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Thanks to technology, tracking the products has become more manageable

Thanks to technology, tracking the products has become more manageable



Right printer for an industrial setup

Hozefa Saylawala, sales director Middle East, Zebra Technologies provides a step by step guide on how to choose the right printer for an industrial environment

November 2018

From warehouses to production floors to packing lines, printers remain a valuable asset in the enterprise space. By producing durable industrial labels, printers can help introduce a sense of order into the massive, chaotic industrial business environments. These labels account for all products as they move through the different stages in a manufacturing facility, even until they arrive at their eventual destination.

 

A VISIBLE JOURNEY

As production size increases, many global enterprises are seeking new ways to track and trace their products more accurately and easily. Traceability is not an unfamiliar concept in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, as many regulatory bodies globally require companies put a robust traceability system in place in the event of a recall – the businesses need to know which batch of products has to be brought back and where they are. In recent years, this practice has also spread to other industries, such as those dealing with chemical products, pharmaceutical drugs, and human specimens for clinical use.

Saylawala: printers introduce a sense of order

Saylawala: printers introduce a sense of order

In the past, this was a relatively taxing and cumbersome task. Today, thanks to the innovations in technology, companies can make tracking the products more manageable. The solution includes a printer that prints barcode or encoded radio-frequency identification (RFID) labels; a mobile computer that captures barcode or RFID data and relays it to the backend systems; and a wireless infrastructure that provisions connectivity between the devices and the backend systems.

In a related case study, the Carolina Blueberry Association was looking for a robust traceability system for its 24 growers. In the past, farms had been taping paper labels on palettes or handwriting lot numbers in spiral notebooks – a time-consuming and formidable task. As harvest was approaching, the Association sought a modern traceability solution – Zebra’s industrial printers. Easy to configure and use, and delivering high-quality printing and throughput, the printers allowed the farmers to flexibly change labeling based on the size of the product they were packaging. Some ran a single line while others ran several. As a result, the farms generated a digital record of their operations, helping them track production and shipments. With accurate labeling and records, they were also able to track every batch of their produce, reduce the impact of a recall, and quickly remove the affected products from the supply chain.

 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT ONE

So what kind of printers should you get for your business? In different industrial environments, the requirements can vary. Here are some rules of thumb when it comes to choosing a suitable printer.

Firstly, where are you printing the labels? Some industrial environments can be rough. Businesses often need to print on the floor in the manufacturing plant or in the warehouse. This inevitably leads to some bumps and knocks for the machines. Industrial-class printers are more rugged and built to withstand dirt, humidity, and even certain chemicals, making them hardy companions in these environments

Secondly, how many labels do you expect to print every day, and what kind of labels? Some enterprises handle a large volume of printing, resulting in virtually nonstop printing every day. Or, some companies need to print extremely small labels – for example, those used in chip manufacturing. Some industrial printers can produce high-resolution labels with precise registration at a high frequency, and can work for long stretches of time. In some cases, industrial printers are also used to imprint information on specialized labels so they can be used for long periods of time. The selection of labels that suit various business needs is also paramount. It’s important for businesses to understand the importance of using quality materials that can contribute to a smooth printing experience.

Last but not least, the printers must be easy to manage en masse and remotely, especially if there is a whole fleet deployed across various sites. This can help keep the IT costs down over time – since an industrial printer can function at full performance for five to seven years. Cloud-based solutions such as Zebra’s Operational Visibility Service provide detailed insights into the status, health, and use of every printing device on a given network, allowing the IT department to have a bird’s eye view over the printers, and proactively manage and configure them.

 

ENHANCING THE HARDWARE

It is not enough to only have the printers; they also need to be constantly managed and maintained.

To ensure the printers can deliver maximum results, Zebra has created a dedicated software environment that powers its printers. Link-OS combines an innovative operating system, a powerful multiplatform Software Development Kit (SDK) and software applications that make all printers – be it industrial, mobile, or desktop-mounted – easier to integrate with the rest of the technology infrastructure.

Regardless of whether the printers produce barcode labels, receipts, or passive RFID tags, operating systems such as Link-OS provide real-time visibility into these devices; connect them to the cloud; and effectively manage data security. This way, administrators can easily and securely gather information such as device location and workload capacity, and even perform proactive maintenance to preclude downtime, making their printer solutions more cost-effective and lengthening the device lifecycle.




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