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Optimizing Uniform Distribution in Nursing Homes – A Strategic Logistics Analysis


Optimizing Uniform Distribution in Nursing Homes , workwear for healthcare staff, nursing home workwear, industrial workwear laundry services, healthcare industry workwear, laundry automation systems

There are many different systems for providing nursing staff with workwear, and new options are currently being established. This article aims to describe all variants and explain the pros and cons. It also discusses trends in workwear, and cost-effectiveness.
The author has followed and helped shape developments in the field of textile supply for nursing homes over the last 35 years and has been responsible for supplying over 250 retirement homes with textile rental services.

This article is therefore a comprehensive summary - aiming to be as neutral as possible.

For those who want to read crosswise, we recommend reading the table of contents as well as the summary at the end.

Uniform systems in nursing homes

  • The nursing staff washes their workwear themselves
  • The nursing home washes the workwear for its employees in its own laundry
  • The nursing home buys the workwear and outsources the washing to a contract laundry.
  • A rental launderer delivers personal workwear with or without a wardrobe service
  • Pool clothing with open shelves
  • Pool clothing with automatic dispenser and RFID UHF technology.

Trends in workwear for nursing homes

Several new trends have emerged in the last 5-10 years

Differentiation between nursing homes and hospitals

A nursing home is not a hospital! This is a trivial statement, but it also has an impact on the workwear. A nursing home aims to enable a dignified old age; the aim of a hospital i diagnose and treat an illness as quickly as possible.
Workwear in a nursing home is a way of portraying the atmosphere and spirit of the of the nursing home. Often the uniforms are more causal then in a hosptial setting.

Increasing demands on hygiene in nursing homes

Hygiene regulations in care homes have become much stricter since COVID-19. Moreover, after the pandemic is before the next pandemic. It is therefore important to learn from that situation.

Irrespective of this, hygiene is challenged by increased antibiotic resistance and stricter legal and regulatory requirements.

Specific guidelines:

  • Washing with a disinfectant process that is both bactericidal and virucidal
  • Providing protective aprons, protective equipment for infectious residents or in a pandemic.

Recommendations of the author:

  • Sufficient reusable protective equipment, as this ensures better supply in case of an outbreak. It is to be expected that the next pandemic will also lead to supply bottlenecks and inflated prices due to global supply chains.
    Reusable protective coats and reusable mouth and nose protection are very good alternatives.
  • Daily exchange of work clothes, as it is also common in hospitals. This prevents employees from going home with their work clothes, contaminating their private clothes with their work clothes in the locker or having to wash their clothes at home out of necessity.

Workwear in nursing homes as Employee Motivation

The labor market for nursing staff is already tight and this situation will become even tighter in the coming years.

Workwear in nursing homes can motivate and prevent demotivation:

  • A good fit, modern design and practical details are important, as workwear is one of the most important work tools.
  • Daily availability and the option to replace in the event of soiling.
  • Dressing new employees immediately with the right items in the right size is important for the "first day at work".
  • A logo and a high-quality collection show appreciation for the team and offer the opportunity to differentiate yourself as an employer.
  • Good, professional preparation ensures quality, relieves employees and reduces anger within the team.

Experience has shown that workwear is the most important key factor for overall satisfaction with the laundry service. This will become increasingly important in the future.

New technologies / systems

In recent years, a number of new technologies established and some developments are emerging. Industry 4.0 or Textile Service 4.0 will also take place in care homes.

RFID UHF Transponder

With RFID UHF technology, hundreds of garments can be scanned simultaneously without any effort. This enables a new level of transparency, fast inventories and new applications such as automatic laundry machines.

Uniform Dispensing machines

Uniform Vending machines have been in use in hospitals for over 20 years and are already used for 2/3 of new rental contracts in Germany.
In recent years, clothing vending machines have also begun to establish themselves in retirement homes.

The function is as follows:

  • The employee logs in to the machine with their ID card or personnel number,
  • The correct compartment in the box opens,
  • Thanks to RFID UHF technology, the machine knows which part has been removed and assigns it to the employee.
  • The used parts are disposed of in the disposal box and the employee can then remove new parts.

Networking with the laundry

With the Internet of Things (IoT), laundry automation systems, mobile recording devices and antennas in the laundry can be integrated into an overall system.

By accessing the programs in the cloud (server on the internet), the programs can be used in the care home and at the customer's premises. Statistics can be called up online and everyone has access to their data.

Networking the supply chain

UHF RFID technology can track a garment during during production, stock management and the complete laundry cycle.

This will open up completely new possibilities with regard to supply chains. Similar to printer cartridges, which can already be ordered directly through the printer on the internet, textiles can then be reordered as required and without any effort.

Artificial intelligence

For the future - there is an application for artificial intelligence in the textile supply sector.

Which article is needed at what time and how much of it? When do supply peaks occur? How many items need to be replenished and when? Where are costs getting out of hand? Is there a hygienic risk?

Artificial intelligence can help with all of these questions in order to increase security of supply, optimize stocks and avoid risks at the same time.

The nursing staff washes the workwear themselves

The nursing home buys the uniforms for the employees or supports the purchase of the clothing financially. The employees wash the clothing themselves at home.
Disinfectant washing is not guaranteed in the household washing machine and pathogens can be transferred from the home to the nursing home. 


  • Favorable for the nursing home


  • Hygienic reprocessing not guaranteed
  • Spread of infections between nursing home and home.
  • Not attractive for employees


This type of care is no longer up to date and entails considerable risks.

The care home washes the workwear for the employees

The nursing home buys the clothes for the staff and washes them in its own laundry room.
This only makes sense if at least the residents' laundry is also washed in-house.
In this case, certified and disinfecting washing processes must be used.


  • Simple, streamlined process
  • High customer satisfaction, with conscientious staff


  • Higher Costs for employees
  • Higher Energy Costs
  • The challenge of vacation and sick leave cover
  • Certified washing processes require testing and investment costs
  • Almost all costs are fixed, no cost transparency
  • Required space in the nursing home


Currently, there is no trend towards insourcing (more laundries in care homes are being closed than newly built).
As there is no reliable textile service in some areas, this is always an alternative to ensure supply.
However, for homes that do their own laundry, this is worth considering - especially in conjunction with an automatic uniform vending machine.

The care home buys the workwear and has it washed by a contract launderer.

There are still some homes that buy the textiles from the catalog and then have them washed by a contract launderer.


  • Many small laundries offer contract laundry services.
  • Maximum flexibility in the choice of clothing


  • Many industrial laundries only provide rental serivices - There might not be a joice.
  • The nursing home needs to procure the uniforms and lable ever item, is not coordinated with the laundry.
  • Usually no transparency regarding the whereabouts of the uniforms.
  • Higher purchase prices than in textile service
  • Nursing homes buy garments that are not optimized for the processes in the laundry. (Quality problems, higher costs, higher wear and tear)
  • Administrative work in the care home


In most cases, this is a compromise and not a real system. This is also the reason why this solution has no real future.

However, if it is implemented with a good software, the selection of a good collection, very good integration of the supplier and the laundry, as well as an automatic uniform vending machine, this can also be a well-rounded solution. As the project planning is complex in this case, it will only pay off for nursing home chains in the medium term.

A rental launderer delivers personalized workwear with or without wardrobe service

Probably over 2/3 of nursing homes use personalized rental workwear.
This has been an established system for over 40 years.

The laundry keeps a stock of new and used items, memorizes the garments for each employee in the care home and the wash cycle is controlled by barcode or HF RFID transponder.

The equipment for a daily exchange is between 8 and 11 items - depending on the laundry's logistics. When the employee leaves, the returned items are placed in the used stock and the remainder is charged for the items not returned.

Sorting in the laundry is very time-consuming, but is often supported by large sorting systems.

In the locker service, the service driver loads the lockers. Each employee has a key to their compartment.


  • Works very well with sufficient par-level and a good laundry service.
  • Every employee has "their" clothing from "their" department
  • Full service from the textile service. Hardly any administrative work by the care home


  • New employees often have to wait for their clothing.
  • Residual value of uniforms of employees who have left often has to be covered by the nursing home, as the employees have already received their last pay-check.
  • Mistakes when loading the compartments or sorting in the laundry lead to bottlenecks and additional work. 
  • Very high stocks of clothing in the laundry warehouse.
  • Nursing home can only choose from a limited catalog of clothing.


It is a very good and proven system. It is still a very good solution, especially for homes with few employees.
However, due to the usual billing per item per week, savings often are made in the wrong place and the stock does not guarantee a daily exchange.

Overall, there are a lot of items in circulation or in stock at the textile service and manufacturer, so the system is becoming increasingly complex with the high staff turnover due to interns, part-time staff, etc.

Pool clothing with open shelf

A very simple type of workwear supply:

1. A 5-7 fold supply of size-related clothing (no label with the name of the employee)
2. Storage centrally on a shelf or in a cupboard
3. Each employee takes the clothing they currently need.

This logistic has only been implemented in isolated cases to date.


  • Very simple implementation
  • Low investment costs
  • New employees have immediate access to the clothing


  • Only works with sufficient staff discipline. (no hoarding in private lockers)
  • Higher par level is required than for vending machines.
  • Shelves must be maintained daily, otherwise the laundry piles will become untidy.
  • Clothing shrinkage is not controlled.
  • Size-related pool for interns etc. still necessary.


This is certainly an alternative, but should only be implemented with RFID UHF technology. This enables a quick inventory of the shelf and, if necessary, a check of the stock in the lockers or living areas.

However, one must be aware that this is an error-prone system that requires regular maintenance by a responsible person.

It is questionable whether this system will be widely implemented.

Type 6 "NEW":
Pool clothing with automatic dispenser

Employees log in to the machine with their staff card, the correct compartment opens automatically and the machine registers which item has been taken.

Each employee has a "credit", i.e. you can only take 4 parts, for example. The system is then blocked until the used parts are discarded in the disposal cabinet.

This is therefore a closed system that prevents errors by employees and also errors by the service driver.

Special sizes of clothing or professions with very few employees should be issued with named uniforms.


  • Very high availability of clothing for every employee.
  • Clothing for new employees from the first day
  • Management of visitor coats
  • Around 50% less stock in circulation
  • Greater flexibility in the clothing collection
  • Complete transparency
  • No waste with employees who have left the company
  • Lower costs in the laundry (hardly any sorting work, no storage process)


  • Acquisition costs of the laundry vending machine
  • Limitation on the number of size items


The system works regardless of who buys or washes the laundry and does not necessarily have to be implemented in the laundry - although this is beneficial for overall transparency.

The costs for the vending machine are largely financed by the lower investment in textiles, significantly better use of the clothing (no used stock) and savings in the laundry.

In future, clothing manufacturers will be able to offer "never-out-of-stock", similar to what is already being practiced with printers.

The automatic laundry machine will also further establish in care homes in the medium term. Many homes are already being equipped with this technology.

What is the next step?

We support decision-makers in care homes and textile services in choosing the right logistics.


Increasing hygiene requirements

Hygiene requirements will continue to increase or remain very strict in the coming years, as nursing homes are home to a large proportion of the vulnerable population.

This means that daily change of workwear, certified and disinfecting washing procedures and sufficient protective clothing are necessary.

Customized collections are on the rise

Customized collections are gaining popularity due to their ability to cater to individual preferences and needs, offering a personalized touch. This trend reflects a growing demand for unique and tailored products in today's market.

Laundry vending machines and RFID offer new opportunities

Regardless of who buys the clothing, vending machines offer a new technology that is already proving its worth in hospitals. These vending machines have many advantages (greater availability, less equipment, complete transparency, individualized clothing collection) and are also beginning to establish themselves in nursing homes.

Personalized workwear is still a good solution

Personal workwear remains a very good system in the long term - with all its strengths and weaknesses. The important thing here is not to save money in the wrong place when it comes to equipment and for the laundry to ensure good throughput times and stock availability.

There is no trend towards laundries in nursing homes

Washing clothes in the care home itself only makes sense in exceptional cases and will increasingly become the exception in the future.

There is therefore no trend towards the construction of new in-house laundries - more laundries are being closed than new ones built.

Washing at home is out!

Employees who (have to) wash their own clothes at home are an exception. Due to hygiene risks and the tight labor market situation, this will become less and less common.

About the Author

As a business consultant at LeanLaundry in the industrial laundry industry, I focus on helping textile service entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level and succeed in a competitive market.

With over 25 years of management experience in the textile service industry, I have extensive knowledge and skills in lean management, strategy and marketing, UHF-RFID technology, M&A and controlling, and project management.

My mission is to help my clients overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities that arise after the crisis.

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