CHICAGO — Humans have been trying to be “connected” wirelessly for a long time.
Some historians point to the use of pigeons to send messages in the mid-19th century as a starting point.
However, in today’s online world, “wireless” has a different meaning: connecting computers and communication devices without wires in order to transmit data. Technological visionaries have been improving wireless technology, connecting almost everything via Wi-Fi, since the late 1990s.
This includes wirelessly connecting commercial laundry equipment, which has changed plant operations.
“Wireless has expanded the ability to collect data throughout a laundry,” says Jon Witschy, sales manager for Spindle, a provider of real-time laundry operation software. “This provides greater visibility to operating parameters that may help improve efficiency and thus reduce operating costs.
“Wireless also reduces infrastructure costs (no wiring or the labor to install it) and makes it easier to move or replace equipment, since there is no need to run new signal or network cables to new connection points or equipment locations.”
In Part 1, the benefits and examples were shared. In the conclusion, while wireless connectivity has many benefits, there are drawbacks to consider.
“A smart laundry is the future of laundry management, but there are many ways to accomplish this connection and wireless is the most risky,” shares Amanda Konczal, director of marketing and customer support for laundry equipment manufacturer Dexter Laundry Inc.
“Laundries are dirty, noisy environments. By noisy, I don’t mean sound (although they are), I am talking about electrical noise from components such as inverter drives. This electrical noise interferes with the wireless communication while the lint and other debris accumulates on the components. Not to mention, laundries are often in basements surrounded by concrete walls that block wireless communication. All of this results in potential service disruption.
“The most robust method to connect laundries to the cloud or a manager’s computer is via a wired system or transferring data via a USB.”
She goes on to say that laundry operators who have had a poor experience maintaining a stable wireless connection may overlook the benefits that connectivity delivers.
“A connected machine provides owners with ultimate flexibility,” Konczal shares. “For example, owners of Dexter Laundry’s O-Series washers can track how long the machine sat after the cycle was complete before the door was opened. This is a great way to determine if your workflow is properly balanced.”
Another caution that Witschy mentions is that laundries sometimes view the collection of data as the automatic improvement of operations.
“In reality, the data collection is still just a tool,” he points out. “They must review the information collected to make educated decisions on changes that are required in the operation, which can lead to performance improvements.”
“I think operators get a lot of good data, such as run time, efficiency, maintenance schedules,” adds Bob Fesmire, president of laundry equipment manufacturer Ellis Corp. “The critical item is to find the data that is most pertinent to your operation that you can act on. Lots of data points are good; positive actions around the data that drive change are better.”
When considering a wirelessly connected plant, there needs to be a detailed requirement of what is necessary to collect, says Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology.
“What are the operators going to do with the information, is it being disseminated, and how often is the data required?” he says. “I believe this is similar to most technology.
“Everyone is focused on the power and speed of a laptop computer, but most of us use them for Excel sheets, Word and e-mail. Don’t buy high technology just to say your operation has it; decide what the plan is on how to use this information.”
Konczal recommends that laundries consult an IT or networking expert before investing in a wireless connection.
“Your laundry may be the perfect site to maintain a stable wireless connection, or it might not,” she points out. “If it isn’t, there are solutions available that provide all the benefits of a connected machine, without the headaches of a wireless system.”
“We live in a connected world, and easy access to machine and operations data has become a key element to efficiently running a business,” concludes Randy Radtke, content and media relations manager for Alliance Laundry Systems. “We will continue to see this trend expand in the on-premises laundry world, as managers observe the results, firsthand.”
Miss Part 1 on the benefits and examples of wireless laundry informational systems? Click HERE now to read it.