Color Matching Tool Keeps Linens in Line
The most demanding customer of color matching may not be an automaker or paint manufacturer, but the mother of a bride who is inspecting the table settings at a wedding reception—or worse, the bride’s new mother-in-law.
And when rows of tables draped with teal tablecloths are lined up in a well-lighted setting, even the groom may take notice when the colors aren’t in sync.
To make sure such affairs come off with only the one intended hitch, the nation’s second largest renter of high-end tables and chairs, linens, fine china and equipment for weddings and special events is using a battery of spectrophotometers from X-Rite Inc. to tell them when tablecloths are good to go.
It may not be a problem for someone with a good eye for color to pick out matching tablecloths from a small stack of linens, but the task grows unwieldy when anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 tablecloths a day in a variety of colors need to be laundered and categorized the way Party Rental Ltd. does. With more than a dozen showrooms and three warehouses servicing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia, Party Rental Ltd. consolidates all laundering at its main 250,000-square-foot warehouse in Teterboro, N.J.
“The number of dye lot issues for our solid colors has dropped dramatically since we’ve started using the instruments,” says Jack Holden, director of software development. “And that’s a huge deal. The majority of our customers are high-end caterers and event planners who are coordinating high-profile events—weddings, galas, non-profit fundraisers. When they order a dozen navy blue tablecloths, they don’t want to end up with a dozen shades of navy blue.
“We launder tablecloths often, and they fade over a period of time,” Holden says. “So we have developed a pretty sophisticated system over the past year that identifies the outliers on our solid colors.”
Each tablecloth bears an RFID chip that is first read to identify that particular linen, and then the color is measured by a VeriColor 410 spectrophotometer that feeds its data into computers that maintain cloth histories and tolerances.
The spectrophotometers precisely measure colors at a distance from test surfaces in high-speed production environments, relaying real-time information to computers running software for color quality control. The spectros are designed to operate in harsh industrial environments where vibration, heat and humidity are the norm. In addition, the VeriColor spectros are able to capture accurate color data under varying ambient light and depths of field.
X-Rite, a designer and manufacturer of color measurement and communication systems, has installed VeriColor spectros in a wide variety of industrial settings where accurate measurement of color is a must, such as paint chip manufacturing, plastic injection molding and textile dyeing.
“With our kind of volume, we need to run our laundering as a high-speed system,” Holden says. “Our employees run the cloths through a Quality Control station, where the chip is read and the color is checked. The employees don’t need to think about it, since the computer tells them if the cloth passes or fails for color.”
Holden says he thinks it’s unusual for a party rental company to employ technology as sophisticated as the VeriColor spectro for quality control of its tablecloths, but adds “we’re not your mom and pop operation.”
Party Rental Ltd. itself started out as package liquor store that rented chairs, tables and glasses to customers who were holding home parties, but Michael and Sunny Halperin grew the company into a full-service rental operation which today can service a dinner for 5,000 people, a picnic for 10,000 or cocktails for 20,000.
“Our customers are very sensitive to color, and we can’t disappoint them,” Holden says. “They are very sensitive to everything— if something is scratched or something is not polished well enough, if something is dirty, if something is threadbare or torn, if the colors don’t match. They are paying us to make sure that they don’t have to worry about any of that.”