CHICAGO — Artificial intelligence.
Most people have heard the phrase, but what does it mean, exactly?
David Netusil, manager-sales support and marketing for laundry equipment manufacturer JENSEN USA, says, “We simply define AI as ‘the ability to perform typical human intelligence tasks such as visual perception and decision-making.’”
“On a systems level, AI is the decision-making process of automated devices based a series of inputs or sensors to achieve a successful or desired output,” adds Ed Kirejczyk, president of laundry equipment manufacturer Sea-lion America Company.
What about artificial intelligence in a laundry operation?
Bill Brooks, director of customer solutions and business development for laundry equipment manufacturer Alliance Laundry Systems, which focuses on on-premises laundry (OPL) machinery, says AI is defined as technology used to learn, plan and problem-solve a productive laundry operation.
“An on-premises laundry (OPL) is not a great setting for expensive robotics, but it is a very good example of how analytic data can provide great operational savings,” he points out.
“In the laundry, (AI) could be a shuttle of a tunnel washer system making the decision of what dryer to choose to transfer its load,” Kirejczyk adds.
“On a machine or device level, AI is the intelligent learning of processes through a collection of data compiled by the running of algorithms. In the laundry, this could be a machine collecting data on its own operations to improve its performance.”
“Artificial intelligence is a broad term but in general it is referring to automating tasks that would normally require human intelligence to accomplish,” says Carol Tyler, director of marketing for Chicago Dryer Co., a provider of separating, feeding, ironing and folding flatwork finishing equipment. “Robotics, for instance, to accomplish these tasks will be one of the technologies laundries will be considering in the future.”
AI LAUNDRY OPERATION BENEFITS
So, what are the potential benefits to laundries that make use of AI technology to “replace” human thought and action?
“The benefit of improving efficiency and worker safety, reducing labor costs, and performing processes faster and more accurately are some of the goals,” Tyler shares. “A stable workforce is a critical component to a functional and profitable laundry, but it is not always available. Automation and AI will benefit in these cases.”
Brooks says AI can assure that the laundry operation is running at best-in-class efficiency.
“History shows many OPLs are extremely inefficient simply because of a lack of good data,” he says. “The corrective actions, when identified, are often very low-cost and high return.”
However, Brooks points out that it is important to differentiate an OPL from a large, automated plant.
“In an OPL, the equipment is typically a pair of washer-extractors and tumblers,” he says. “However, when those pieces of equipment are properly used, the quality and efficiencies are unmatched in the industry.
“The technology is made up of features that save time and utilities (G-force, spray rinse, moisture sensing, etc.), combined with the intelligence to assure the processing times and quality measures are being met or exceeded.”
Added safety can be another benefit for laundry operations that use AI.
“In addition to our Jenscan system, in the case of our JENSEN/Inwatec soil sorting systems, AI is used to create a much safer working environment for the employees by utilizing X-Ray, high-speed hi-res cameras, and RFID scanning,” Netusil points out.
“The system can detect hidden foreign objects such as needles, scalpels, knives, etc. that could injure an employee during the sorting process and discharge the item/garment for safe handling.
“In addition, it can also detect ballpoint pens, markers, scissors, etc. that could damage a load of goods or machinery in the wash, extract, or drying process, saving the cost of lost/damaged goods or machinery repair.”
The VEGA Systems USA team, which provides equipment and services to the laundry industry, says the company is working with AI for hospital industry garments.
“We are producing systems with an X-ray scanner to detect metal and pencils that are in pockets,” they say. “These have to be rejected from the working process. This will help the customers with damage to washers and presses, and the workwear.
“We see that hospitals are spending thousands of dollars on exchanging garments if pencils are going through the washing process. This would be helpful with rental where the products are the same most of the time; at the moment, mostly healthcare.”
Finally, AI can help with laundry equipment maintenance.
“AI would be helpful, service-wise, where the machines would send out data,” says the VEGA Systems USA team. “With true AI, the decision would be made if maintenance is needed.”
Miss Part 1 on AI vs. automation? Click HERE to read it. And check back Thursday for the conclusion on taking the AI plunge.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].