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 7 through 9 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. 7: Labor reduction is the only benefit of autosortation.
A reduction in labor hours is an obvious and significant benefit of implementing autosortation, but many additional benefits – both tangible and intangible – will be realized.
In addition to labor reduction, inventory reduction is another tangible benefit. Informal surveys suggest that circulating inventory can be reduced by up to 20% or more. This reduction comes from the elimination of over-issues: garments that have been reported lost but are still in the system. Reports from autosortation systems are available that provide documentation that a customer’s requirements are being met.
Intangible benefits include:
1. Improved garment handling, including storage with proper spacing.
2. Improved customer satisfaction because of improved sort accuracy.
3. Improved customer service because of the availability of garment sort history.
4. Enhanced operator image by being innovative and forward-thinking.
5. Improved profitability due to detailed customer/wearer accounting.
All of these benefits will provide a competitive advantage for the uniform rental operator.
Misconception No. 8: Adding capacity to autosortation systems is difficult and expensive.
One of the best recent developments in autosortation is the ability to purchase a system that is sized right for today’s needs and can be easily expanded to accommodate growth in garment processing.
The availability of the latest modular systems allows operators to begin with much smaller, more affordable systems that provide an attractive payback.
Such systems can significantly lower the initial investment by utilizing slick rails and/or powered storage rails that are already in use by the operator. However, starting smaller makes it important that the system is readily expandable without a great deal of difficulty or unreasonable expense. Systems now exist that are affordable, expandable and can deliver a favorable payback.
Misconception No. 9: Autosortation requires wash-lot processing.
There are differences in the way various autosortation suppliers develop their systems. Some suppliers utilize systems that require a wash-lot process. Other suppliers utilize technology without this limitation, allowing garments to be entered into the sort process at any time before the final sort.
The latter systems are able to handle either wash lots or day lots, so there’s never a need to change an operator’s wash process. All sorting decisions are made by the software and controls, which are able to adapt to the varied processes implemented in industrial garment rental facilities.