Laundry eyes perfect read rate

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An industrial laundry in France has tested and installed a vision solution for reading barcodes on hangers and clothing. Using a DataMan 300 reader from Cognex has allowed the system to reach a read rate of 99.99 per cent, with a direct impact on productivity – reduced costs and increased speeds.

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

'Up until now,' explained Jean-François Guillemin, maintenance manager at the laundry, 'we were using laser scanners for these reads, and it was difficult to achieve a read rate of 97 per cent 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 wasted time and money.'

To improve performance, a Cognex image-based 1D and 2D DataMan 300 barcode reader was installed and tested. The results were convincing right from the start, says Guillemin, 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.

Cognex says DataMan 300 is perfectly suited for the tasks of an industrial laundry: it can process a large number of barcodes, in good or not-so-good condition, with read rates of practically 100 per cent.

'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,' added Guillemin.

Cognex says 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.

Since the installation of the DataMan 300 readers in its sorting and inspection zones, the Bourg-en-Bresse laundry has recorded impressive results: the successful read rate for codes increased from 97 per cent to more than 99.9 per cent – 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,' concluded Guillemin.

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