WOODLAND HILLS, CA—Hotel uniforms represent a hotel company’s brand. Employee attire provides visual cues, helping to tell the story of the property and locale. A harbinger of the professional and courteous service to come, uniforms can also be a significant expenditure and tedious to track.
InvoTech Systems Inc., a global provider of advanced management and inventory control systems, aims to increase profitability for hospitality companies through the efficient tracking of uniforms and linens for hotels. Among its clients are Caesars Entertainment Corp., Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Omni Hotels & Resorts, and Marriott International Inc., among several others.
“In operations, if there’s no system, there’s no accountability,” said Oswald Lares, director of sales, InvoTech, based here. “People don’t realize the investment in uniforms is a line that comes out of every budget. We have operations where there are 10,000 to 20,000 employees. The investment is huge; it needs to be tracked.”
For hoteliers, there are challenges when it comes to keeping track of employee uniforms. For one, there’s staff accountability. When a set of uniforms is assigned to an employee, the normal wear and tear may occur or—in the worst-case scenario—it may never return. Losses can lead to more costs.
In terms of laundering, a hotel needs to monitor how many pieces were sent to be cleaned, how many were returned, how much it costs per piece to launder and what needs to be replaced. The bigger the operation, the bigger the potential benefit for hotels.
With an inventory control system, an accurate accounting of each unit’s ROI is part of the solution. It is imperative to have systems in place for an accurate log of uniforms for laundering, reordering and managing uniforms in stock to help keep employees prepared to put their best face forward each day.
“InvoTech can help in many areas of the hotel. They’re no longer purchasing by panic; instead, they’re making smart purchases. They’ll know that in three months, shirts will need to be replaced, so they can make intelligent decisions,” said Lares. “We have a system that tracks uniforms from the moment they’re purchased, first-day use and from then on. Properties that offer a luxury service want their employees to look the part and, therefore, will invest more money in uniforms.”
A family-run company, InvoTech’s early days focused on meeting the need for a large infrastructure to manage uniforms when a solution didn’t exist. The company’s technology evolved to keep pace with the times and its clients’ requirements, going from bar code tracking to RFID to today’s ultra-high frequency RFID (URFID).
“We changed the market from scanning individual bar codes to five or 10 items at once with RFID chips, and now, URFID can read 300 items in less than a minute,” said Lares. “Tracking large amounts of uniforms saves on labor and provides accuracy in little time. It helps a lot in operations, freeing up staff in other areas, instead of having them hand count or individually scan each bar code. When items are assigned to the employee, using InvoTech’s system, they’re checked out in seconds. It’s a seamless process.”
When hotel uniforms are sent to the laundry, there could be more than 500 items with bar codes; in order to know what is being sent out and received, it must be signed in and can be a tedious process. With URFID technology, Lares noted that those same items are ready in less than a minute as they pass through antennas, enabling InvoTech to print a report tracking when the uniforms were returned, how much was paid for laundering and what was not returned. With this type of detailed tracking, a company can find items that are missing or keep a precise log of care and cost for uniforms.
“There are reminders that can tell you to purchase new uniforms or that you wash pants more than shirts,” he said.
A holistic approach is taken to onboarding hotel clients and training staff. Before installation, the work begins with IT, housekeeping and other pertinent departments gathering with InvoTech’s team to get descriptions of the uniforms—type, color, size, etc.—and a relationship is established well before going on-site.
“We’re hands on with staff. The accounting department may get training for reports, the purchasing department will learn the purchasing module, and so on,” he said. “We make sure everyone can take advantage of the system.”
When selecting a viable platform for tracking, Lares recommends that hoteliers look for a company that is reliable, robust and can provide all the solutions needed.
“Look for a company that provides support and answers questions. The system should be adaptive to their needs. If you have 500 employees, then you need a system that meets needs at every scale,” he said. “You want to work with someone who is here today, tomorrow and the next 10 years. It should be a stable and profitable company—that’s what we are.”
As for the future, InvoTech will continue to do what it’s been doing the past 25 years—evolving to meet the needs of tomorrow, noted Lares. “We are developing new tech and providing some cloud services, reporting and apps. We’re continuing to change handhelds and some antennas, and enhancing the system for the better,” he said. HB