ABS … easy as 1,2,3

Jan Raycroft finds out about ABS’s software solutions for counting, tracking, tracing and general all round stock management for handling textile rental and laundry services.

An ABS team of programmers at the development centre in Romania

Tech pioneers still have a soft spot for the beep-scratch-buzzcrackle that told us our dial-up modem was connecting and sending an email from a clunky and chunky work or home computer. One of the wonders of the modern world before broadband!

Dial-up was first commercially available in the UK from 1992 and rolling back the years is a fine way to demonstrate just how long ABS Laundry Business Solutions have remained at the forefront of technological advances, as they’ve been developing ERP and contract management software specifically for commercial laundries since 1987.

ABS have some 160 staff worldwide, supporting over 650 installations internationally and 37 in the UK, with their latest generation of tech experts working on the ABS laundry software of the future. They’re undoubted experts in RFID advances, which we’ll look at, but it’s worth noting their software offers total solutions, going beyond tracking and tracing, tailoring products to both multi-plant and standalone laundries.

As international sales manager Robert Tye says: “A lot of laundries seem to get an impression ABS is a UHF RFID software provider due to all the new RFID functions our laundry management software offers, but our application was around long before RFID and at its core are so many features to handle textile rental and washing services for linen, garments, healthcare and washroom business lines.

“ABS is built around a one-time entry ethos where our ABSSolute application logically handles all processes with no re-entry of data. Customer set up, contract entry, purchasing, stockroom, issuing, packing, delivering and invoicing all handled in one application.” How about a fully functioning stockroom system linked to supplier pricing and which handles purchasing of garments and linen? Work orders are raised for products based on the demand of an end user’s inventory requirement or needs of production for more textiles to inject into the linen pool.

The system crosschecks demand against stock and either issues products or generates purchase orders based on demand or minimum stock holding levels. A central and local stockroom solution can be implemented for laundries with multiple sites, where other stockrooms are checked to meet demand.

Now back to RFID, and the business’s own pioneering work goes back to the invention of Low Frequency (LF) tags over 15 years ago, through to producing software which today is fully compatible with any manufacturer of UHF hardware and tag. Charting the early days, ABS’s Tye explains: “Laundries found that switching from barcodes to Low Frequency tags for garments was beneficial to speed up in and out scanning, as the laundry employee did not have to search for the barcode and line it up for scanning.

“LF tags allowed one item to be scanned at a time at a distance of around 10cm, which by today’s standard does not sound great, but as Tesco say ’Every little helps!’”

Then came High Frequency (HF) tags, allowing a read range of 10cm to a metre and ‘multi read’ products, so laundries could tag packs of items such as hospital scrubs and industrial mop heads, mainly in bundles. Tye describes today’s Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags as ‘the Holy Grail of tags’. Laundry specific UHF tags can be read over eight metres with the correct antenna set up.

But the distance itself can be a problem as a laundry needs to control the reading area and not scan unwanted tags. This is where ABS and sister company LCT-Textilligence (supplier of UHF hardware and official European distributor of Fujitsu UHF laundry tags) have expertise in not only installing and setting up UHF readers to work correctly for each scan station, but to also make sense of the data.

Tye says: “Now we can read cages of products in and out of the laundry. Drivers can use handheld UHF readers connected via Bluetooth to Android apps to confirm products they are delivering and collecting. Housekeepers can also use handheld scanners to make inventory checks, and using our app instantly place top up orders.”

ABS’s experience shows the benefits do not come from being able to bill a customer a loss charge if a product is not returned after several weeks, as many early adopters first thought (this is an added benefit); the true gain comes from highlighting those with bad stock rotation. ‘On Site Since’ reporting is a valuable tool and a laundry does not need all items tagged to benefit from it. Even with only 10 to 20 per cent tagged, good data can be obtained.

The longer products are held at one site the more pool stock is required to service others. A great gain of even limited tagging is you build a picture of the ‘naughty’ customers holding on to stock. The customers that always order more than they need, the customers with secret linen cupboards. Using ‘On Site Since’ highlights this, so the laundry can increase spot checks and educate customers to return stock, thus decreasing pool products in the system and saving money by spending less on replenishment stock.

Tye reveals: “I have one customer that tagged all their customer specific towels and bathmats for one hotel. In total they had 650 bathmats tagged. The hotel asked for an emergency delivery of bathmats as they were running out. Using our software the laundry saw 450 bathmats were with the customer and only 200 in the laundry.

“The laundry asked the customer to look again before rushing bathmats through production. 10 minutes later they were told: ‘Don’t worry, we found more in linen cupboard three’. This is a great example of cost saving from not having to rush and send an extra delivery. The laundry should be able to work to a steady flow and reduce rush jobs through proper linen management, knowing what products are where, ensuring customers have correct stock levels and are educated to rotate stock.”

ABS Laundry Business Solutions developed the world’s leading fully comprehensive laundry specific ERP software with UHF built in, but through the partnership with LCT-Textilligence can supply UHF hardware and tags.

They’re currently working on transferring a laundry from a legacy system to their ABSSolute software. Tye explains: “This project involves integrating third party UHF hardware, which is not a problem for us. When our project team was onsite they were informed the UHF read rate was not at the 99 per cent plus level the previous supplier has said could be achieved.

“We were told that the supplier had tried all kinds of configurations in the readers to optimise scanning, but they were still underperforming. Our experienced team noticed all the antennas (inscan, belt scan and outscan) had been installed ‘left-handed’. UHF antennas come in either a right or left-hand polarity. When antennas send a signal across another antenna’s path, if the antennas have the same polarity the efficiency of the signal is greatly reduced or cancelled out.

“Many laundries are trying to cut costs and install UHF equipment themselves. We recommend that before the do they speak with an experienced company.”

Helping to ensure accuracy and fast turnaround at the Clova laundry in Belgium

Robert Tye meeting with a buyer at the ABS LBS and Gotli Labs stand at The Clean Show in New Orleans

ABS … easy as 1,2,3

Jan Raycroft finds out about ABS’s software solutions for counting, tracking, tracing and general all round stock management for handling textile rental and laundry services.

An ABS team of programmers at the development centre in Romania

Tech pioneers still have a soft spot for the beep-scratch-buzzcrackle that told us our dial-up modem was connecting and sending an email from a clunky and chunky work or home computer. One of the wonders of the modern world before broadband!

Dial-up was first commercially available in the UK from 1992 and rolling back the years is a fine way to demonstrate just how long ABS Laundry Business Solutions have remained at the forefront of technological advances, as they’ve been developing ERP and contract management software specifically for commercial laundries since 1987.

ABS have some 160 staff worldwide, supporting over 650 installations internationally and 37 in the UK, with their latest generation of tech experts working on the ABS laundry software of the future. They’re undoubted experts in RFID advances, which we’ll look at, but it’s worth noting their software offers total solutions, going beyond tracking and tracing, tailoring products to both multi-plant and standalone laundries.

As international sales manager Robert Tye says: “A lot of laundries seem to get an impression ABS is a UHF RFID software provider due to all the new RFID functions our laundry management software offers, but our application was around long before RFID and at its core are so many features to handle textile rental and washing services for linen, garments, healthcare and washroom business lines.

“ABS is built around a one-time entry ethos where our ABSSolute application logically handles all processes with no re-entry of data. Customer set up, contract entry, purchasing, stockroom, issuing, packing, delivering and invoicing all handled in one application.” How about a fully functioning stockroom system linked to supplier pricing and which handles purchasing of garments and linen? Work orders are raised for products based on the demand of an end user’s inventory requirement or needs of production for more textiles to inject into the linen pool.

The system crosschecks demand against stock and either issues products or generates purchase orders based on demand or minimum stock holding levels. A central and local stockroom solution can be implemented for laundries with multiple sites, where other stockrooms are checked to meet demand.

Now back to RFID, and the business’s own pioneering work goes back to the invention of Low Frequency (LF) tags over 15 years ago, through to producing software which today is fully compatible with any manufacturer of UHF hardware and tag. Charting the early days, ABS’s Tye explains: “Laundries found that switching from barcodes to Low Frequency tags for garments was beneficial to speed up in and out scanning, as the laundry employee did not have to search for the barcode and line it up for scanning.

“LF tags allowed one item to be scanned at a time at a distance of around 10cm, which by today’s standard does not sound great, but as Tesco say ’Every little helps!’”

Then came High Frequency (HF) tags, allowing a read range of 10cm to a metre and ‘multi read’ products, so laundries could tag packs of items such as hospital scrubs and industrial mop heads, mainly in bundles. Tye describes today’s Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags as ‘the Holy Grail of tags’. Laundry specific UHF tags can be read over eight metres with the correct antenna set up.

But the distance itself can be a problem as a laundry needs to control the reading area and not scan unwanted tags. This is where ABS and sister company LCT-Textilligence (supplier of UHF hardware and official European distributor of Fujitsu UHF laundry tags) have expertise in not only installing and setting up UHF readers to work correctly for each scan station, but to also make sense of the data.

Tye says: “Now we can read cages of products in and out of the laundry. Drivers can use handheld UHF readers connected via Bluetooth to Android apps to confirm products they are delivering and collecting. Housekeepers can also use handheld scanners to make inventory checks, and using our app instantly place top up orders.”

ABS’s experience shows the benefits do not come from being able to bill a customer a loss charge if a product is not returned after several weeks, as many early adopters first thought (this is an added benefit); the true gain comes from highlighting those with bad stock rotation. ‘On Site Since’ reporting is a valuable tool and a laundry does not need all items tagged to benefit from it. Even with only 10 to 20 per cent tagged, good data can be obtained.

The longer products are held at one site the more pool stock is required to service others. A great gain of even limited tagging is you build a picture of the ‘naughty’ customers holding on to stock. The customers that always order more than they need, the customers with secret linen cupboards. Using ‘On Site Since’ highlights this, so the laundry can increase spot checks and educate customers to return stock, thus decreasing pool products in the system and saving money by spending less on replenishment stock.

Tye reveals: “I have one customer that tagged all their customer specific towels and bathmats for one hotel. In total they had 650 bathmats tagged. The hotel asked for an emergency delivery of bathmats as they were running out. Using our software the laundry saw 450 bathmats were with the customer and only 200 in the laundry.

“The laundry asked the customer to look again before rushing bathmats through production. 10 minutes later they were told: ‘Don’t worry, we found more in linen cupboard three’. This is a great example of cost saving from not having to rush and send an extra delivery. The laundry should be able to work to a steady flow and reduce rush jobs through proper linen management, knowing what products are where, ensuring customers have correct stock levels and are educated to rotate stock.”

ABS Laundry Business Solutions developed the world’s leading fully comprehensive laundry specific ERP software with UHF built in, but through the partnership with LCT-Textilligence can supply UHF hardware and tags.

They’re currently working on transferring a laundry from a legacy system to their ABSSolute software. Tye explains: “This project involves integrating third party UHF hardware, which is not a problem for us. When our project team was onsite they were informed the UHF read rate was not at the 99 per cent plus level the previous supplier has said could be achieved.

“We were told that the supplier had tried all kinds of configurations in the readers to optimise scanning, but they were still underperforming. Our experienced team noticed all the antennas (inscan, belt scan and outscan) had been installed ‘left-handed’. UHF antennas come in either a right or left-hand polarity. When antennas send a signal across another antenna’s path, if the antennas have the same polarity the efficiency of the signal is greatly reduced or cancelled out.

“Many laundries are trying to cut costs and install UHF equipment themselves. We recommend that before the do they speak with an experienced company.”

Helping to ensure accuracy and fast turnaround at the Clova laundry in Belgium

Robert Tye meeting with a buyer at the ABS LBS and Gotli Labs stand at The Clean Show in New Orleans

All news articles

Want to read more?

There are lots of ways to view articles from Laundry & Cleaning Today

Prefer to subscribe and receive a printed copy of Laundry & Cleaning Today? Click here

If you have a story to share or a general enquiry, call 0118 901 4471 or email info@laundryandcleaningtoday.co.uk

Sponsored