Hands-free medical workwear dispensing

Published on: July 14, 2022

The hospital in Bærum acquired an automatic workwear distribution solution that enables employees to collect freshly washed clothes before every shift.

“The solution also enables less wastage and more accurate refills,” says Nor Tekstil, who rents out and washes clothes for the hospital. The automated workwear dispensing and management solution by Polytex Technologies was put into operation in April, both at the public hospital and the close-by private Martina Hansen’s Hospital. The system has also been in operation at the Stavanger University Hospital for the past four years.

Operated with a personalized key card

We visited Bærum hospital, where Rubina Butt, a full-time employee in the textile department there, explains how the solution works: “Each dispensing machine holds several different clothing sizes. These are displayed on the outside of the machine, so it is easy to choose the right size,” she says. “The employee scans the key card on the machine, selects the size, and collects their uniforms through a hatch on the machine. The hospital has a total of five dispensing machines. This is sufficient for the entire hospital, which has just over 2,000 employees. At our hospital, we have chosen to gather the dispensing machines into one single room situated approximately 500 meters of walking distance for most of the employees. Most people drop by when the workday starts, and all workers are satisfied as the machines work very well.”

Rubina Butt adds that uniforms are collected through a return machine. The employee scans their key card again, selects “dirty” or “damaged” and returns the garments into the machine. “Four return units have been installed here, and unlike the dispensing machines the return machines are scattered around the buildings.”

Very satisfied

The hospital has its own laundry-room and washes duvets, pillows, mops, and other general textile items, while Nor Tekstil picks up, washes, and delivers clean medical uniforms and workwear.
“When you first use the automated solution, you see how fast the uniforms really get sent out. Many people find the automated workwear solution much better than manually collecting and returning workwear. Uniforms are always available,” says Alejandro Carido-Marcussen at NorTekstil. He adds, “you don’t need to go through a pile of clothes and touch them to find your size. The machine recognizes you, takes your order, and provides hands-free service.”

No bottlenecks

The number of dispensing machines acquired by the hospital in Bærum was not determined at random – as NorTekstil has experience with how much workwear is handed in for washing from the hospital. They also considered the size of the room and the location of the dispensing machines, all to avoid queues and congestion. It is possible to have several delivery rooms in the same building. The dispensing machines communicate with each other. Thus, the user is always free to use all the dispensing and return units across the hospital

Larger operation at SUS

NorTekstil has a similar installation in the much larger Stavanger University Hospital (SUS). The operation is still similar, but a little different.

“In Bærum it is the hospital’s employees who are responsible for filling the vending machines, while at SUS it is done by NorTek employees. The agreements can be adapted to the customer’s needs,” says Alejandro Carido-Marcussen. SUS has over 7800 employees and has chosen to have several rooms with Polytex dispensing units, that deliver several thousand workwear units daily.

“A nice thing about the Polytex system is that you are not limited by the one you have today. The system expands easily. In the case of a large hospital, it might make sense to have a dispensing machine near the entrance, one in the middle of the building and one near the operating rooms,” he says.

Secure connection

According to Carido-Marcussen, the machines take up relatively little space. All you need is power from a regular electrical outlet and WiFi. “Today, many refuse to connect third-party equipment to the Internet site, but this is not necessary either. You can instead access the internet through, for example, 4G routers or an Ethernet plug that goes directly to the machine,” he says.
In the event of a power failure, it is easy to open the cabinets. So, this is very simple and straightforward.

Flexible and robust

Alejandro Carido-Marcussen is open about the fact that some were a little skeptical of the project when it first started. For instance, each employee can have up to several shifts with the same set of uniform. This created some concern among those who were used to having an extra number of uniforms lying around in their office. Today, no one thinks the automatic solution is an obstacle.
Carido-Marcussen explains that Nor Tekstil checked out several different possible suppliers on the world market before they chose to work with Polytex.

This article was originally posted on Renholdsnytt.no