Based on the continuous need to lower operational costs and improve customer service, interest grows in the area of autosortation technology. However, discussions with uniform rental operators reveal a number of misconceptions about the costs, implementation and operation of this technology.
This article examines misconceptions 4 through 6 and identifies how new affordable and scalable solutions have changed the way industrial uniform rental operators can apply the technology to improve customer service and remain competitive.
Independent uniform rental operators are facing new challenges every day. As technology enhancements are introduced, it often becomes difficult to evaluate their applicability in a specific application. Such is the case for autosortation technology and the industrial laundry industry.
Autosortation was initially targeted to larger operations requiring a sizable solution and a sizable investment. Based on the experience of designing and implementing these larger systems, the industry has learned to design systems for much smaller operations without sacrificing reliability, flexibility and return on investment.
It’s the position of the author that there exist a number of common misconceptions surrounding autosortation technology, based on its introduction targeting larger industrial laundries and offering little opportunity for the average size operation.
By designing solutions that are more flexible and scalable, suppliers can now provide solutions for practically every uniform rental facility – independent of current size or future expansion requirements.
This collection of common misconceptions about autosortation technology is a result of many discussions with operators across the country. These misconceptions identify a kind of “information gap” that exists concerning the feasibility of applying autosortation technology to any size operation. This gap also includes misconceptions about the many benefits that can be realized to help operators differentiate themselves and keep themselves competitive.
Misconception No. 4: It’s too costly and complicated to identify my garments with bar codes or RFID tags, and the resources just aren’t available.
Garments must have bar codes or RFID tags in order to take advantage of autosortation. Although there’s an initial investment, the subsequent and continuing operating cost reductions lead to an attractive payback.
The material cost of garment identification is small compared to the cost to install the identification and the interference to production. Fortunately, autosortation suppliers today can offer solutions that minimize this problem. Some vendors even offer a garment ID service so that operators no longer have to worry about it.
Misconception No. 5: The operation of an autosortation system is too complicated for the average plant employee.
While autosortation systems depend on computerized processing, these systems are easier to operate than a manual sorting system. Autosortation systems eliminate all of the garment reading, monitoring, route and lot conversion, rail assignment, bundle assembly, and decision-making actions that operators must handle when manually sorting. The autosort employee deals only with simple controls.
Manual sort systems cause employee fatigue and repetitive stress. The typical autosortation employee doesn’t suffer from these problems, and is able to focus on their activities with a much higher level of job satisfaction. The results are increased levels of productivity and accuracy, which quickly translate to higher degrees of quality and satisfaction for everyone.
Misconception No. 6: The maintenance of an autosort system is too sophisticated for existing employees.
The reality is that uniform rental operators began making the switch to computerized equipment more than two decades ago. Since then, almost all plant equipment systems have utilized advanced control systems and computers for their day-to-day operation, and the reliability of these systems has never been greater.
Autosortation systems employ the same types of control systems and computer systems used in all areas of the typical uniform rental operation, and they are maintained in the same manner as other automated equipment such as presses, washers, dryers and soiled sling-handling systems.
The mechanical portions of autosortation systems are even easier to maintain since they don’t have to be designed to handle heavy, single-point stress loadings. They employ long-life, low-friction conveyor transport components that are familiar to the typical maintenance engineer.
The greatest degree of technology is actually found in the control software, which has been proven to be robust and extremely reliable when supplied by a reputable supplier. If technical issues do arise, the system manufacturer can provide immediate online support via an Internet connection with the plant. A quality system manufacturer also typically offers training and service to ensure that system performance continues to meet the needs of an operator.