Categories
Barcode Warehouse and Distribution

Are Your Barcode Printers Limiting Your Warehouse Efficiency?

Operators are continuously looking for ways to cut costs and improve warehouse efficiency while still meeting customer satisfaction expectations and maintaining overall profitability. This can be especially challenging for warehouses that are already highly automated. Once a facility has deployed barcode scanning, automated material handling equipment, and other technologies, it can be difficult to find areas for additional improvement. One way is to further optimize the use of the technology to ensure that the equipment is being used to its fullest potential.

Barcode printers are a good case in point. Generally considered an enabling technology when it comes to(203) 972-9200 warehouse automation, once they are installed and generating labels, most users consider the deployment complete. However, there are ways to generate new warehouse efficiency gains by optimizing printer operations.

How Barcode Printers Can Help Gain Efficiency

You can save time by printing at the point of activity. If employees spend a good part of their day traveling back and forth between their work area and a central print station to retrieve labels, odds are you can achieve a big productivity gain by deploying mobile printers or wireless printer carts. Workers can print labels on demand as they receive, pick, or putaway goods, which not only saves time but also increases accuracy. This can save tens of thousands of dollars per year in wasted labor.

Rugged printers can reduce downtime. If your barcode printer isn’t designed to work well in your business environment, it will likely fail more quickly and more often. In a warehouse, that means you need a ruggedized printer that can handle high-volume printing in a dusty environment and less-than-gentle handling. Consumer-grade or less-rugged printers will likely break down in a warehouse. This will result in costly downtime, repair expenses, or high replacement costs. Fewer breakdowns will mean improved warehouse efficiency.

Mobile printers will improve picking and other processes. In addition to reducing unnecessary walking, mobile printers can also enhance most warehouse efficiency in most operations. In receiving, they can save time by allowing workers to label goods on the dock as they arrive. A Zebra Technologies study also found that mobile printers used for putaway can improve processing time by 62%. Employees can also label items as they are picked, saving time at the packing/shipping station.

Barcode printers also improve accuracy and quality assurance (QA). Barcode labels help ensure that the right items are in the right package, and headed to the right customer. Using printers at the point of activity can help reduce labeling errors. And by ensuring the printers are correctly maintained and calibrated, you can be sure to meet customer requirements for legibility.  

Efficiency-Minded Printer Features

Are your printers designed for quick media changes and maintenance on the floor? Proper maintenance and care are critical for ensuring a long printer life. However, if changing out media or cleaning the printhead requires a lot of time, training, and specialized tools, you are likely to bog down your printing operation. Upgrade to printers that are designed for fast media changes, and that can easily be opened for cleaning/maintenance.

Centralized print management saves time as well. Print jobs can easily be assigned or redirected, and software/firmware upgrades can be quickly deployed to the entire printer fleet without having to take the printers offline.  

Optimizing your barcode printing operation can have a large impact on warehouse efficiency. Continuously monitor and evaluate your own printing processes to find areas that can be enhanced, and you can quickly achieve cost and productivity improvements.

Categories
Barcode Services/Repair

Repair vs. Replace: Should You Hold on to Old Barcode Scanners and Printers?

The barcode scanning and printing equipment used in most warehouses was built to last – in many cases, these devices are still operating five or even 10 years after their initial deployment. Over time, these old barcode scanners and printers begin to break down or become obsolete as new features and functions are introduced on newer models.

The question then becomes: should you keep that older equipment and have it repaired, or is time to replace the hardware?

To answer that question, it’s important to evaluate your old barcode printers and scanners within the context of your application. Does the hardware still do everything you need it to? Have your application requirements, customer requirements, or other elements changed over time?

It’s important to have the right technology in place in order to maintain optimal performance in the warehouse.

The Case for Replacement

Replacing your old barcode printers and scanners can generate a number of benefits, depending on your circumstances. While there is an upfront capital expense (in addition to time spent evaluating new device), replacing hardware can:

  • Improve productivity by reducing downtime caused by failing or faulty devices
  • Improve efficiency by providing users with new features/functions
  • Increase profit margins by instituting new applications and services that are enabled by higher-powered or more functional barcode equipment. Newer devices can improve delivery, inventory management, and other real-time systems.

If you do replace your barcode hardware, make sure you purchase devices that are rugged enough to operate in your warehouse environment. Purchasing lower quality equipment to save money will ultimately wind up costing you more in replacement devices, repair costs, lost productivity and expensive downtime.

The Case for Repair

If your old barcode printers and scanners are still operational and useful, or if a full-scale replacement project is not within your budget, then a repair strategy can help extend the life of the equipment.
There are still costs associated with repairs, but a well-managed repair program can help improve application performance. Benefits of repairing hardware include:

  • Cost savings by having repair done in-house by properly trained maintenance and IT staff. If you have a knowledgeable staff, they can quickly remedy any problems with minimal downtime and no extra fees.
  • Repairs can be conducted quickly on-site.
  • If you utilize a third-party repair resource, they can often provide fully configured replacement devices for your employees while the original devices are repaired. This further minimizes downtime and improves productivity.

Most rugged manufacturers do not allow customer-provided service because the repaired device may no longer uphold the high standards and specifications of the original device.   For this reason, only certified repair centers should be used.

However, if repairs become frequent enough to affect efficiency and productivity, you aren’t really saving any money by putting off replacement. Eventually, the cost of downtime, spare parts, and repair will exceed the cost of buying new hardware.

Regardless of whether you have older equipment or are investing in new devices, it’s important to have a good barcode hardware repair plan in place. Value-added resellers and integrators offer a variety of repair and maintenance plans. omniQ, for example, provides flexible service contracts that include depot repair, replacement devices, and repair history visibility via its iTrack Software.  This allows options for repair management with the high standards upheld for the needed operations.

The decision to repair or replace your old barcode scanners and barcode printers will depend on the equipment and your application needs. In either case, ensure that you have the right equipment for the job. Even if your current hardware is still working just fine, if the equipment is holding you back or impeding productivity, it might be wise to invest in new devices.

Categories
Asset Management Barcode RFID Hardware

Which Asset Tracking Technology Is Best for Your Business?

There is a confusing array of asset tracking technology options available — barcode labels, RFID tags, Bluetooth beacons, and more. Determining which one is best for your application can be a challenge. The type of asset tracking technology you need will depend on what you need to track, how many assets you have to manage, your budget, and your existing technology infrastructure. Here is a list of some of the more common asset tracking technology systems available, as well as their costs and ease of implementation.

Part of the key to determining which technology is best is the amount of information needed.  Usually, assets are tracked by “asset number” which is specific to each asset, rather than part number.  Gathering that information (data capture) and organizing that data (database structure and analytics) provide the basis for the technology chosen.

Barcodes

There a wide variety of barcode symbologies available. Two-dimensional codes (2D codes) that can hold much more data than traditional codes have grown in popularity because they are relatively small, can provide asset data even if the scanner is not connected to a database, and can be permanently marked or etched on items ranging from engine turbines to surgical scalpels. Benefits of these systems include improved accuracy, ease of use, and the relatively low cost involved in labeling assets.

Cost:The cost of barcode labels is very low compared to other tracking technologies. Companies still need to invest in asset management software, barcode scanning hardware, and either label printers or contract with a third-party label provider. How large an investment that entails will depend on the scope of the implementation. A few dozen barcode scanners may cost only a few thousand dollars; several hundred is an exponentially larger investment, particularly if you have to buy specialized hardware that is rugged enough to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Ease of Implementation:A barcode system will require manual labeling of all assets, which can be arduous for large asset fleets. Otherwise, barcodes are fairly unobtrusive and can be scanned with mobile devices, fixed scanners, or even smartphones.

RFID

RFID uses either passive or active tags to wireless track items in real time. RFID does not require line of sight, so tags can be read in any configuration. Also, many tags can be read simultaneously. This can be handy for applications such as scanning an entire rack of servers to manage IT assets, or scanning an entire van-load of tools. Unlike barcodes, the data on the RFID tag can be rewritten at the point of activity, so the information can be altered to reflect maintenance updates or other data.

Cost:Relatively low-cost passive tags can be used for an in-building or campus application. Of course, RFID tags, their readers and printers are more expensive than simple barcode equipment. For more widespread applications (such as tracking tractor trailers or cargo containers), longer-range active tags costing hundreds of dollars each might be required. However, those types of tags are often used on very expensive assets, so the cost of the tag isn’t an impediment given the potential benefits of the asset tracking technology.  Also, RFID infrastructure can be a significant expense, especially if many fixed RFID portals are required throughout a large location.

Ease of Implementation: RFID tags are susceptible to interference from metal, liquids, and other materials, so you’ll need to work with a vendor, integrator or VAR to select the right tag for your assets. The reader infrastructure also has to be carefully placed, so integration is more complex.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

BLE is a beacon technology that periodically broadcasts a signal to other surrounding BLE equipment. The beacons can run for years with very small batteries. They offer a high data transfer rate and are one of the least expensive options for real-time location tracking, though are more expensive tags than barcode or even passive RFID. They have a read range of 1 meter to 70 meters, and usually don’t require line of sight. The real value to the BLE beacons is what information may also be provided besides the “asset number”.  The Smart Tag BLE Beacons can also monitor vibration, shock, temperature, humidity and other environmental values.  They can also store information to provide a history of changes in the environment.

Cost:BLE is a more affordable option for active tracking applications in that you can avoid buying expensive RFID readers and use any Bluetooth enabled device to read the beacon — even a smartphone.

Ease of Implementation:BLE beacons are relatively easy to deploy, and rollouts can be done in phases. Since they don’t generally require a reader infrastructure, implementations are less complex. However, users still need to consider wireless interference, read range, and battery life when designing the solution.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT encompasses some of the other technologies mentioned above, like RFID and beacons, and combines that with onboard intelligence and sensor data. The IoT allows companies to track not only the location of a device, but also conditions — temperature, vibration, etc. Intelligent devices can also communicate usage information or fault codes, for example. For remote monitoring and maintenance applications, the IoT can provide real-time performance information that enables proactive maintenance and service.

Cost:IoT functionality is generally purpose-built into the asset rather than added later. The cost would be borne by the manufacturer.

Ease of Implementation:Users will require a way to access the data from the connected devices, and a software infrastructure (often cloud-based) to manage the influx of data from these systems.

Choose the Asset Tracking Technology That’s the Best Fit

The asset tracking solution universe continues to expand. The best asset tracking technology option for your company will depend on your business needs. Conduct a thorough analysis of what you want to accomplish with your asset management program, and match the technology to your requirements.

Categories
Barcode Custom Application Development Field Sales and Delivery RFID Hardware RFID Software Transportation and Logistics

High-Value Asset Management: The Best Methods for Tracking Your Equipment

Asset management is a challenge even when those assets are relatively static. For companies that utilize highly mobile and expensive assets (such as large trucks, shipping containers, expensive tools, etc.) the challenge is even greater. Assets and equipment are often deployed in the field for long stretches of time with little visibility. This makes it difficult to optimize asset utilization and also raises the risk of theft or loss.

There are a number of automatic identification technologies that can help provide real-time asset management capabilities in the field, but which type of technology is best will depend on the application and the environment.

Challenging Assets

Each industry has its own unique set of field assets and accompanying challenges:

Transportation/Logistics. Companies that manage large fleets of trucks, trailers, returnable shipping containers, and other equipment often lack visibility into exactly where these items are. This is especially true for containers or trailers that are dropped in customer yards. This makes it difficult to see how many are in circulation and where they are located. If there are dynamic changes in demand, it can be difficult to shift that supply, so companies purchase unnecessary containers to compensate.

Field Service. In addition to expensive vehicles, field service companies manage large inventories of expensive tools and other equipment that is stored on each technician’s truck. Technicians may need access to equipment held on another truck or at a depot, but that can be difficult to locate without proper asset management in place. In addition, equipment is vulnerable to loss or theft.

Delivery. Delivery companies often utilize reusable trays, crates, pallets and other containers that represent a significant capital investment. Being able to manage and optimize utilization of these assets can save money and streamline delivery operations. Customers sometimes steal or hoard these assets as well.

Healthcare. Mobile healthcare is a growing market. Workers in this space manage expensive assets and medical equipment (oxygen tanks, blood pressure monitors, infusion pumps, etc.) that must be returned and, in some cases, sterilized. Better asset management can improve patient safety and make it easier for employees to find critical equipment.

Real-Time Tracking Solutions

Automated solutions for asset management can help provide visibility in real time, but each approach offers different benefits (and potential drawbacks).

Barcodes. This is easily the least expensive way to manage field assets. This is a simple way to address tool or mobile asset tracking, for example, in field service or healthcare. Using mobile barcode readers, employees can simply scan a label to update asset status. However, this requires line of sight to complete the scan, and if a large number of items is involved it can be time consuming.

Passive RFID. Passive RFID can be used to automatically track assets in a facility or as they enter or leave the rear of a truck or pass through a dock door. Attached to returnable trays or containers, RFID can also help track inventory as it moves on and off delivery trucks and even track which customers received which containers. RFID is slightly more expensive than barcodes, but passive tags are a cost-effective method of tracking returnable items.

Active RFID. This type of RFID is more expensive. Often the tags are large and are attached to very expensive assets such as shipping containers or trailers. They have a longer range and can be integrated with other technology, like sensors or GPS, to provide real-time location data on items that are in motion.

Bluetooth Beacons. These systems are similar to active RFID, but are more commonly used inside warehouses or other facilities to track assets (both fixed and mobile). The technology allows companies to search for and find these assets within a facility using a map-based interface. The beacons can be placed on assets, and then broadcast their location wirelessly. Using a mobile device, employees can locate any beacon within range. The tags can also have other “smart” sensors for movement, vibration, temperature, GPS, and other measurements, especially important for tracking food or other assets that need stable environments.

RTLS (Real-Time Location) Systems. Some RTLS systems work with the above technologies, but some also work in conjunction with Wi-Fi technology. Leveraging an existing WLAN network, they can provide highly accurate location data on assets within a building or large vehicle.

By using real-time asset management technology, companies can better measure cycle times, improve asset utilization, and gain visibility into the status of their high-value assets. This can help reduce unnecessary asset purchases, and help identify potential operational improvements. With the wide variety of technology options available, there’s an asset management solution that is right for your company.

Categories
Barcode Labeling Solutions Supplies Warehouse and Distribution

Improving Warehouse Efficiency Through 5 Effective Labeling Strategies

There are a number of technologies that can help improve warehouse efficiency, but there is one that is so common within the warehouse that it might be overlooked as a productivity tool — the barcode label.

Labeling is part and parcel of inventory management at many warehouses, but an effective and holistic labeling strategy can extend the benefits of the technology to different operational areas. Barcode labels are designed to provide increased picking productivity and accuracy, and they can also improve the way goods and people flow through your facility.

Here are five parts of a well-thought-out labeling strategy that can improve your operations.

1. Pick the right labels. The first step in an effective labeling strategy is to select the right labels for the job. There are thousands of combinations of materials and adhesives. Make sure you have the right mix for the goods you are labeling and for your environment. The approach to labeling items with rough surfaces will be different than labeling items with smooth ones, for example. Cold storage warehouses or environments where labels will be exposed to contaminants also have special requirements.

2. Barcode all inventory. Having barcode labels on all products, cases, and pallets will greatly improve warehouse efficiency. Inventory will be more accurate, and you will automatically know how much of every item you have in each location. Picking will also be more accurate with a robust labeling program.

Not every item will arrive with a label that can be used for your internal tracking, however. Make sure you can print those custom labels on demand at receipt to ensure every item or case can be properly tracked.

3. Use efficient printing technologies. You can reduce time and material waste at the printer by using linerless labels or labels that use thinner liners. This will give you more labels per roll with less waste and less time spent on roll changes.
Also, deploy printers that are easy to service and clean so that consumable can be quickly changed when necessary.

4. Label all of your locations. You don’t have to restrict labeling to inventory. You can label every aisle, bin, shelf, and other location with a combination of shelf tags, floor tags, and even hanging signs. These can all be labeled with barcodes and scanned using long-range scanners. Having location data easily married to inventory data will provide for much faster putaway and picking. It will also reduce the amount of walking that warehouse workers have to do in order to complete a pick. With clearly labeled racks and shelves, employees can more quickly find the right inventory for each order. Custom barcode labels that also include other graphics can help provide direction to employees and improve traffic flow in the warehouse.

5. Use mobile printers. Walking back and forth to a stationary label printer can eat up an enormous amount of time. Provide mobile label printers that staff can carry on their belts. Combined with a mobile computer, this will allow them to generate labels at the point of activity. This can increase both the speed and accuracy of your labeling operation.

By taking the time to evaluate where labeling can provide additional benefits, your labeling strategies can streamline operations and improve warehouse efficiency. Don’t underestimate the potential value that labeling can have — look beyond boxes and pallets.

Categories
Barcode Industry Solutions Mobility Warehouse and Distribution

Voice Picking: 4 Ways Distribution Centers Benefit

Good warehouse managers and distribution center operators are always looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and to implement cost-saving measures. Order picking is a crucial part of the distribution process, and it’s an area that can be substantially improved through one simple change: the use of a voice picking system.

With voice picking, employees receive verbal instructions through the warehouse management system to their wireless headsets. This replaces paper lists and handheld devices such as tablets or barcode scanners that require manual data entry. Using this type of system offers many benefits in four key areas: productivity, accuracy, workforce advantages, and improved safety.

  • Productivity:Time is money, particularly in today’s competitive business environments, where speed of order fulfillment contributes to both sales volume and customer satisfaction. With a voice picking system, employees can work faster because they can be listening and responding while on the move, rather than having to study orders on paper or devices. They can also pick items more effectively because both hands are free — no juggling lists or scanners along with the picks. Another advantage is immediate communication with management, so any problems can be reported and solved on the spot. Companies utilizing this technology report productivity increases anywhere from 15 to 35 percent.
  • Accuracy:While speed counts in fulfillment, accuracy is even more important. It doesn’t matter how fast an order ships if it contains the wrong items. Returns and replacements can be costly, not only in terms of time and money but in customer satisfaction and company reputation. The accuracy rate of voice picking can exceed 99 percent. With a voice system, workers can quickly and easily verify location and item information by repeating key numbers for confirmation. This method also facilitates correct fulfillment of more complex or specialized orders (for example, a liquor distributor dealing with split-case orders). The system can also increase accuracy of inventory counts, which can be updated as each task is completed.
  • Workforce Advantages:The ability to significantly improve productivity and accuracy creates a higher degree of job satisfaction for employees. They also benefit from knowing they are being given the most effective tools and up-to-date technology to help do their jobs. This satisfaction can result in a lower turnover rate, which means less time training new hires. Even when new employees are needed (an increase in seasonal workers, for example), training time and costs can be reduced with a voice picking system. Users can learn the basics of the system in a matter of hours and gain proficiency quickly. In addition, the direct communication of the headset allows them to ask questions at any time and receive guidance as they go.
  • Safety:Warehouses and distribution centers can be full of potential hazards, and workplace accidents can result in major losses of time and money as well as personal injury. Voice picking systems can improve safety records. When employees do not have to focus on paper lists or data on handheld devices, they can pay more attention to their surroundings and be alert to any hazards. The headsets leave both hands free for climbing ladders, using stair railings, handling boxes, and performing other tasks more effectively.

With all of the benefits they offer, voice picking systems are a sound investment that will improve efficiency, accuracy, and safety of your operations. Look for an experienced IT integrator who can help choose, install, and maintain a system and related services (such as a wireless network) that will work best for you.

Categories
Barcode Custom Application Development Industry Solutions Retail RFID Hardware RFID Software

Retail Technology: Bundle RFID, Digital Signage, and POS to Improve Your Bottom Line and Sales

Retail technology has become increasingly advanced. At the same time, customers have become more accustomed to using digital channels and devices in their interactions with retailers. For brick-and-mortar stores to continue to compete with online channels, they have to leverage technology in their daily operations to both increase sales and improve the shopping experience for their customers.

While there are plenty of new technologies on the market, the combination of advanced point of sale (POS) solutions, digital signage, and RFID tracking are poised to revolutionize the way retailers and customers interact in the store.

POS — More than Payment

POS systems are a retail technology that has evolved beyond the cash register. Advanced systems now provide payment management and data analytics capabilities that can help your store run better.

The analytics from a POS solution will provide data that can help you track sales and inventory, identify slow-moving merchandise, and help you make better decisions about what should (or shouldn’t) be on the shelf. That same data can also clue you in to when you are making sales, so you can adjust staffing levels for peak and slow sales periods.

Loss Prevention (LP) technology associated with the POS also makes it more difficult for employees to commit theft or fraud. By carefully tracking which employees were working at each station, and by monitoring both inventory and purchase data, you can more quickly be alerted to potential fraud and access detailed purchase records that will make it easier to find out exactly what happened and who was responsible.

A modern POS system also makes it possible for you to meet PCI security requirements, while taking new forms of payment (like PIN and chip cards, or phone payments), issuing gift and loyalty cards, and accepting coupons. All of these features can help bring in and retain new customers.

RFID Improves Inventory Visibility

Major retailers like Marks & Spencer, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s now use RFID at the store and shelf-level to track inventory. American Apparel claims it reduced internal shrinkage by an average of 55 percent across its RFID-enabled stores while increasing sales.

This retail technology provides real-time visibility across the supply chain, right down to the retail shelf. With tagged merchandise and handheld RFID scanners (or shelf-based systems) the time it takes to conduct in-store inventories can be slashed by as much as 80 percent to 85 percent. Real-time inventory information also makes it easier to avoid out-of-stocks by alerting staff when its time to restock based on preset shelf parameters. That can help avoid lost sales by making sure the items your customers want are always on the shelf.

In addition, real-time inventory visibility makes it possible to fulfill buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) orders, which can further boost revenues.

RFID retail technology can also augment shrink-control efforts by providing a way to combine POS tracking with electronic article surveillance. Advanced systems can even tell you when something is taken from the shelf but doesn’t make its way to the check-out. For heavily shoplifted, high-value items, this type of advanced monitoring can quickly pay for itself via reduced theft.

Digital Signage in Action

A third retail technology, digital signage, can enhance internal marketing and advertising efforts. The signage is placed at the POS, at service points, at the shelf, and other high traffic areas. The signs can convey advertising and marketing messages, provide information about promotions or special pricing, and in some cases, even create customer-specific marketing messages based on shopper behavior.

Digital signage can reduce or eliminate the cost of printing in-store signage and advertising. It also provides upsell opportunities. Digital signage can encourage the purchase of specific premium brands when placed next to competitive items, for example.
A 2010 Nielson study of digital signage in grocery stores found that four out of five brands experienced increases of up to 33 percent in additional sales compared to the use of printed signage alone.

Integrated Customer Experience

By combining retail technology like POS systems, RFID, and digital signage, stores can also enable new ways to increase revenues and customer loyalty, while improving efficiency. Digital signage that is integrated with a shelf-level RFID solution can present shoppers with promotions or other complementary purchase suggestions based on the items they have removed from the shelf.

Using customer loyalty data and current purchase information at the POS, the solution could also generate additional promotions or incentives to get the customer to return to the store. This type of personalized shopping experience not only improves the image of the store, but also encourages additional purchases.

Shoppers use advanced technology every day, at work, at home, and even in their cars. Digital technology plays a larger role than ever in how customers research and purchase the goods they need. By integrating digital signage, POS solutions, and RFID, stores can leverage advanced retail technology to increase sales and improve the shopping experience for their customers.

Categories
Barcode Mobility

Zebra’s TC8000: The New Standard for Rugged Mobile Computing

You know mobility solutions can boost order picking productivity and efficiency in your warehouse. You may even be to the point where you believe you have reached maximum performance with your current solution. With Zebra’s TC8000 rugged Android mobile computer, though, you can take your warehouse to new levels.

The TC8000 Can Save Each Worker One Hour Per Shift 

Zebra challenged its engineers to design the most efficient, feature-rich mobile computer possible. The result, the TC8000, has been proven through beta testing – and tests in Zebra’s own warehouses – to save an employee 1 hour per shift. The TC8000 has a new form factor — it’s not a gun, rather a 4-inch, high-resolution, wide video graphics array (WVGA) screen on a handle. This design eliminates the need to tilt the device to read the screen after each scan. Just pull the trigger — and do the math:

·       Because workers don’t have to tilt, testing shows each worker has 360 fewer wasted motions per hour compared to when they used a mobile device they had to tilt.
·       Multiply that times 8 hours, and that equals 2,880 wasted motions eliminated per worker per shift.
·       Multiply that by 1.25 seconds per scan, and each worker saves 3,660 seconds — or 1 hour — per shift.

Taking the calculation further, multiply that extra hour times your workforce, and it could be like having an extra employee for every eight workers.

The TC800 Can Improve Productivity by 14 Percent

Zebra also has quantified gains workers experience because the device is lighter and easier to use than traditional mobile computers. The battery is in the handle, offsetting the weight of the screen and resulting in a balanced device that’s comfortable to use, and it’s up to 33 percent lighter compared to traditional handhelds.  Furthermore, testing revealed the TC8000 requires 15 percent less muscle effort and a 55 percent reduction in wrist motion compared to using a traditional handheld.

The TC8000 also replaces the legacy terminal emulation green screen and push button keyboard with a touchscreen. Anticipating the switch to a modern interface, Zebra’s TC8000 includes All-Touch Terminal Emulation software by Wavelink that makes your business apps usable on the device.  No coding or modifications to your host app are necessary. Navigating through green screens by pressing buttons on a keypad is replaced with a tap on a touchscreen.

Your business apps, used with the mobile computer’s touchscreen and intuitive, modern interface, will become as easy to use as consumer apps your workers use on their personal devices. This means less time needed to train new employees and increased productivity.

Through tests with the TC8000, Zebra found workers are 14 percent more productive with the new mobile computer.

It’s Time to See What the TC8000 Can Do for You

The TC8000 is designed specifically to take warehouse productivity to a new level. It works with your employees — not against — and it allows you to use existing apps with its touchscreen user interface. Because of the savings in time and increases in productivity it represents, it’s time to consider what the TC8000 can do for you.

Categories
Barcode Order Entry Retail

3 Things to Look for in a Retail Barcode Solution

Barcodes are a fundamental part of retail automation solutions. Advanced retail operations use barcodes to guide and document nearly every operation, from initial packaging and shipping, through supply chain management, delivery, in-store inventory placement, and the point-of-sale transaction.

Mobile computing and data capture solutions (including barcodes) provide retail companies with better visibility and control over inventory and stock levels, improved employee productivity, and a better overall customer experience. However, not all retail barcode solutions are created equal. Here are three things to look for in a barcode system:

1. Intelligent Order Entry

This functionality is important both for suppliers that have field sales representatives visiting retail clients, and for retailers who are able to place replenishment orders from the sales floor. Field sales personnel need a real-time view of customer and product information to do their jobs effectively. Phoning and faxing orders from the road is inefficient and can lead to errors, delays, and lost sales opportunities.

An intelligent order entry solution eliminates “blind ordering” from the field by enabling two-way communication between the sales team and your enterprise systems. As orders are sent in from customer sites, product, customer and pricing information can be updated on their mobile computers.

For retailers, using mobile computers to place new orders based on in-store inventory scans can result in more accurate and timely replenishment and fewer out-of-stocks.

2. Inventory Management

The key to having the right item on the shelf at the right time is through effective inventory management. Automatic data collection solutions (such as barcodes and RFID), combined with wireless networks, can help manage the inventory flow from the receiving area to the stock room, and even to the shelf.

Nearly every level of packaging includes a barcode, so retailers can use the technology to maintain tight and accurate control over inventory. At the warehouse, every pallet, case, and unit-level item can be scanned as they enter and exit the facility, providing an accurate shipping record.

When goods arrive at the retail location, store staff can scan the products as they enter the stock room or when they go on the shelf. These records can then be compared with point-of-sale scans at the register to maintain highly accurate inventory data.

Having all of these scans linked to an online portal can provide every stakeholder with updated shipment status and sales data. Scan data can also be used to generate automatic replenishment orders and maintain a continuous inventory record.

3. Leading Edge Data Collection and Mobility

Mobile computers and tablets are playing a lager role in retail operations as well. In the field, sales staff can use handheld computers to scan on-shelf inventory, accept customer signatures, process payments, and send orders directly to the back-end enterprise solution.

At a retail store, mobile associate solutions can improve stock management by allowing staff to use barcodes for inventory and for price checks. Associates can also use their mobile computers to check backroom stock for customers, order merchandise from a supplier or initiate a transfer from another store location.

Many retailers have also leveraged tablet technology to rapidly increase their checkout capacity during peak times/seasons by providing the ability for associates to accept payments on the sales floor. These line-busting applications can be rapidly scaled up or down to meet demand.

Barcoding technology can deliver higher same-store sales, fewer out-of-stocks, and increased inventory turnover, while also providing long-term efficiencies for retailers. When selecting a retail barcode solution, make sure to carefully evaluate all of the features and functions, and find a solution that will help take your retail operations to the next level.

Categories
Barcode Field Sales and Delivery Route Accounting Services/Repair

Can Presales and Merchandising Solutions Improve Customer Service

When it comes to customer service, the success of a direct store delivery (DSD) operation is typically gauged by timeliness, order accuracy, and the DSD company’s ability to reduce both out-of-stocks and shrink/spoilage or returns.

But DSD companies may be missing an opportunity if they aren’t leveraging presales and merchandising solutions to boost performance with their customers.

Presales and merchandising aren’t just informal fishing expeditions. The presales process should be as well documented as the final sales transaction so that companies can get a better idea of what is and isn’t working in the field. On the merchandising side, data about promotions can help identify new sales opportunities and improve inventory accuracy.

More importantly, managers can glean valuable real-time data on customer purchasing patterns as well as promotions effectiveness through these efforts. Using presales and merchandising solutions can be an important tool to help improve customer relationships by offering more informed sales offerings.

Presales generally includes a number of activities, including a discovery process in which the sales rep learns more about the customer’s requirements or problems, developing tailored presentations about new products and coming up with prices or a formal sales proposal for the customer. In a retail store, all of these steps can happen in a matter of minutes after the sales rep spots an opportunity.

For example, a sales rep or delivery driver might notice that a customer is out of stock for a competing or ancillary product, or might take note that inventories related to an upcoming promotion are unusually low.

Presales and marketing solutions should include the ability for the DSD driver to capture pricing of competitive products, provide sales analytics for the customer that can be viewed right at the retail location, provide data that can better position your company to capture new sales through competitive service and pricing, and allow reps to generate dynamic sales proposals in the store.

Using a rugged mobile computer, sales reps can scan and capture competitive pricing information, manage shelf inventory, and take pictures of merchandising displays to ensure store compliance. With the right technology in hand, sales reps can easily access and share critical information about promotions, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, and make sure inventory is aligned with marketing initiatives.

With an automated presales and merchandising solution, reps can access customer information and purchasing history to help guide add-on sales of products they may be running low on. If they see a competitive product on the shelf, they can find out if there are any promotions or discounts available to possibly get the customer to switch vendors.

All of this can create better overall service by helping the customer understand how they can boost sales in certain categories, get a better price on merchandise, and avoid being out of stock in fast-moving SKUs.

Your retail customers are thirsty for information that can help them increase their margins. By leveraging presales and merchandising solutions, you can help them make the right decisions about inventory and promotions and establish yourself as a trusted partner whose products will take priority on the shelf.