On a beautiful Friday in October (last Friday to be exact), one of the ADI team members put on his Superman cape and with Spidey-like grace, rappelled down the 27-story Key Bank Tower like he had done it 100 times before!
BarTender Simplifies GHS Labeling
BarTender, label and barcode creation software, is also a great tool for managing label formats. This capability is illustrated in a case study, where using BarTender, Adaptive Data helped a specialty chemical manufacturer in Ohio reduce label files from 9,000 to less than 30.
How? By using using the layering and conditional formatting features available in BarTender.
Like many in the chemical industry, the need to comply with OSHA’s GHS mandate drove the complete redesign of the company’s labeling system.
Managing variable data was also a big issue. The company focuses on a variety of specialized product lines for diverse industries, as well as production of industrial lubricants, cleaners, and sanitizers for the food industry. In many cases, the products they manufacture require different brand names for a single product, despite identical ingredients. In addition, several products’ labels require certification information, including toxicity spec numbers for chemicals, Kosher or Halal practices for food products or EPA’s DfE stamp for industrial cleaning products.
BarTender Intelligent Templates
Initial estimates were that the company could reduce their 9000label files to 70 or 80. But after the initial deployment, the final tally was 24. BarTender’s Intelligent Templates™ and the layering capabilities that they provide allowed the company the adaptability to do so. Each of the company’s new BarTender label templates includes layers for regulatory, product and branding information as well as images required for industry certification.
Cost and Time Saving Benefits
The new system is scalable and agile, and can rapidly align to business needs. It has realized cost savings and reduced the hours required to manage product labeling by:
Capturing process efficiencies
Tracking Game Day with RFID
With Summer ending and school back in session, many of us trade in the warm weathered pool days for cooler temperature tailgates. Whether you’re an avid fan or not, you will probably agree that football brings a sense of excitement to the fall season. With the change in season, tailgating, cheering on your favorite team(s), keeping track of the game stats (thanks to RFID) quickly becomes a part of your weekly routine.
NFL Uses RFID
Over the last 4 seasons, the NFL has partnered with Zebra Technologies to integrate RFID into the game, providing unprecedented data points to the benefit players, coaches and fans. As the “Official On-Field Player Tracking Provider” of the NFL, Zebra RFID tags are embedded in player equipment to track their movements and provide enlightening and interesting information.
Beginning in 2017, Zebra and Wilson Sporting Goods partnered with the NFL to embed RFID tags in the footballs themselves. With the data from the tagged footballs, media platforms, such as NFL.com and in-game telecasts, had the ability to leverage this information to enhance fan experience.
The NFL is continuing to evaluate the RFID data to see how it can be best leveraged by players, coaches, and teams. These advancements prove to be an exciting step in more accurate player tracking and statistics, as well as more accurate calls in the games.
“Locationing” is the technology in use to collect all this information. As defined by Zebra Technologies, “Location Solutions is a comprehensive term referring to technologies used to track the location of a target (an asset or a person) in real or near-real time, usually within a constrained area. Location Solutions technology is paired with location systems to collect data and deliver operational intelligence and context, enabling companies to improve business decisions based on the location data collected.”
For the NFL, tracking players and footballs is the priority. In your business, what’s important for you to track?
Quality Control at Line-Side
For a Tier 1 automotive manufacturer supplying to Honda, making sure only “good” parts were shipped was the end goal. However, the difference between a "good" part and a "bad" part was only thousandths of an inch, leaving the supplier little room for error.
Getting the Green Light from Honda
The supplier manufacturers only one part, but faced two key challenges in delivering the part:
- Delivering only good parts to Honda
- Delivering the right quantity of good parts to Honda
One key dimension is the singular factor that determines if a part is good or bad. The measurement is taken with an electronic micrometer to validate a part has been produced to spec. A green light on the micrometer indicates a good part.
In both the old and new systems, this process is the same. However, under the old system, what happened next was completely on the operator who had to visualize the light indicator for each part and act accordingly:
- A good part, indicated by a green light, was labeled and put in a tote
- A bad part, indicated by a red light, did not receive a label, but was redirected to be reworked
Due to its repetitive nature, the process was prone to errors. Distractions and interruptions in the process also added to the probably of errors occurring.
Smart Printing is the Solution for Line-Side
adi POWERPRINT Solo provides a stand-alone, smart printing solution for production labeling. In this case, the Honeywell PD43 smart printer was used. Smart printers run independently of a host computer and are programmable. These capabilities make smart printing ideal for line side printing, where environments are not suitable for PCs.
For this supplier, the solution consisted of 2 stand-alone printers, providing checks and balances for the following printing processes:
Printer 1 is responsible for printing the item label. Through the POWERPRINT Solo program, the printer receives input from the electronic micrometer and will only print an item label if the “green light” was given for that part. This ensures that a bad part is never labeled or put into a tote for shipment to Honda.
Printer 2 is responsible for printing the tote labels. Through the POWERPRINT Solo program, the printer keeps count (by scanning the barcode on the item label) of the number of parts going into the tote (all of which have been previously verified as “good” parts) and will only print the tote labels when the tote has received the right quantity of parts.
By automating production labeling with adi POWERPRINT Solo smart printing, the supplier was able to automative production labeling and eliminate errors.
JAB-Code 2D Barcode
No this isn’t an Andy Warhol painting, it’s a barcode! In an article published by DCVelocity last month, standards for this new 2-D color barcode are currently being drafted by the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility or AIM.
“The design is called JAB-Code, a tongue-in-check acronym for Just-Another-Bar-Code”.
However, don’t let the name fool you. Though just in the design stage, the color bar code has the potential to store up to 3 times more data than it’s black and white counterpart. The article goes on to say;
“Researchers in the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) field have been investigating versions of polychrome – or multi-colored – barcodes since the 1960’s”.
This iteration of a poly-chromatic barcode is unique in that it can be printed in the shape of any combination of rectangles, such as a rectangle, a square or a geometric U-shape and comes in multiple color combinations of 4, 8, 16 or more.
On the downside, the JAB-Code would require a color printer to create the barcode and current scanning technology only supports mono-color codes. Chris Brock, Senior Director of Advanced Development for Zebra Technologies explains;
“There are some significant demands that reading color barcodes places on scanner design and it’s yet to be determined whether a potential increase in data density is worthwhile. One reason is that color image sensors require brighter light to accurately read codes than equivalent monochrome sensors do, stretching their ability to manage heat generation and power consumption”.
To a certain extent, limitations in scanning technologies have hindered wide acceptance of multi-chromatic barcodes. However, with its increased data capabilities, JAB-Code would have the capacity to store unique biometric information like fingerprints and iris scans. This could have significant impact for government agencies issuing identity documents such as birth certificates and visas.
So the jury is still out on the applicability of the JAB-Code, but one thing is for sure . . . technology is always evolving!
By Jevon Kennedy August 2, 2018
Setting the IP Address on a Zebra ZT620
The 5 second rule . . . that highly subjective rule of thumb everyone uses when you drop something. For me, the value of the item that errantly falls to the floor is tied to how much I really, really, really want to save it. Drop a piece of broccoli and even before it hits the floor, it’s been there too long. A piece of chocolate . . . a completely different story. You get the gist.
However, when setting or resetting the IP address on a Zebra ZT620 (using the printer itself), the full 5 seconds applies.
Watch the video for step-by-step instructions on how to set the IP address on the ZT620.
Tagit RFID Software
We’ve talked a lot about RFID . . . the technology, the hardware, the benefits. There is no doubt, RFID automates the collection of data, a lot of data in fact. But what you do with all that data once you’ve collected it, is the real key to success.
Data Management with Tagit RFID Software
Recently, ADI installed an RFID inventorying and shipping system for a customer using Tagit Operator software, a suite of application for encoding, validation, packaging, shipping and receiving RFID tagged products.
Tagit Operator software connects to the customer’s ERP system and pulls data directly from the sales orders scheduled for a user specified date range. The “bridge” or connection to the ERP system is seamless with Tagit Operator software. In this case, E2 is the ERP system being used. It is designed for companies small to large that mainly do manufacturing and provides a seamless environment that controls every aspect of the production work flow to maintain cost effectiveness and production speed.
Encoding with Tagit RFID Software
RFID tags are printed and encoded at the manufacturing line and parts are labeled right from the start. Visibility of all moving parts throughout the manufacturing process is key. Currently, encoding is done from a centralized station which allows the user to bring up an order, and print and encode the labels for that order. Future plans will be to have a encoding station at each manufacturing line to further streamline the process.
Immediately following production, parts are sent to either an assembly area and then to a staging area or directly to a staging area. Using a handheld reader, the parts are inventoried and the location is updated within the software. With numerous orders being produced at any given time, sometimes with hundreds of line items per order, having visibility and traceability of the production floor was key to their success.
Validation, Packaging and Shipping with Tagit RFID Software
Once everything for an order has been assembled, the order goes to shipping and RFID is employed to ensure orders are shipped correctly and complete. RFID portals were installed at each of the 3 dock doors. As orders are loaded, they must pass through the RFID portal. The system reads the tags and verifies it against the order being loaded.
The most interesting part of the software was our connection to the customers back end database which was a bridge to E2. What made this so special was the seamless way the bridge in the Tagit Operator software connected and talked to the customer’s ERP system. No custom programming required!! This means that the software didn’t take long to install or set-up on-sight.
The bridge allows us to configure the database connection in many different ways according to what works best for the customer’s situation. The bridge also allows us to easily refresh order data that is there and will create the entry for us to select that order and print the tags connected.
In phase 2, the customer’s ERP will be updated in real time, allowing them to close out orders in their ERP system, giving them complete visibility of every order in their facility. Eventually, the system will auto-print the packing slip this closing the loop on the order.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons
BLE beaconing technology is used for “locationing” or tracking an object’s location and/or movements. Basically, a BLE beacon is a type of active RFID, transmitting a unique ID (or signal) at regular intervals. For the most part, BLE beacons are one-way communication devices; from the beacon out to Bluetooth enabled devices that are "listening" for the signal.
What is Active RFID?
" . . . the term “active” means a transponder has a power source. This is usually a battery, but energy can also be captured from light via photovoltaic cells or other sources. An active tag can, therefore, broadcast its own signal, like a cell phone. Because an active tag has its own source of power to broadcast a signal, it has a longer read range than most passive tags.” Source: RFID Journal
While other technologies such as Wi-Fi and NFC perform similarly, BLE beaconing technology is a good choice for a number of reasons:
- Power Consumption – Bluetooth LE, as the name hints, has low energy requirements. (It can last up to 3 years on a single coin cell battery).
- Low Cost – BLE is 60-80% cheaper than traditional Bluetooth.
- Application – BLE is ideal for simple applications requiring small periodic transfers of data. Classic Bluetooth is preferred for more complex applications requiring consistent communication and more data throughput. Source: iBeacon.com
BLE technology has been around since 1994, but started to gain wider appeal in 2013 when Apple did two things:
- Introduced the iBeacon specification which set a standard for beaconing technology
- Began building beaconing functionality into their devices
Primarily beaconing technology has been used in retail, and still is, customizing shopping experiences with in-store promotions, product information and the like. However, in these instances consumers must "opt-in" to receive the benefits of the technology.
Since 2013 the technology has evolved; with beacons becoming significantly smaller and in more varied form factors. Today, BLE beaconing is emerging as a viable technology for a growing list of industries including, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, and entertainment. As reported by Forbes in a Sept. 2015 article, applications as varied as replacing hotel room keys with beacons to Major League Baseball using the technology to reach out to fans in the stadium with offers for seat upgrades and the like were being tested or were already in use.
So what are the possibilities for using beaconing technology in manufacturing? Just about everyone these days has a Bluetooth enabled device in form of a cell phone. Beyond that, many organizations have already invested in enterprise grade Bluetooth devices for data collection, meaning the "receiving device' is already in place . . . no opt-in required! We see great potential.
As mentioned previously, beaconing technology is used to track movement of an item, thus making work-in-process an obvious candidate for BLE beaconing. Today, BLE beacons are commonly put on reusable totes to track items through manufacturing. Similarly, BLE beacons are being used for order fulfillment to validate order picking and shipping to ensure each order is being loaded to the right pallet, dock door, truck etc.
Hardware (APs) are starting to include both 802.11xx and Bluetooth antennae. Software companies that are working in the IoT space are also including BLE capability in their systems.
The technology is continuously evolving and as it does, we'll keep you up to date!
"In today’s world of increasing customer expectations and delivery requirements, a distribution center’s overall velocity can impact how well they survive in their local markets."
In "Receiving Best Practices" written by Kevin Ledversis, Newcastle Systems, Inc. and Derek Browning, LeanCor, the authors discuss the key principles to decreasing bottlenecks and increasing velocity in the DC.
The need to increase efficiency (or velocity) in distribution centers is due in large part to the growing expectation that order-to-shipment time is now measured in hours not days.
"Process improvements should be targeted at minimizing the wastes of the warehouse, namely excess motion and transportation that occurs when work-stations are not where they should be or materials are not stored or received as they should be."
With labor being one of the highest expenses in a warehouse operation, streamlining human processes is key to velocity. One way to do that is by using mobile powered carts which allow the work station to be brought to the point-of-need.
"By minimizing unnecessary “touches” and the number of steps that workers have to take on the warehouse floor, shippers can essentially double workforce productivity while also eliminating costly waste. It’s really simple math."
In manufacturing and warehousing EPC Gen2 tags have become the standard. These Ultra High Frequency or UHF tags are a good choice for these environments for a number of reasons:
- EPC Gen2 provides a wide variety of read ranges
- EPC Gen2 can be encoded and printed on a standard RFID equipped printer
- EPC Gen2 is relatively inexpensive
Optimizing UHF Tag Performance
A number of factors affect tag performance, especially in these environments. But as long as you know what to look for and plan accordingly, RFID delivers many benefits.
Tag Size and Read Distance
Tag size and read distance are directly related. Generally speaking, the size of the tag affects the size of the antenna which in turn affects read distance. So identifying tag size and desired read distance at the onset of the project is a must.
The reader and number of antennas attached to the reader can enhance signal strength/read distance, but only to a certain extent. Doing the math upfront is an important piece of the puzzle to ensure optimum performance of your RFID system.
Environment is a very important factor to consider in tag selection. Both the general environment in which the tag resides, as well as the item being tagged; both its surface and where applicable what’s inside the item being tagged, are all factors that need to be taken into consideration in tag selection.
Manufacturing and DCs can be tricky environments for RFID use. In manufacturing, electrical noise from machinery, lighting and the like can interfere with RFID signals. In warehouse environments, metal surfaces (shelving, metal items, machinery, etc.) can affect the RFID signal, as can the density of the product on the shelves and the continually shifting configuration of any warehouse. Testing is always the answer to making the right choice and should be as close to what you anticipate real conditions will be (labels, reader, label placement, antenna placement etc.) to get the most accurate results.
What’s Being Tagged
There’s very little that can’t be tagged, but some surfaces are harder to tag then others. Tagging metals can be problematic as metal reflects the signal and can short out the antenna. A layer of insulation between the tag and metal surface is the remedy. There are tags specifically made to be put on metal surfaces. However, the Zebra Silverline product is the only RFID tag for metal surfaces that can be printed on demand.
What’s Inside What’s Being Tagged
Liquids are known for being troublesome for RFID, as they can absorb the RFID signal. However, not all liquids are created equal when it comes to their difficulty factor. Take water and oil for example: they are at opposite ends of the scale . . . water having little to no effect on tag performance and oil being one of the most difficult substances to tag. So what’s the difference? It’s the amount of carbon in oil that affects RFID performance. So if you’re talking salad dressing you’re okay, but motor oil (or any other carbon laden substance) that's another story.
When mapping out your RFID strategy, the tag density or number of tags in a given area, should be part of the conversation. For example: When a large number of small, individually tagged items are put in a larger container, it might be difficult to make sure each tag has been read. In cases like this, we recommend content is known in the supporting data.
Where a tag is placed is also an important factor to consider. When tagging on the outside of an object, uniform placement is typically the best practice. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Take for example cartons that are being palletized. Depending on the carton size and/or the size of the pallet, cartons may not all be stacked in the same direction and could contain inner cartons.
In many manufacturing use cases, the RFID tag is placed on the inside of an object or its packaging. This is especially true in automotive and aerospace manufacturing where suppliers have a requirement to track sub-assemblies and placing the tag on the outside of the part is not an option. The material and density of the object will affect the performance of the tag, so testing is always recommended.
Other factors including tag size, reader strength and tag density will also figure into the equation when determining tag placement.
Test, test, test! It's all about fine tuning the solution for optimum performance.
"Clinical Smartphones" Enhance Patient Care
"The Connected Clinician: Revolutionizing Acute Care Nursing" published by Honeywell, outlines how technology is enhancing patient care and safety.
Connecting clinicians with information anytime, anywhere is key. Mobile devices, or "clinical smartphones" are making that happen in the following ways:
- Connecting clinicians to their care team - "The connection to the care team is one of the most important connections in modern patient care."
- Connecting clinicians to patients and their data - clinical smartphones make information instantly available and eliminate the need to find a PC or WoW cart to look-up information
- Faster, more effective responses for greater patient satisfaction - "The single most important factor in patient satisfaction scores is a patient's belief that their nurse is there for them and in contact with them."
- Connecting clinicians to the internet-of-things - with information at their finger tips, it's common for a nurse to have up to 10 apps on their smart phone to look up things like drug interaction information.
Honeywell CT50h "Clinical Smartphone"
Learn about the Dolphin CT50h, Honeywell's "clinical smartphone".
Auto dimensioning technology is changing warehousing from receiving to shipping. At receiving by automatically capturing the size of an object to optimize warehouse space and configuration. At shipping, by quickly and accurately taking the size and weight of an object.
Newcastle Systems, our hardware partner, has a mobile auto dimensioning solution.
The Power to Dimension Product Anywhere in Your Warehouse from Newcastle Systems
Volume, not weight, has always been the limiting resource in storage and distribution, but – because scales are inexpensive and fast – weight has been used as an inexact stand-in. Now that dimensioning equipment is reaching new levels of efficiency, volume can be managed directly and accurately, bringing savings to warehouses, DCs, and logistics operators.
The Atlas Series Mobile Dimensioning Stations™
were designed to enable quick and accurate dimensioning directly at your product location. The rugged Atlas Series consists of 30” and 48” long workstations that hold and power the QubeVu DimStation™ and other hardware including scales, laptops/thin clients, and printers up to 12+ hours at a time or 24/7 operation.
- Enhance speed and data capture for the optimization of warehouse space, trailer/truckloads and identifying best packaging solutions
- Decrease shipping charges & costly charge backs
- Dimension directly at product location; increase productivity up to 50% by eliminating costly motion, touches and transportation waste
- Reduce operator fatigue and potential injury as carrying/moving parcels to fixed station is eliminated
- With multiple units, quickly process increased volume due to business growth, seasonal peaks & more
- Workstation can also accommodate most other dimensioning units on the market
Technology of Course!
So many amazing moments at the Olympics! We sure enjoyed the games! And behind the many inspired performances were an intertwined combination of talent, training and technology.
Take speed skating for example; for years Under Armour has been fine-tuning the “technology” behind the body suits speed skaters wear. It’s all about reducing the amount of air resistance and making the skater more aerodynamic. The combination of unique materials and their precise construction, makes a difference. And in a sport where a fraction of a second can be the difference between gold and silver, even the slightest advantage is important.
Similarities can be drawn with automated data collection though time savings with barcodes are typically measured in minutes rather than fractions of a second. However, the desired goal for both speed skating and automated data collection is to streamline the activity to get the maximum result.
The Business Process Analysis
One of the tools ADI use to uncover inefficiencies is the Business Process Analysis or BPA. A Business Process Analysis is a methodology used by Adaptive Data to get to know your business. We:
- Review your business processes
- Document the current state
- Identify areas of inefficiency
- Suggest potential time-saving solutions by using barcode and/or RFID
What to Expect from a BPA
The BPA entails us physically coming to your facility, rolling up our sleeves and diving into the daily operations of your organization.
We observe your workflows
We talk to your employees
And we ask a lot of questions
Why? First and foremost, we want to understand your culture and priorities to insure we work within those boundaries. Secondly, we want to thoroughly understand how things work now, keeping an eye out for opportunities to reduce cost and improve efficiency in your organization. Specifically, we are looking for Non-Value Added Labor (NVAL) activities.
The old adage 'time is money" holds true. So uncovering and eliminating NVAL activities is a priority. What is NVAL? Non-Value Added Labor is any activity performed that does not add value to, reduce the cost of or improve in anyway the products and/or services you provide.
We put NLAL into 2 categories:
1. Time spent manually collecting and handling data
- Time spent handwriting log sheets, forms, spreadsheets and the like for any area of your organization including: production receipts, inventory movement, scheduling, job tracking etc
- Time spent collecting, translating, and key entering the data from log sheets, forms spreadsheets and the like
- Time spent clarifying data
Shaving time off any process means you have to minimize errors. Errors are a productivity killer and data that is key entered is a major source of errors. A highly skilled key entry operator will make one key error in every 400 strokes, and that’s if the data being entered is clearly readable.
2. Time spent validating data and correcting mistakes
- Time spent searching for inventory
- Time spent expediting orders to make up for yesterday’s mistakes
- Time spent hunting down order status
Consider this scenario:
A customer places an order for 2 widgets which your system says are in stock. But when you go to pull the order, the inventory is not there. The next day you have to expedite the order to fulfill the customer’s request.
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Like errors, these types of activities are productivity killers.
Evaluating current processes is the first and most important step in a BPA. Documentation and analysis follow and finally a solution or solutions are presented.
Is Non-Value Added Labor killing productivity in your organization? Give us a call to find out!
Supply and Demand are Causing Uncertainty
The once relatively stable paper market, is no more. This is due in large part to two unrelated, yet significant factors, that are disrupting the paper market worldwide.
Direct Thermal Paper Shortage
An interruption in the production of thermal paper is causing worldwide concern. Connect Chemical, the world’s largest supplier of Leuco Dye, is shutting down their plant in China due to environmental concerns. The plant supplies approximately 50% of the worldwide supply of Leuco Dye, an activation ingredient used in the making of thermal paper. The shutdown will significantly limit the supply of thermal paper for the foreseeable future, resulting in potential material allocation and inevitable price increases on direct thermal label stocks and receipt paper.
The Rising Cost of Paper
In 2011, pulp and paper prices hit a 30-year high. Since then, the paper market has continued its upward trend and four short years later, pulp and paper prices were at record highs again. According to IBISWorld, this inflationary trend will continue. They are forecasting “the price of wood pulp to rise even further at an annualized rate of 5.1% in the two years to 2019”.
Surprisingly, three positive economic indicators are contributing to the rising cost of paper:
- Stable unemployment and increased confidence in the economy is leading to a rise in consumer spending. This growth in demand for discretionary and non-discretionary goods are often packaged with paper-based product, contributing to an increase in demand.
- Related to the rise in consumer spending, is the growth of e-commerce. This trend was validated by the estimated $6.6 billion spent this year on Cyber Monday and likely those on-line purchases were packaged and shipped using paper-based products.
- Growth in industrial production, by both existing and new businesses, is driving demand up for paper-based packaging products used in the production and wide-spread distribution of these products.
ADI is working closely with our paper coaters and convertors to maintain label pricing levels and will raise pricing only when it is absolutely necessary.