Tech Upgrades: Berendsen Chips its Linens

Posted February 3, 2017 at 1:33 pm

TRSA international member Berendsen PLC, London, recently was profiled in an online article that detailed the company’s efforts to use RFID chips and scanners to manage its inventory of linen.

ZDNet spoke with Berendsen IT Director Duncan Macmillan to get a handle on the company’s plans. “Because we’re a high-volume business, we can’t count every single piece, so we don’t know for sure how much customers’ returned,” Macmillan said. “We know how much we shipped out, but there’s clearly a difference between those two numbers.”

The company moved away from barcodes and into RFID chips for its goods, including bedsheets, tablecloths and clothing. The chips are embedded into the seams, Macmillan noted. Berendsen uses technology to scan and manage every item, as well as Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service, to store and manage data from millions of items at a time.

Berendsen also has installed scanning arches, similar to airport scanners, in its plants to read information off the embedded RFID chips as items enter and exit the facilities. “When you push a cage of up to a thousand bits of linen through, it reads it; then, when it’s out the other side, you know what linen was in that cage,” Macmillan said.

The technology also benefits the company’s customers. “Nobody likes sleeping in stale sheets, so once the sheets get eight weeks old, you don’t want to be putting them on the bed,” Macmillan said. “What this allows us to do is say ‘somewhere around here you’ve got sheets which haven’t been used in seven weeks and really they need to be put back into the cycle, used and returned, and freshened up.’ So there’s all sorts of advantages that we can make available based on the technology.”

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