand-counted and recorded to reconcile whether all items sent were returned.
To refine the analysis further, periodically the property physically inventories linens in its numerous housekeeping storerooms. The entire process is labor intensive and inherently inaccurate due to human error both in counting and data keying. To complicate matters, laundry deliveries consist of items picked up over several days. Suspected discrepancies are difficult, if not impossible, to validate, which often leads to disputes between the hotel and the outside laundry facility. Laundry mix-ups are also a problem. This is clear because Hotel A frequently receives linens belonging to other businesses and other properties get Hotel A’s laundry. Hotel A’s manual linen control efforts do limit inventory losses. But the property still loses about $20,000 in linens annually after spending $40-$50,000 in labor costs for counting, recording, reconciling, and disputing errors.
Ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID technology cuts loss to virtually zero
Today, advances in ultra-high frequency RFID technology make laundry processing and real time tracking much more efficient. UHF-RFID tracking laundry tags are easily attached to uniforms and linens and with them, inventory can be automatically read in bulk bins by UHF-RFID processing stations. When uniforms and linens are sent to the laundry and returned, the system automatically records each item as full laundry carts or racks of uniforms move past specialized UHF-RFID bulk processing readers. When employees pick up their uniforms, the system automatically records that event to further improve accountability and reduce losses.
A UHF-RFID system would reduce Hotel A’s uniform and linen losses to virtually zero and eliminate the labor associated with manual counting and data entry. The result is a projected savings of at least $70,000 each year in operating expenses. Annual savings would increase with the rise in linen, uniform, and labor costs. This gets a CFO’s attention.
For Hotel A, the UHF-RFID system has an ROI of less than 12 months and brings the added benefit of more accurate information about the hotel’s inventory. For example, Hotel A would have the ability to forecast on-going linen and uniform purchases and track each article’s aging to assure the hotel’s quality standards are maintained.
The numbers make a clear case
Hotel operators do not often see this kind of positive technology investment opportunity. The numbers make it easy to understand why CFOs are looking to the laundry room for increased profits through implementing automated UHF-RFID uniform and linen processing.
By Harvey Welles, President of InvoTech Systems.
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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.