University Hospital Dresden combines cabinet and room solution for optimal laundry management.
Since 2016, UHF RFID-chipped clothing items have been used at the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden both as workwear and as flat linen. For the workwear, 84 dispensing cabinets along with two room solutions are installed at 13 different locations within the university hospital. 55 return machines are distributed across 15 locations.
A total of 100,000 items of workwear are in circulation between the laundry and the hospital. A large proportion of these are rented linen; in special areas with special requirements, such as transport, the hospital's own workwear is also used.
Jennifer Nitz, Project Manager for the Laundry Process, Logistics and Purchasing Division in an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global.
Main Reasons for Optimized Laundry Supply and Increased Supply Security
Before the introduction of the automatic laundry dispensing systems, there was a laundry cabinet in every building that was freely accessible to every employee and regularly stocked by the laundry service provider. However, this often resulted in uncontrolled access. The result: Supply bottlenecks.
"This in turn led, among other things, to even more employees taking out clothing in large quantities to stock up on supplies. In order to break this cycle, automatic laundry dispensing and return systems were introduced to ensure access control and thus increase supply security," says Jennifer Nitz, explaining the initial motives.
Optimized Laundry Cycle – Idle Periods Reduced
In the past, laundry service providers often complained about an unclear loss of laundry, which resulted in supply bottlenecks. Flat linen is captured in the laundry service provider's warehouse before delivery to the hospital and after used items have been deposited, and booked or credited to the relevant area. In this way, it is exactly traceable which area has received which piece of laundry.
The system guarantees data transparency also with regard to the laundry service provider – which pieces of laundry were returned and which are still in the hospital. The result: The laundry throughput is optimized and long and irregular idle periods of individual textiles are avoided.
Objective: Generating Transparent Data
"The use of UHF RFID-chipped laundry items was initially implemented for an optimal overview of which items were delivered to the premises when and which items returned to the textile services company. This makes it possible to clarify the whereabouts of missing parts and to optimally control the handling of the laundry. The changeover to UHF RFID-chipped laundry in the entire university hospital took place after a corresponding tender for the laundry service and the associated change of service provider," explains Jennifer Nitz.
Within the scope of new construction measures, all necessary rooms and connections were planned in such a way that when new buildings are commissioned, laundry supply is also possible via the existing systems. In this respect, there are always changes of location. The aim is to ensure the optimal and at the same time economical supply of fresh laundry to the hospital.
Comprehensive Data Analysis Guaranteed
Since the system determines when an employee has withdrawn or returned which workwear and in what quantity, the permissible framework for person-related evaluations should be regulated in advance. This should be done in particular with the responsible data protection officer and the personnel representatives.
The data analysis guarantees the capture of the duration of time the clothes have been in the university hospital, which ward currently has how many clothes available, and how much time the washing process takes. It also captures how many workwear items are in a dispenser and which sizes currently need to be restocked.
RFID ID for Every Employee
Each employee receives a personal RFID chip when he or she starts work, which captures the working time via appropriate terminals. Authorized personnel also have access to workwear. Employees who are authorized to distribute laundry sign in to the laundry distribution system using their personal RFID chip. All employees are already assigned a laundry profile corresponding to their job description when they are hired. This profile determines whether workwear may be removed and in what quantity.
Cabinet Solution Ensures Permanent Inventory
"After signing in with the personal RFID chip, the required items of clothing (trousers, coat, tunic, polo) can be selected on a touch display when dispensing via a cabinet system. After the selection has been made, the respective cabinet doors open and the workwear can be removed. After the doors are closed, and also at regular intervals, the system captures the data to identify all items of clothing still in the cabinet. At the same time, the missing parts are registered and assigned to the user's laundry account, so that it is possible to trace which RFID chip number – and thus which specific piece of laundry – was removed, in which size, and at which location," explains Jennifer Nitz about the installed cabinet solution on-site.
Digital Employee Quota Reduces Inventory
Authorized personnel can change workwear as often as they wish. It is not permitted to exceed the quota or to take out more than the specified number of items of clothing. As long as the quota is exceeded, the employee cannot take out any further workwear. This is to avoid storing a large number of garments in the personal locker.
Room Solution Complements Laundry Management
Jennifer Nitz explains how the room solution complements RFID-controlled laundry management: "The same procedure is followed when employees use the room solution. Access via the laundry sluice is not possible as long as the quota is exhausted or exceeded. Employees are asked to hand in their workwear before fresh garments can be removed. In order to leave the room, the employee identifies him/ herself again with his/her personal RFID medium at the exit door. Afterwards, a registration is carried out and the removed items are assigned to the employee.
A 99.2 Percent Detection Rate
According to the manufacturer, the detection rate of the system is 99.2 percent and is significantly influenced by the interaction of the transponders used by the service provider, their positioning in the garment, and the placement of the item in the cabinet. If an item has not been detected in a scan process, the system usually detects the error in the next scan, so that a correction entry is made.
However, if the error is not corrected in time before the employee's next access to the system, and if a user has been incorrectly assigned an item that is actually still in the wardrobe, it is possible that the employee may be temporarily denied access to the laundry dispensing system due to an alleged quota overrun. In this case, a short manual intervention by a person responsible for the laundry process in the management software 'texxeo manager' is required to clear the user.
Return via Cabinet System
Workwear can be discarded at any time by the employees. Return cabinets have been installed for this purpose. The system recognizes the respective item of clothing by its RFID chip number and automatically reduces the load on the person's laundry account. Today, random on-site checks are carried out using handhelds. These ensure manual checks of the laundry stocks in the wards resulting in a correspondingly accurate evaluation.
The Exception – MRT Sets: RFID-Chipped Laundry Bags
Special caution is required when using RFID-chipped laundry in MRT. Among other things, there is a risk of overheating the RFID chips, which is why only laundry without integrated RFID chips is used here. In order to guarantee traceability nevertheless, in-house, so-called MRT sets were designed. These contain RFID-chipped laundry bags, which contain all the laundry items regularly required for MRT examinations.