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.”
EVOLUTION AND BENEFITS
“Industry 4.0” and the “Internet of Things” are phrases that reference the evolution of connectivity with system components, Witschy says. Devices (e.g., sensors, meters, motors, controls, etc.) can now be purchased with wireless capability and IP addresses for plug-and-play recognition of the components and parameters being recorded.
“New remote sensors and internet-friendly controls have appeared in the marketplace that greatly enhance speed as well as ability to communicate,” says Bob Fesmire, president of laundry equipment manufacturer Ellis Corp.
“At the Clean Show, we introduced our Uptime Control Management System remote sensors that work with a magnet that can help determine not only if a component will fail but, based on history and well-written algorithm, when.”
Manufacturer VEGA Systems USA adds that connectivity of machines will reduce maintenance, energy and labor costs. Additionally, wireless connectivity provides insight into hidden costs and the ability to have a much greater control on the margins in the laundry operation.
Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology says wireless technology has allowed equipment manufacturers and operators to more easily connect both equipment and employee monitoring with more reliable speed and data transfer.
“This allows laundries to capture data that helps manage the operation on a second-by-second opportunity,” he points out. “Laundry managers can instantaneously see production results, employee performance, and equipment efficiency and operating parameters.”
VEGA Systems USA shares that it produces wireless options more in washing equipment and finishing lines, and a lower amount is ordered and installed on stand-alone machines. In other words, wireless connectivity is ordered/installed more so on equipment systems.
However, the company says that information reaches users more quickly and, therefore, better information and quicker information is available. In addition, all data can be sent to any management information system (MIS) system.
“Quite simply, you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” adds Randy Radtke, content and media relations manager for Alliance Laundry Systems. “Laundry management systems like TotalVue are catalysts that jumpstart operational improvements by reporting key metrics.
“Managers invest large sums in highly efficient laundry equipment. Leveraging wireless technology helps ensure they are realizing the savings and efficiencies they were sold on, not the least of which, is labor efficiency.”
Of Spindle’s customers, Witschy says 20-25% make use of wireless technology with its software; however, that number is growing as new installations come online and as early adopters upgrade from their original wired hardware.
“Plenty of users also utilize wireless technology for other systems on the plant floor—even just for internet access,” he points out. “The facilities who have not added wireless are perhaps unaware that it has become reliable at reasonable costs or are unaware of the availability of this technology.
“Other than the number of wireless access points required to set up a network, there is not really a difference in implementing wireless in an OPL versus a commercial laundry.”
VEGA Systems USA says it delivers 30% of its machines with wireless connectivity options, and laundries that take advantage of the technology do so because manual typing or filling in Excel sheets isn’t necessary anymore.
Laundries that don’t use wireless, according to the company, don’t because the level of initial investment is increased. Also, some customers opt not to invest in wireless features because they traditionally have not.
Radtke says that managers not tapping into wireless connectivity and its volume of data access are missing an opportunity improve efficiency and reduce costs. In addition, the technology provides insights into process breakdowns that can potentially impact quality and linen life.
“In this world where online reviews make or break a hotel property and other facilities, superior finished quality for linens is non-negotiable,” he points out. “For years, laundries operated with no true metric of a cost per pound. TotalVue puts that and other KPIs [key performance indicators] at management’s fingertips, enabling them to do things like benchmark against other properties or industry averages.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion about making use of the information, drawbacks and options to wireless connectivity.