RFID as technological evolution

RFID - four letters, so many possibilities. Markus Bucher, Head of Identification Technology at THERMOTEX, explains in an interview with R + W Textilservice the potentials of technology for the laundry sector. He is convinced: Starting with RFID technology is a decision for the future.

Are you considering using RFID technology in your company? Then surely you still have some unanswered questions on the subject. RWTextilservice will help you find those answers and spoke to qualified engineer Markus Bucher. He has been the technical manager of the identification technology department at ThermoTex Nagel GmbH for almost 24 years. In the area of RFID, the German company provides innovative solutions for a wide variety of applications that are tailored to the customer's individual needs.

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RWTextilservice: What are the advantages of fully-automated identification of textiles in laundries using RFID technology?

Markus Bucher: With RFID technology, our customers have the opportunity to optimise their processes, increase productivity and improve the quality of their services. The benefits depend on the process as well as on the customer’s requirements and wishes.

Each textile provided with an RFID chip receives a unique identification number. With the help of a database, it is possible to retrieve the history of the laundry item, making the complete "chipped" laundry inventory for the company transparent. This resulting transparency inevitably leads to cost savings. The customer always knows where a piece of laundry is located; the laundry loss is reduced enormously.

Starting with RFID technology is a decision for the future. Against the backdrop of Industry 4.0, many companies are developing strategies and technical solutions for the networking of processes. RFID is a key technology here, such as in the introduction of robots to the laundry process. The robot only knows what to do once the data is transmitted by RFID.
In addition, RFID technology serves as a link between the service provider and the end customer. This is about the total cost effect after all. Until now, innovations have only brought progress at individual levels of the process chain. However, the overall process is now taking centre stage. This proves that if both partners work together on all process levels, it is possible to cut costs and continuously improve processes.

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RWT: Many companies shy away from the expense of introducing an RFID system - both logistically and financially. Can you take away the company’s fear?

Bucher: Yes, we can! We are on location and advise the customer personally. This also indicates where the problem areas are and what an individual RFID solution might look like. Especially with expensive articles or end customers with special requirements, it is clear that an RFID system brings improvements in the process and that an added value would quickly set in too. The laundry company can deal with these projects with the RFID technology, and additionally gain its first experiences and insights. In the implementation, from the first meeting to the start including the test phase, we look after the customer and support him with all our strength. If the pilot project is successful, the companies can tackle the next projects. Even though the project has already started, we are always there for our customers with help and advice via our service hotline.

The introduction of RFID is not a technological revolution, but an evolution. And that's just as well. Only in joint work with constant control, correction and, if necessary, reorientation can we improve the process. This requires genuine cooperation and relationship. At ThermoTex, this is a fundamental principle right from the start. This is why we always offer our customers the opportunity to thoroughly test the use of RFID components. This distinguishes us significantly from other providers and is associated with a high cost for us. However, since we are convinced of the technology and its results, we are constantly investing in this development.

RWT: For which size of company is the introduction of RFID technology worth it?

Bucher: Starting with any size of company, it is worth consulting if the company wants to gain control of its textiles with tracking via RFID technology. Ultimately, there must be a benefit for the company, and we support the business with our opportunities, experience and skills. A small volume of laundry can even offer certain advantages, since it is more manageable and easier to implement, with relatively timely results.

RWT: Which products does ThermoTex offer in the field of RFID?

Bucher: We offer solutions for the dirty laundry input and the clean laundry output in HF or UHF technology. This also includes, if necessary, a customised special design. In addition, we provide an effective solution for container management in UHF technology. The use of UHF technology results in smart applications, especially for stocktaking with mobile handheld reading systems.

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RFID technology also includes attaching the transponders in the textiles. We offer a whole range of different products. There are special heat-seal labels for transponders, sewn pockets or combinations of both. The introduction of the transponder is of great importance. If errors occur, the transponder can fall out of the textile and the benefit is zero. This is exactly where one of our core competences lies. ThermoTex is certainly characterized by the fact that we have now become a system provider. We not only offer one component in the overall RFID system, but mostly a complete solution in which all components are precisely matched to one another. Only this interlinking leads to a true value creation chain. We constantly develop new solutions together with customers and technology partners.

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