A major industrial laundry in Eastern France recently tested and installed a new solution for reading barcodes on hangers and on clothing. Using a DataMan 300 reader from Cognex allows it today to reach a read rate of 99.99% observed, with a direct impact on its productivity: reduced costs and increased speeds.

Reading codes perfectly: an obligation for the proper operation of a laundry

The industrial laundry at Bourg-en-Bresse processes 40 tons of laundry a day, including 18,000 pieces of clothing. In this laundry, each piece of clothing and each hanger can be identified with a nominative label and unique barcode, constantly guaranteeing their traceability. Reading the codes is therefore essential for the operation of the laundry.

Reading codes is carried out in two specific zones, the sorting zone and the inspection zone. After washing, the pieces of clothing are placed on hangers and carried to the sorting zone, where they pass at a rate of one hanger code every 12cm and 120 pieces of clothing are processed per minute. Reading the barcode written on the hangers allows the clothing to be directed to the storage zone allocated to its owner, before being dispatched. In the inspection zone, an operator inspects each piece of clothing and looks for holes, stains or other defects that would require additional treatment for the piece of clothing (repair or cleaning again). In this zone, the codes are located on both the clothing and the hanger. Reading them allows the piece of clothing to be located successfully.

 “Up until now”, explains Jean-François Guillemin, the maintenance manager of the laundry, “we were using laser scanners for these reads, and it was difficult to achieve a read rate of 97% in the best cases. This represents an average of 500 unread hangers and as many pieces of non-allocated clothing that have to be sorted again manually. This results in wasting time and money”.

DataMan 300: a reader perfectly suited for industrial laundries

The laundry was therefore trying to improve this reading on hangers and a Cognex image-based 1D and 2D DataMan 300 barcode reader was installed and tested. The results were convincing right from the start and the laundry equipped its sorting and “inspection” zones with these readers. In these two zones, the use of an imager instead of a laser scanner has allowed for more robust decoding.

Thanks to these patented technologies, DataMan 300 is perfectly suited for the issues of an industrial laundry: benefitting from an IP65 seal, it can process a large number of barcodes, in good or not-so-good condition, with read rates of practically 100%, easy deployment and long service life for the system.

“The barcodes printed on clothing and on the hangers are permanent and are subjected to harsh conditions, between repetitive washings, impacts and multiple handling. Codes that are tarnished, scratched, worn… it doesn’t matter. DataMan 300, powered with the 1DMax+ software, is able to read all of the codes, even the most damaged ones, regardless of their position and their orientation”, emphasizes Jean-François Guillemin. “This is an appreciated advantage, especially in the inspection zone where the hangers swing a lot in front of the reader making reading difficult.”

Easy deployment and reduced investment

DataMan 300 has other economic advantages: putting them into service in the laundry was simplified thanks to their autofocus and the built-in LED lighting. The reader itself adjusts the light required for correct reading, with no human intervention. In addition, a single device is needed to read the two code sizes that correspond to the two types of hangers; so two DataMan 300s are enough to replace the three laser scanners that were installed on the Inspection station. Another advantage is the possibility of viewing and transferring images from the reader, making it possible to analyse why codes are not read, when this occurs.

A read rate over 99.99% … which is 90% less rejects

Since the installation of the DataMan 300 readers in its sorting and inspection zones, the laundry at Bourg-en-Bresse has recorded impressive results: the successful read rate for codes increased from 97% to more than 99.9% observed. And the number of unallocated pieces of clothing dropped to under 50. “As the read is more reliable, sorting errors disappeared and delivering the right piece of clothing to the customer is now guaranteed, in all cases”, concludes Jean-François Guillemin.

For more information, visit: www.cognex.com