By Claire Swedberg
Dec. 8, 2011—When Rivers Casino
, located in Des Plaines, Ill., held its grand opening in July 2011, it had already decided not to gamble with how to take care of its staff's wardrobe. The Chicago-area casino operates multiple restaurants and bars, as well as gaming floors, each with its own distinctive uniforms. Altogether, the company's 1,120 employees wear 20,000 apparel items, with a cumulative value of $453,000. As such, the casino reports, tracking uniforms of a dozen different styles and a range of sizes is a complex and important task.
Olga Pellecer, who is responsible for ensuring that those uniforms are cleaned and available when needed, gained experience with InvoTech Systems
-based laundry-management solution while working for Trump International Hotel
, in Chicago, where the technology was used to help track the use and laundry services of uniforms. The system allows Rivers Casino management to track which uniforms were issued to each employee, when they were laundered, how frequently this occurred and when they were sent out repair or replacement. With InvoTech's GIMS Uniform System, Pellecer says she knows whether uniforms are being used, being laundered or are ready for use, as well as when a staff member or an off-site repair business fails to return a garment when expected. What's more, she adds, it enables her to ensure that invoices sent by a third-party laundering company are accurate—since Rivers Casino knows exactly which garments, and how many, were laundered, as well as when this occurred.
An RFID antenna installed above each U-Pick-It door identifies the garments that workers have in their possession.
At Rivers Casino, uniforms are permanently assigned to workers based on their size and the venue in which they work. The casino thus required a solution that would enable employees to easily access their uniforms, return them for laundering and then retrieve them for a later shift. The InvoTech solution works in conjunction with two White Conveyors
U-Pick-It automated garment-storage and -retrieval systems.
Speedway Revolution R420 readers, along with Motorola Solutions
antennas, were installed at what are known as Uniform Processing Stations, used for inputting new tagged uniforms into the system, and for tracking exceptions, such as sending clothing to another location for repair. An additional bulk-reading station is installed at the laundry area, to track large bins of garments headed for the washers, as well as racks of hanging uniforms returning from the laundering process.
InvoTech Systems provided Rivers Casino with 20,000 Fujitsu Frontech North America
rubber-encapsulated EPC Gen 2
) passive tags that can sustain the casino's washing process, says Jeff Welles, InvoTech's VP. The tags are placed within the fabric sleeves, one of which is then sewn onto each garment. At the Uniform Processing Station, a staff member links a tag's ID number with a description of the uniform piece to which it is attached, such as its size and style. This information is then stored in the GIMS software residing on Rivers Casino's back-end system. When the uniform is assigned to a staff member, that garment's tag is again read
, and the individual's name—as well as the number for a specific conveyor slot from which that employee's uniforms will be hung when not being worn—is input in the GIMS software and stored with that ID number. The casino then prints a label containing the worker's name and slot number, which it applies to the garment with heat.
Upon reporting to work, an employee approaches one of the two locked doors that provide access to clothes stored on the U-Pick-It conveyors. The worker first swipes a mag-stripe ID card in front of the appropriate door, and that ID is received by the GIMS system, which forwards the slot number assigned to that individual to the White Conveyors system software, which instructs the conveyor to deliver his or her garments to a position behind the locked door. The White Conveyors system then releases the door's electromagnetic lock. As the employee opens the door and removes the uniform, a Motorola antenna
installed overhead (and wired to an Revolution R420 interrogator
) reads the ID numbers of the clothing's RFID
labels, and that information is stored in the GIMS software.
When the uniform requires cleaning, the worker can place it in a bin destined for the laundry service. Once the bin is full, a staff member wheels it past another Impinj reader
, which can simultaneously interrogate as many as 500 tags within a bin. The GIMS system then updates each garment's status, indicating that it will be laundered. After the uniforms are cleaned, dried and placed on hangars, they are wheeled past the reader once more, and their status is again updated in the database. The garments are then hung from their respective slots on a U-Pick-It conveyor.
If an article of clothing requires repair, its tag
at one of the two Uniform Processing Station RFID readers, and the action being taken is input into the system before the garment is sent to a third party for repair. The apparel tags are again read at the reader station upon being returned. If a garment is not returned as expected, or if an employee fails to return a uniform following a shift, the system updates that item's status, in order to indicate a problem for management viewing records in the GIMS system.
According to Pellecer, the system has ensured that uniforms are not lost, and has made it easy to assign garments to those who need them, even on a temporary basis. If an employee accidentally leaves a uniform in a bathroom after changing clothes, Pellecer says, the company can simply read the garment's tag and determine to whom it was assigned—even if that person's name is not attached to the garment (as might be the case for new employees, or for someone temporarily issued a uniform).
With the technology in place, Pellecer says, she can be sure that the casino will not need to order excessive quantities of uniforms, which would be necessary without a clear view into the on-hand inventory. The casino can also monitor the number of times that a particular garment has been laundered, and thus remove and replace it once it has reached the end of its expected lifespan.
In addition, Pellecer says, she can confirm the accuracy of laundry invoices, by maintaining a record of the exact number of garments cleaned on a daily basis. That record is stored in the GIMS system.
The checking in of new garments has been an easy process, Pellecer reports, noting that it took her and one other employee only a few hours to receive 1,000 new uniform pieces. Based on her previous experience in the hospitality industry, she notes that it would typically require far more hours and employees if the garments were input into the system manually.
InvoTech Systems has similar solutions installed at other casinos and resorts, including Fallsview Casino Resort
, in Niagara Falls, Canada (see Resort Uses RFID to Track Uniforms
). The company provides a variety of versions of the system that can provide further data, Welles says, such as an RFID reader
at a drop-off location for soiled laundry, which could identify in the back-end system exactly when a soiled uniform was deposited by an employee, and how long it took to then be moved to the laundry area.