At $2 billion per year – an average of $360 per room assuming four pairs on hand – linens are a significant recurring expense for the hospitality industry. They are also an important factor in a guest’s overall satisfaction, considering the percentage of time they spend lying on or otherwise interacting with room linens, and directly impact the rate at which rooms can be occupied.
As such, laundry management has emerged as one of the primary keys to successful operations in a hotel industry that is just now regaining its footing after being decimated by the pandemic. Occupancy rates in 2022 reached more than 65% compared to just 25% in 2020 – a fragile recovery that can be derailed by any disruption in processes or avoidable expenditures.
The Cost of Poor Linen Management
Considering that rooms represent 65% of a hotel’s revenue, efficient laundry management is vital to profitability. Running low on freshly laundered linen can delay or prevent room turnover, impacting occupancy. Other challenges when it comes to managing linen flows and ensuring they have sufficient inventory include:
- Inaccuracy in linen assortment planning and allocation
- Greater linen purchases and the associated management costs
- Reduction in housekeeping productivity and service quality leading to loss of room sales
- Lower customer satisfaction and, subsequently, hotel reputation
A typical 150-room hotel spends approximately $18,750 per year on linen replacement, which is about 25% of its overall laundry costs. Further, hotels lose 20% to 30% of their linen inventory, at a cost of more than $50,000 a year, due to general wear and tear, theft, and poor control systems when transporting linen to and from laundry plants.
Finally, linen management is a time-consuming, labor-intensive, and error-prone task requiring repeated manual counting. Housekeeping must follow regular inventories of linen which means physically counting the stock of linen in the operation cycle and in all locations. The entire process must be completed at least daily as linen is continuously in use.
A Technical Solution
An efficient automated laundry management system can address these challenges and yield several additional benefits – including minimizing the hotel’s environmental impact. Considering it requires 3,000 liters of water and very high energy to grow, produce, and transport one cotton t-shirt from farm to factory to store, a cotton t-shirt requires 3000 liters of water and very high energy, the impact of minimizing linen waste, extending the life of linen, and purchasing the right number of linen items can be significant.
A growing number of savvy hoteliers are finding success in transitioning to a digital linen management system that leverages RFID technology and cloud-based software solutions for real-time identification, tracking and management of high volumes of assets. These automated end-to-end tracking systems directly address the most common linen management pain points, including:
- Lack of visibility into inventory
- Linen shortages
- Poor quality control
- Rising costs related to preventable losses
- Limited administrative resources
By integrating advanced RFID technology solutions, automated linen tracking systems enable nearly complete control over hospitality sector linen inventories. In doing so, they lower the associated costs, including labor and overtime and purchases, and eliminate supplier/customer discrepancies and billing issues. These systems also streamline inventory management by providing the tools and data needed to control the flow of linen assets, perform faster and more accurate counts, validate shipments and receipts, track washing cycles per item and manage the overall linen lifecycle.
RFID-enabled management systems offer a tremendous time-saving advantage, enabling fast and contactless reading for a more efficient and accurate linen count and inventory management. Rather than a staff member having to hand-count linen items one by one, several hundred linen tags can be scanned in a few seconds, in laundry carts, or directly on the shelves.
The result is a more sustainable overall inventory management operation and enhanced guest experience.
How they Work
Automated RFID-enabled linen tracking systems are designed to provide real-time data at every step of the washing, sorting and distribution cycle. Administration is managed via web-based portals, which accommodate everything from order management, invoicing, and production control to driver’s run, delivery, pickup and inventory. It is an elegant and invisible solution that simplifies the linen management process and does not disrupt the experience of the customer.
It works by embedding each linen item a small and discreet RFID tag containing a unique identifier that is scanned at each step of the laundry cycle, generating a wealth of valuable data for the housekeeper and the commercial laundry.
The tracking capability of this tiny device offers textile services professionals the ability to not only track the linen as it moves through the laundry cycle, ensuring it gets returned to linen shelves in a timely manner as well as tracking the number of washes to evaluate the linen quality. Analysis of tag data allows hotels to know when a linen asset falls below quality standards, allowing for an automated selective inventory re-stocking.
The tag data managed by cloud-based software enables linen professionals to know the exact location, condition, and availability of their textile inventory at all times, whether on- or off-site.
Eliminating Pain Points
RFID technology offers a game-changing solution for the hospitality industry's linen management pain points. It mitigates inaccuracies in planning, reducing linen purchases and associated costs, improves housekeeping services, prevents lost room sales, and enhances customer satisfaction, thereby empowering businesses to achieve unprecedented operational efficiency and profitability.
Those that embrace the future of linen management with RFID technology will find their hotel’s success elevated to new heights in the highly competitive hospitality landscape.
About the Author
As a seasoned senior executive, Oswald Lares is a driving force in business development, sales & marketing, client relationships, and growth strategies. At HID, he serves as the Textile Services Hospitality Business Sector Director, steering the company towards global expansion within the hospitality industry. His journey includes invaluable stints at InvoTech Systems (now part of HID), TravelClick, Luxury Lifestyle Hotels & Resorts, Relais & Châteaux, and Disneyland Paris. His career has been a demonstration of adaptability, consistent performance, and delivering positive outcomes. His enduring passion for work, innovation, and people fuels my unwavering dedication to achieving corporate milestones and fostering success. With fluency in English, French, and Spanish, he has seamlessly navigated diverse international landscapes.