Inventory Process Management

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Being shipped the wrong part, can bring any manufacturing plant to a halt. Such errors can cause production shut downs, quality issues, late shipments and more. A barcode solution is an easy, inexpensive, and very effective solution. Read more!

Pencils Down: Reducing Non-Value Related Labor Costs

We all remember taking tests in school. To mark the end of the test the teacher would proclaim, “Pencils Down”. Your test now is an ongoing one to develop methods and procedures that efficiently move product through your manufacturing or warehouse operation.

UPS Wearable Scanning Systems from Motorola

Bluetooth Scanner used by UPS driverPackage delivery giant United Parcel Service has partnered with Motorola Solutions to enhance its arsenal of tracking technology. The new wearable scanning system consists of a Bluetooth-enabled hands-free barcode scanner and a small terminal. The scans are key to providing the tracking data that feeds the more than 32 million tracking requests viewed daily. The wearable scanning system consists of a “ring” that fits over the driver’s two fingers and automatically scans the barcode, either traditional one dimensional or two dimensional, on the package to be delivered. The 2D imager is designed to improve the tracking number “read rate,” reducing the need for key entry by employees. This information is sent to the transmitter, worn on the hip or forearm, which then instantly sends the scanned info over WiFi to the UPS facility. From there, the information is sent to UPS’ global data centers where customers can access tracking information in real time on www.UPS.com. The result is increased speed and reliability of tracked information.

Besides identifying the destination and service level of the package to be delivered, the system can also verify whether the package is being loaded into the proper trailer or air container. An audible and visible alert identifies any package that is about to be loaded incorrectly to help UPS avoid routing errors.

According to a company statement, UPS began using the new system based on Motorola’s Bluetooth ring imager last year. The roll-out began about nine months ago in UPS’ major markets, and has gradually moved to its secondary markets. Currently, 28,000 ring imager and terminal devises are in use at 480 facilities. By the fourth quarter of 2013 all of its 1,383 facilities will be equipped with more than 38,000 such devices.

In a recent interview with Point of Sale News, Jerry McNerney, Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing for Motorola Solutions, explained that UPS wanted a technology that responded to the increased adoption of 2D barcodes. “Because of the emphasis UPS has always placed on productivity, the codes need be read fast, well and reliably, and the hardware must be able withstand the rugged UPS environment. Carrier response has been very positive, as the device and technology are intuitive.”

“Motorola Solutions has been working on wearable technology for a long time,” he added, “and we’ve enjoyed a long-term relationship with UPS. We’re obviously delighted to have been chosen to partner with them in this initiative.”

-Point of Sale News

 

RFID Improves Compliance in Construction Industry

  RFID tracking fall protectionFalls are the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry. So it's no surprise that lack of fall protection documentation is consistently at the top of OSHA’s list of most-cited safety violations as reported by the National Safety Council.

And that's why many construction safety managers are turning to RFID to track fall prevention equipment.

Honeywell Safety Products is one company that offers Enabled Safety Products, an asset tracking and management system for safety managers, inspectors and industrial workers that is designed to reduce operational costs, improve worker safety and assure regulatory compliance. Assets, such as Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), can be uniquely identified through use of an embedded or physically attached ultra-high frequency RFID tag or label.

This tag is read electronically and provides access to detailed information including product description, serial number, date of manufacture, and other critical item specific data. Upon scanning the RFID tag for the first time with a hand-held computer or pre-loaded scanner, management can access the product information from its time of service to decommission, providing for real-time asset tracking control and safety compliance.

RFID is now standard on most of Honeywell’s proprietary Miller by Honeywell harnesses, lanyards and self-retracting lifelines, and the tags are adaptable to other brand safety equipment as well. Once scanned, the equipment can be easily and accurately tracked for assignment, usage, inspection, instant notice of product advisories, special equipment training requirements, personnel training status and safety compliance management.

Multiple locations can be included, saving time and cost and increasing the ROI on the investment in the system. The company stresses safety and regulatory compliance as high value features of this RFID tracking technology.

John Roth of Honeywell Safety Products stressed that the system is non-invasive and easy to implement. “It provides an efficient means to track PPE and manage the common tasks associated with them, such as inspection and assignment,” he said in a recent interview with Barcode News.

“The RFID system employs advanced technologies to simplify access and management of information, enabling management to keep track of equipment for assigned location or worker, date and time of last inspection, missing or misplaced assets, scheduled maintenance and repairs," Roth said. "Information is updated and accessed real-time via a secure web-based internet connection, providing accurate record keeping and visibility to offer an additional layer of construction or industrial site safety.”

-Barcode News

RFID Use Growing in the Healthcare Industry

RFID use in the healthcare and pharmaceutical markets is a growing trend.  According to a recent issue of RFIDNews, the global market for RFID in these markets will reach $1.7 billion by 2018. New RFID functionality and the increase in counterfeiting and relabeling of expired drugs are among the factors driving this growth. Another factor influencing RFID use in healthcare is a recent study that finds RFID technology is safe when used with biologics (medical products made from living organisms or produced from substances generated by living things.) The study, published in the July-August edition of the PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, says that research of more than 100 biopharmaceutical products from eight major drug companies demonstrated no non-thermal effect by radio frequency radiation.

That’s good news for drug makers because requirements mandated by the ePedigree laws in California and Florida are expected to take effect in 2015. To comply, drug makers will need a combination of RFID and 2D barcode technologies to monitor the condition, authenticity and traceability of pharmaceuticals, including biologics. Tagging drugs at item-level will help to combat drug counterfeiting and will enable pharmaceutical companies to locate a particular drug in case of a recall.

A recent Labeling News article, Barcodes and RFID for Blood Supply Protection?, points to a study at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, where they are conducting a pilot study to see the effectiveness of using RFID for identification and tracking of blood transfusions. As expected, the study is showing that RFID is effective for saving time and for preventing mistakes. They are now awaiting FDA approval so that RFID tracking can be used in any blood bank within the US.

In healthcare settings, RFID is being used for real time locating systems (RTLS), which locates equipment, patients,  and staff to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery. And now at the University of Maryland Medical Center, RFID is being used in emergency rooms. Crash carts now contain drugs labeled with RFID tags to track all emergency medications. RFID helps the medical center be sure that the medications are where they are supposed to be and that they haven’t expired. Not only is RFID saving emergency staff and pharmacists time, but the tagging helps them identify which drugs are in short supply or to quickly find a substitute drug, if available.

-Labeling News

FDA Issues Proposed Rules for Unique Identification System for Medical Devices

July 10, 2012—Members of the medical device industry are responding to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA)proposed rules, published today, regarding the agency's much anticipated Unique Device Identification (UDI) System. The rules, in the works since 2007, when they were included in the FDA Amendments Act (see FDA Works on Draft ID System for Medical Devices, Supplies), will require manufacturers of medical devices—from tongue depressors and bedpans to prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing kits, cardiac stents and programmable pacemakers—to provide each item with a unique identifier in human-readable text, as well as some form of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology. This technology, which can be either bar codes or radio frequency identification, must enable the number to be captured automatically. The FDA will also provide a Global Unique Device Identification Database (GUDID) on which all UDI numbers and details related to those numbers will be stored, accessible to members of the industry and the public seeking to learn more about a particular device. The FDA has been working to create the rules for approximately five years, in order to establish a unique identifying system similar to identifiers used in the pharmaceutical industry. Work has included pilot tests of the AIDC technology, industry feedback, workshops, drafting the rules and designing the database.

Because the regulation is technology-neutral, Jay Crowley, an FDA senior advisor for patient safety, says that the choice of automatic-identification technology is left up to each device manufacturer. When it comes to RFID, the FDA has tested RF technology and its effect on the operation of medical devices. According to Crowley, "there's not a great level of concern about RF use in hospitals now."

With the publication of the proposed UDI ruling in the Federal Register, the industry now has 120 days to provide feedback. Written submissions can be sent via fax (301-827-6870) or mail (Division of Dockets Management [HFA-305], Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852). Comments can also be submitted electronically, at the Federal eRulemaking Portal. After the 120-day period has passed, the agency will have six months to issue the final rules. At that point, Crowley explains, there will be a phased-in implementation. Manufacturers of Class III devices—those deemed to pose the highest risk to health and safety—must comply with the final regulation within one year after its publication. Class II device manufacturers will have three years to meet the new requirements, while Class 1 device manufacturers will have five years.

Initially, the system will be employed to simply capture basic details, such as a device's make and model, as well as the date and location of manufacture. However, Crowley notes, the solution could be used for considerably more, including documenting the item's actual use; tracking and tracing the device through the supply chain, in order to thwart counterfeiting or diversion; and reducing medical errors, such as the use of an incorrect device during surgery.

Under the new rules, medical device manufacturers must provide human-readable text and an auto-ID number on the device's packaging label—or, in some cases, on the device itself, if the item is likely to be removed from its packaging, such as an implantable device or an item intended to be used more than once, and that needs to be sterilized prior to each use. The manufacturer can work with standards organizations, such as GS1, to acquire an identifier—for instance, a Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN)— and that ID would then be registered in the GUDID database.

The FDA rules are intended to ensure that a medical device can be identified and used safely. For example, if that device's identifier was entered into the database by a health-care facility's staff, prior to its use, details such as a product recall, or the incorrect make or model for the particular procedure being planned, could be detected. It could also ensure that no counterfeit or diverted product was utilized, since the identifier of a diverted or counterfeit device would not be recognized as valid. In addition, a health-care provider could link specific UDI numbers to a patient's records; however, the UDI database would not store any patient records.

In addition to simply tracking an item prior to its use on a patient, the FDA reports that the UDI system could be employed by other federal agencies as well—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security—to manage stockpile inventory and for a variety of other purposes, such as identifying similar devices in the event of a shortage.

An amended version of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187) passed the Senate last month, and currently awaits President Obama's signature. If passed, it would require that some Class II items—life-sustaining devices, such as cardiac implants—meet UDI regulations within two years, rather than the FDA's proposed three-year time period.

Crowley speculates that the rules will not prove surprising for most of those in the medical device industry who have been following its development. However, he adds, the list of exceptions—devices that may not require labeling—is broader than initially anticipated. The proposed rules exempt devices sold at retail establishments, as well as those delivered directly to hospitals or health-care facilities.

Following the UDI ruling, the agency also plans to continue following the work underway within the pharmaceutical industry, with regard to creating electronic pedigree (e-pedigree) systems to help track a product through the supply chain, thereby reducing the incidence of product counterfeiting or diversion. "Once the UDI is up and running," Crowley states, "I fully expect us to examine e-pedigrees." At present, California is the only state that has issued e-pedigree requirements for tracking pharmaceuticals, however, with a phased-in approach targeted to take place from 2015 to 2017. The FDA could opt to issue its own pharmaceutical e-pedigree regulations that would supersede those in California.

In September of this year, the FDA will host a conference at which members of the industry are invited to learn more about the UDI system. "It gives us the opportunity to explain the proposed rule and answer any questions people may have," Crowley says. The date and location of the conference have yet to be determined.

-RFID Journal 

Bar Code Standards

For help with keeping our supply chains under control and for tracking and traceability of all kinds of items, bar codes have an important role to play. Bar Code Scanning

Of course, when a barcode label is printed and applied to an item, it is expected that any scanner will be able to read and decode the encoded data so that it can be put to use.

The idea of Bar Code Standards is that by printing a specific type of barcode symbology and encoding the data in an accepted format, we can be very confident that the printed bar code will perform its task when needed.

Obviously in the case where an organization is using barcodes for internal reason only, the type of symbology used and the way the data is formatted can be anything at all. It is when the items with the barcode move outside of the organization and the barcoded data still needs to be read and used, that the symbology and data have to comply to standards.

Fortunately standards bodies such as GS1 exist to make it easy to ensure that your barcode labels can be used anywhere in the global supply chain. There are also industry specific standards such as the SPEC 2000 used in the aviation industry, the UID mandate from the Department of Defense and the proposed Unique Device Identification rule for medical devices from the FDA.

Types of Bar Codes

Image displaying the different types of barcodes

UPC/GTIN – the most common barcode of all – part of the GS1 family.

Code 39 – developed by our friends at Intermec back in the 1970′s and used for many product serialization applications.

Code 128 – Another linear code, I prefer it to Code 39 because if takes up less space for the number of characters. The GS1 encoding of this code (GS1 128) is becoming very common.

PDF417 – A stacked barcode that we print on a lot of labels for the Department of Defense. This is specified in MIL-STD-129.

Datamatrix – the most popular industrial 2D barcode. Used in the DoD’s MIL-STD-130 and many other applications.

-Labeling News

How to Choose a Mobile Computing Cart

Newcastle RC Series
Newcastle RC Series

Mobile computing carts are a convenient way to bring computing power from a stationery computer to the places where that power can be used more efficiently. With mobile computers, those doing the tasks have the tools they need right at hand, streamlining, or even replacing, existing business systems to improve productivity. For example, a clinician in a hospital using a mobile cart can access the latest lab or radiology reports right at the patient’s bedside. With valuable information at the point of care, you can make better and faster diagnostic decisions and improve patient care.

In a warehouse environment, you can bring a mobile workstation to the point of labeling to ensure that an accurate label is placed on the correct item, or you can scan incoming pallets to automatically reconcile the shipment with purchase orders. With this type of  information available at the point of use, you easily remove inaccuracies and inefficiencies.

Carts that tote around mobile computing equipment come in a variety of configurations, depending upon your needs and applications. Some are basic computers on wheels (also known as COWs), some provide battery power, while others have sophisticated onboard power systems to support a number of computing options. Many additional features exist for specific applications.

So if you’re thinking that a cart would be right for you, consider the following factors when selecting one:

  • Ergonomics. The handles and work surfaces should be easy to adjust for user comfort. The height should be adjustable also, so it can be used while standing or sitting. The tables or brackets supporting the monitors should be adjustable too for comfortable viewing by all.  User-friendly features like a full-size, tilting keyboard and adjustable platforms for keying in data or using a mouse are a nice feature.
  • Power. Be sure your cart has enough battery life for the demands of your task. A readable display of battery life is a useful option; you wouldn’t want to run out of power while in the middle of a task. If a backup battery is available, be sure that it can be changed easily and without any delay. The cart should also provide enough outlets for the job, and have the necessary electrical characteristics.
  • Storage and security. You’ll want enough storage space for the items you need for your task. Things like tools, scanners, or charts that are used routinely should have a convenient spot for storing when not in use. Locking drawers or other security measures might be needed if theft or safety is a concern. In a  hospital environment, for example, you can add locking drawers and an onboard medication server to a powered workstation so you can transport and dispense medication at the patient’s bedside.
  • Cart Materials. In some environments, hygiene is an important issue. Carts used in hospitals may need to be made of materials that can be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Fans that cool the battery can cause dust or other contaminates to be blown around, causing problems in certain manufacturing areas or clean rooms. Therefore, alternative methods of cooling the battery are required for these particular environments.

Read the full article from Labeling News

Need more help? Contact us! 

 

The Right Adhesive for Custom Barcode Labels

The most obvious feature of a barcode label is the print quality. Is the barcode crisp and clear, even at tiny sizes? Will the printing last or will it succumb to extreme temperatures, moisture, chemicals, scratching, and smudging? When ordering custom labels, it’s essential to specify the right facestock to handle a particular application, but there are also many options for choosing an adhesive. If the label doesn’t stick when and where it’s supposed to, it doesn’t matter how clear the label is printed because it will end up on the floor somewhere. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, the label can’t be removed or leaves adhesive residue where it shouldn’t.

Remember that an adhesive is a chemical formulation. The “stickiness” is based on a physical reaction with a particular surface, so not all adhesives provide the same degree of adhesion. According to 3M (creators of the “sticky note”), adhesion occurs via a molecular attraction between two unlike surfaces. A higher surface energy creates a stronger molecular attraction, while low surface energy produces a weaker one.

Metals and some plastics (including PVC, polyester, fiberglass, and acrylic) have a high surface energy. Other plastics, like polystyrene, polypropylene, and Teflon, have a low surface energy. If you’ve ever tried to stick a label on a Styrofoam takeout container, you know how tricky this surface is!

Adhesives are made from various materials, including acrylics, butyl, natural or silicone rubbers, nitriles, a number of styrene based copolymers and vinyl ethers, and even some water-based formulations, which are best for dry environments. For example, if you plan to use your custom barcode labels for refrigerated or frozen products, a water-based adhesive will break down and the label will fall off.

Before you order custom barcode labels, consider these aspects for their use:

What type of surface will the label need to adhere to?  Will the surface be clean, dirty, dusty or sooty; flat or curved; rough, textured or smooth; oily or greasy; frosty or frozen; dry or wet?

Will the label be exposed to harsh conditions? It’s not just the surface printing that needs to hold up to wear and tear. If your custom label needs to withstand tough environments like extreme heat or cold, liquids and chemicals, abrasion or exposure to ultraviolet light, you’ll need an adhesive that is formulated for those conditions.

How long should the label remain affixed to the surface? Some barcode labels are temporary, while others need to stay put for much longer, like documents, medical samples, shipping labels, and parts numbers. Still other barcode labels are required to be removed, like a shelf label or a gift item price label.

Do you need a security feature? Do you need to know if a label has been tampered with? Gift cards, for example, should have their barcode labels protected by a tamper-evident adhesive that leave a mark or the word “VOID” on the item when the adhesive is removed.

Here are the main types of adhesives and how they are most often used:

Removable: Stays positioned for months or years and can be removed without leaving an adhesive residue on the surface where it was applied or any damage to the label. For general uses where the label will need to be removed, like shelf labels, gift item price labels, or tote bin labels. Repositionable: Easily removed at initial application, but can then be removed and adhered again in a different location; becomes permanent over time. For products where the label might need to be temporarily removed because it’s covering some aspect, such as decorative home furnishings and artwork or it was applied in the wrong place and requires adjustment. High Tack: Adheres to rough surfaces. For labeling uneven surface areas, like tires, wood, and powder-coated metal. Permanent: Stays positioned permanently with the initial application and withstands general conditions. Designed for labeling any item that needs to retain the label for long periods; can withstand many conditions but may not be strong enough for extreme heat or cold. Freezer/Cold Temperature: Long-term adhesion in extreme cold. For products that will be refrigerated or frozen, either at the time of label application or during its life span.

-Intellitech International

To learn more about custom labeling and how ADI can help you visit: labeling solutions, preprinted labeling programs, and/or inventory process management

Three Advantages of Wireless Barcode Scanners

Whether it’s for managing year-end inventory, POS (point of sale) systems, keeping track of important assets, or employee time tracking, nearly every industry and business, small or large, use barcodes to replace manual data entry. By using barcode technology, a user can enter data nearly 20 times faster and do so about 20,000 times more accurately. Depending on the application, a barcode scanner can come in all shapes, sizes, colors and types. Wireless barcode scanners in particular are great for those small business owners looking to increase both productivity and efficiency. Here are a few advantages they have over their wired counterparts.

1. Freedom

Wireless barcode scanners become veritable workhorses, but offer the freedom to roam while staying connected to Bluetooth®. Without the entrapment of cords, this type of barcode scanner allows you to move your scanner to the inventory instead of hauling the inventory to your scanner when it comes time to count that year-end inventory.

2. Increased Durability

Because wireless barcode scanners are ideal for environments where data collecting involves moving around, many times such scanners are built to last. Accidents happen, and when you’re not tied to your computer, the odds of dropping the device are increased. To protect your investment, many scanners are tested to withstand multiple drops to hard surface areas, such as a concrete shipping/receiving floor.

3. Added Range 

When it comes to increasing productivity of your mobile fleet, a wireless barcode scanner is a must. Not only does it allow your employees to track inventory and manage business assets remotely (sometimes up to 160 feet!). But they also allow for additional range by providing internal memory storage. This internal storage will allow you to store multiple barcodes scans, so you’ll never be out of range from the transmitter base. And no task will ever be too much.

Barcode technology is constantly improving and allowing business owners to spend less time with manual data entry and more time running their businesses efficiently.

-waspbarcode.com

Vehicle Mount Mobile Computers Benefit Warehouse Operations

Warehouse workers are constantly on the go, picking merchandise for shipping, maintaining inventory, coding new products as they are shipped in. They are navigating a maze of products and operations that can become chaotic, disjointed and error-ridden. Whether employees are on a forklift, standing at a kiosk, or driving delivery trucks and vans, a solution to the challenges of warehouse operations lies in the technology of vehicle mount mobile computers.
Warehouse Operations

Vehicle mount mobile computers must be able to withstand extreme temperatures as stock is moved from loading dock to freezers, and to withstand the shock of stop and go transport. Keypads must be accessible to drivers wearing heavy gloves, with full screen displays that are visible in different lighting environments. The most efficient models are designed to provide a wireless network for real time data input, access and collection. The result is increased productivity and reduced errors in shipping and receiving – overall, a streamlining of warehouse operations.

Intermec, Inc. recently announced its newest vehicle-mount mobile computers, the CV41 and CV61. They are the first vehicle mount mobile computers to offer Vocollect voice-directed capabilities.

Both models feature an LED backlit display to improve visibility during indoor forklift operations as well as the bright light of outdoor inventory movement. Installation is simple compared to full-screen devices. Additionally, both offer an optional Vocollect voice capability running on a Microsoft operating system.Intermec CV41

The CV61 features a larger touch screen and is a quick upgrade from its successful predecessor, the CV60. All mounting, cabling, keyboards, trays, scanners and printers are compatible.

Motorola offers the VC5090, a rugged vehicle mount mobile computer that provides real time data access and collection. A standard heater available at no extra cost ensures reliable operation in harsh temperatures of 22° F/-30° C. Additionally, the Bluetooth-enabled device supports wireless printing and cordless scanning. It is built to industrial and military grade specifications for vibration, shock, temperature and sealing, and the touchscreen or keypad are designed for gloved hands.

A recent upgrade from the VC5090, the VC6090 is ready to use out of the box and comes equipped with easy-to-use technology that virtually eliminates the need for training. Its programmable soft keys can provide single keystrokes for frequently repeated tasks. Applications developed for other Motorola rugged mobile computers can be easily ported to the VC6090, dramatically reducing software development and training requirements, and increasing the return on investment for existing applications.

-The BarCode News

Naval Surface Warfare Center Demos RFID Solution

The system uses EPC Gen 2 UHF tags and readers to identify items loaded onboard, in cabinets stored within steel containers, enabling the U.S. Navy to reduce inventory-tracking time from 32 hours to two minutes.

May 18, 2012—The Panama City Division (PCD) of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) has developed and demonstrated an RFID-based cargo-tracking solution that it says is poised to provide a 3,000 percent return on investment by eliminating the need to perform manual inventory checks. NSWC supplies research, development, test and evaluation services for surface-ship systems and subsystems.The solution was designed for a littoral combat ship (LCS), a small surface vessel intended for operations close to shore. By affixing passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to tools stored in metal cabinets within containers loaded onto such vessels, NSWC PCD was able to capture location data regarding those items in real time—even when a vessel was out to sea—using satellite-communications to transmit RFID data.
Smaller than the U.S. Navy's other frigates, littoral combat ships is serve a variety of functions, including moving cargo to and from port facilities. The two LCS vessels currently in use by the Navy are loaded with steel containers containing cabinets used to store a wide variety of tools, such as wrenches and ropes being moved between other vessels and the port.Without an RFID solution, the Navy—in order to ensure that all tools are accounted for—must assign its sailors to conduct manual inventory counts of all items within the containers, either on the vessel or at the port. This can take as much as 32 hours to complete every time it's done, says Ryan Mabry, the NSWC PCD computer engineer who developed the software for the RFID-based solution.
It is not easy work, Mabry notes. Sailors often must stand in a tight enclosure (an 8-foot-by-20-foot container), manually checking items on paper. However, he reports, that time was reduced to approximately two minutes using radio frequency identification.
The solution, known as the Mission Package Automated Inventory Information Inventory System (MPAIIS), consists of EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags attached to items, as well as readers installed within containers, satellite-communications technology to transmit RFID read data to the back-end system—or a Wi-Fi connection, when a vessel is in the port—and custom-built software to manage read data and issue directives to the interrogators to capture RFID reads remotely.
NSWC PCD began looking into an RFID solution in 2008. Testing, research and development of the system extended to June 2011, when an onboard demonstration was conducted. The researchers are now awaiting funding so they can continue the development for additional containers.
The group conducted a series of tests at NSWC's laboratory facility located in Panama City, Fla., reading 50 different types of active, passive or semi-active tags placed in various areas of the cabinets, as well as moving reader antennas around a prototype container in order to achieve maximum coverage. Instead of creating a system that reads tags attached to tools passing through an RFID reader portal as they are loaded into containers, NSWC wanted readers and antennas to provide real-time information, on demand, by being built directly into the containers. The software was designed in-house to read the tags' ID numbers, link that data to specific inventory items and provide a full list of which items were in a specific cabinet within a particular container, as well as which were missing, whenever a vessel left the port destined for another vessel, returned with a different load or had its cargo swapped out.
Researchers found that the best combination of technology was the use of EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags attached to tools, with readers mounted inside the containers and antennas installed within the metal cabinets.
"We did lot of experimenting with tags," Mabry says. The researchers utilized a variety of tag makes and models, including those provided by Omni-ID and Confidex. According to Mabry, certain tags work well with metal, others on wood, with both materials present on some tools. The researchers also experimented with ways to ensure that tags are not knocked off while tools are in use. In some cases, the tags were located within a tool's interior.
Of the tags tested, Mabry says, "the highest success for this application came from the Omni-ID Max and Confidex tags in a generic tagging situation. The final choice of tagging for the future implementation has not been decided."
Four Alien Technology ALR 9900 fixed readers were installed inside each container, for a total of 16 antennas mounted within the metal cabinets. The readers can then interrogate each tag's unique ID number, and forward that data to the NSWC software onshore via a satellite connection.
When conducting an inventory count of items stored within a container, a user can open the software and begin a search based on a single item, all assets in a single container or all cargo within multiple containers aboard a particular vessel. The system issues instruction to the readers, and then displays a list of goods that should be loaded into the cabinets. Each item's ID is displayed in red if the RFID tag attached to it had not been read, green if its tag had been interrogated, or blue if an unexpected tool was found within that container. The user can select any item in the software and view a picture of it.
Staff members can then physically proceed to the container and either visually search for a missing item, or utilize a Motorola Solutions MC-9090 handheld reader to locate it, by selecting the specific product on the software loaded onto the handheld device, and then operating the reader as a Geiger counter until that item is located.
"We looked at third-party commercial software, but each time we wanted a change, we would have to go back to the contractor," Mabry says, "so we developed our own software in-house." The software consists of two modules: an inventory application and a management application. The management app allows the setup of readers, and links tag IDs with tool descriptors and photographs, while the inventory app determines whether or not items have been found, based on the RFID read data.
Mabry estimates that the Navy could save up to $14.5 million in inventory labor costs for 500 containers. After 10 years, he says, that would culminate in a 3,000 percent return on its investment.
The solution provides 96 percent inventory accuracy in less than two minutes, Mabry reports, and a 100 percent rate when repeated. The workload to perform inventory counts is thus reduced by 99 percent. What's more, he notes, the software could enable automated replenishment.
The MPAIIS system was demonstrated onboard the LCS Sea Fighter in Panama City, using one prototype container with four readers and sixteen antennas built into cabinets within that container. The solution exceeded its performance goals, Mabry says. Patents are currently pending.
The next step, according to Mabry, will be to test the solution at the Navy's Mission Package Support Facility, and to integrate the software with other Navy automatic-identification technology (AIT) programs.

Intermec Simplifies Printer Configuration via RFID

May 17, 2012—Intermec recently announced plans to release two printer models that can be configured wirelessly using a handheld RFID reader. Both the PM43 printer and a more compact version, the PM43c, come with optional functionality, known as No-Touch Configuration, enabled by an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 EM4325 RFID chip from EM Microelectronic, embedded in the device. The configurable thermal printers are expected to be made commercially available in September 2012, though several companies are already testing the RFID technology, by configuring the devices to print specific types of labels, and to specify the Ethernet and interface settings. Both products are mid-range industrial printers, intended for applications within distribution centers and manufacturing environments to print bar codes, text or images. Intermec can also incorporate optional RFID interrogators into the printers, for customers looking to encode RFID labels. The two printers are designed to be "super-reliable, super-performance and super-ready," says Tom Roth, Intermec's senior director of printer product management, with the RFID configuration function providing the "super-ready" component.

By making the printers capable of quick configuration with an RFID reader, the firm hopes to reduce the number of labor hours its customers spend setting up large quantities of printers they have purchased. According to Intermec, No-Touch Configuration can be used to set up 20 printers in less than 5 percent of the time it would typically take using traditional methods. Often, a business may purchase hundreds or thousands of printers, configure them all at a central location and then ship them to various facilities, such as stores or offices located throughout the world.

PM43 Printers

Configuration can include preset IP addresses to which the printer can be linked, as well as the language for the user interface—such as Mandarin for printers bound for a site in China. To undertake the configuration of every machine, says Alex Babic, Intermec's manager of printer products, companies typically deploy staff members to open each box, power up the printer, press necessary prompts in order to configure that device, and then turn off and repack the machine. Deploying 50 printers, he says, could require an entire day's worth of work.

With the built-in RFID tag and an Intermec handheld RFID reader product (or any other EPC Gen 2 UHF handheld interrogator), the operation becomes much simpler, the company reports. The customer would need to purchase No-Touch Configuration Windows Mobile-based software from Intermec, which would enable that user to select such configuration details as the IP address, and to then transmit those instructions to the printer's RFID tag. When the printer is later turned on, it can then pull data directly off its tag and configure itself according to the encoded directives.

This process can be accomplished through a closed box, Roth says. What's more, if multiple printers are destined for a single location, and are thus likely to require the same configuration, the software can be programmed to encode the same instructions to each printer's tag. If there are several groupings of readers—for example, five bound for one location, and 10 destined for another—the software also enables the user to set several configuration templates, and to select the appropriate one upon reading the printer's tag ID via the handheld. In addition, the user can track configuration events, thereby storing data indicating how specific printers were configured—and, therefore, when they were being prepared for shipment to the site where they would be installed.

EM Microelectronic's recently released EM4325 integrated circuit offers several advantages for this application, according to Rene Martinez, Intermec's chief technologist. The IC can operate in either passive or battery-assisted passive (BAP) mode. For customers opting for No-Touch Configuration, Intermec will install the 4-kilobit chip with a battery. By default, the integrated circuit utilizes the BAP mode to enhance RFID read performance. In the event that the internal battery fails, the chip will continue operating as a fully passive tag, though at a reduced read distance. If the printer is switched on, the chip's operation will be assisted by power supplied by that device. The IC also comes with an internal temperature sensor, but that function is not presently in use with the No-Touch Configuration application.

-RFIDjournal.com

 

AIDC Industry's First Device Management Solution

AIDC Industry's First Integrated Scanning and Mobility Device Management Solution From Honeywell Now Available Fort Mill, S.C. – May 3, 2012 – Honeywell (NYSE:HON) today announced the availability of Remote MasterMind™ 3.0 (ReM 3.0), the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) industry’s first integrated mobility and scanning device management solution.

ReM 3.0 delivers advanced and integrated management of the following devices under a single web-based console: Honeywell bar code scanners, Microsoft® Windows®-based mobility devices, and consumer-grade smartphones and tablets running on Google Android™ and Apple iOS™ operating systems. The unique software solution allows information technology professionals to perform a host of device management functions from one centralized location, lowering the total cost of ownership:

  • Asset tracking
  • Software distribution
  • Configuration management
  • Diagnostic monitoring including remote control
  • Automated collection of device-specific performance metrics and measurements

“We are pleased to be fulfilling a promise made in January to begin shipping Remote MasterMind 3.0 in the second quarter,” stated John Waldron, president, Honeywell Scanning & Mobility. “We will continue to advance the functionality of our device management solution, introducing new innovative features in future releases which will provide key business intelligence and drive improved end user productivity,” added Waldron.

Now shipping globally, ReM 3.0 places valuable insight on device usage and performance into the hands of IT professionals to drive streamlined workflow and increased worker efficiency. Offering immediate support for Honeywell’s Vuquest 3310g, Voyager™ 1200g, Voyager 1250g, Hyperion™ 1300g, and Xenon™ 1900 family of area-imaging scanners, the software will be enhanced with support for additional Honeywell bar code scanners in the coming months.

-Honeywell

The Right Label Makes All the Difference

If you use flexible materials to package your products, then you know there are some special challenges to your labeling. The right package creates the appealing image the consumer will notice. But if your labeling is not right, you could lose more than a sale.

For example, over the holidays I received a fine gourmet coffee gift. The packaging was attractive, the product was very good, and I’m sure it was a bit costly. Notice, however, that the product information on the package is unclear. The name of the coffee beans has partially rubbed off, the bar code is unreadable, and some of the serial numbers are gone.

If I wanted to purchase this item, I wouldn’t know the name of the product I was looking for. If I were the vendor, I couldn’t be sure that my packages were accurately tracked when they left my shipping dock. Imagine if there was a product recall and the serial or lot numbers were not readable.

The problem with this labeling is that the ribbon used to print the product information does not suit the package. The ribbon was probably a wax ribbon that simply cannot print clear, permanent information on the material used to make the bag.

Sometimes it’s not a problem with the ribbon matching the package, but with the type of adhesive used on your label.

A local regional distributor of a gourmet brownie mix packaged their product in a coarse-threaded muslin pull-cord bag. They wanted to convey an image of an eco-friendly purveyor of products made with natural ingredients. The challenge was to find a bar coded label with adhesive strong enough to stick to the flexible fibers of the bag for product identification, customer pricing and retail scanning without smudging, falling off, or erosion of print quality. Their first attempt was a label that often fell off and left messy adhesive on the bag. The print would come off on the bag leaving dark smudge marks. The result was a bag of brownie mix without a label to indicate price, country of origin, or bar code information.

Improper Adhesive

We helped this customer create a label with an adhesive that was strong enough to remain on the bag no matter how the contents shifted during handling or transport. If the label needed to be removed, such as when the product was given as a gift, it had to come off completely and leave no sticky residue on the bag.

The right labels and ribbons enhance your products, provide you with valuable information, and keep your customers coming back. There’s a lot to consider when creating the label, so that’s why you should work with us. Our knowledgeable staff will make sure the adhesive is right, that the top coat works with the printer and ribbons, and that the color you need is exactly the color you get. We can help you come up with the most cost-effective, reliable labeling that complies with industry mandates and creates the impression you want.

-LabelingNews.com

Can A Mobile Label Printer Survive Warehouse Use?

Success in warehouse, shipping and receiving, and distribution areas all comes down to efficiency, accuracy and maximum worker productivity. One way to increase productivity is having the ability to print and apply labels right at the point of activity-whether that be labeling a shelf when boxes are moved, a pallet being shipped, an order being picked, or inventory being received.

Stationary printers are known for their industrial strength to keep up with label printing demands for several departments. However, they are not very portable. Workers must leave their station, go to the label printer (…have talk time along the way) grab their label (…did they get the right one) and apply the label(s) to the right box (…is it the right one?) There goes that time, focus and increases the risk for error.

Mobile or portable printers allow the worker to print and apply the label right then and there. The downside has traditionally been finding a printer to withstand rough use in a typical warehouse or cold storage environment.

Datamax-O’Neil released the RL4 Portable Label Printer, designed and tested to withstand  warehouse use. Check out this video or download a free white paper to see ways just how much reliability and function this little printer offers:

  • Survives being dropped several times on to concrete floors and shipping docks.
  • With no time to remove gloves workers need for their own protection, many devices now account for this with easy loading media and larger capacity rolls for fewer changes.
  • Rugged equipment is fully functional in cold storage with clean, crisp printed output.
  • Battery life up to 12 hours, removable for charging.

Datamax-O’Neil is so confident the RL4 will survive your warehouse use, it comes with a 2 year warranty! Not only are you ensured uninterrupted use, but the cost of ownership is lower.

As demands for productivity increases, so does the need for rugged devices for all your barcode labeling and data collection needs. Are you using mobile label printers in your warehouse or other areas? Are they holding up to daily use? Do you want to add mobile printing, computing, or data collection in your warehouse and don’t know where to start?

Contact us at WincoID to see how easy it may be to get started.

 

- From LabelingNews.com

Mobile Solutions For Efficient Inventory Management

Key to improving inventory management is meeting your inventory where it lives on the shelves. This is achieved through mobile computing enabled by inventory management software, wireless networks, mobile hardware, and sound processes. The cost of computing and wireless networking have fallen to the point that retailers of all sizes are capable of deploying mobile inventory management solutions. Vendors of mobile computing solutions such as Motorola and Zebra are focused on delivering inventory management solutions to the retail industry on the convenient form factor of a handheld computer. Scanning; ticketing, shelf labeling, and item labeling (which are three of a retailer’s few constant and controllable customer interfaces); price auditing; markdowns; and promotion execution are but some of the inventory management applications retailers can run more efficiently using mobile technology driven by modern software solutions. Aisle level shelf labeling, for instance, has consistently reduced store relabeling time 40% among retailers deploying the technology. Driven by merchandising software, mobility enables the labeling and relabeling process, whether it involves tickets, shelves, or items, to be as simple as a scan of the SKU’s UPC with a scanner-enabled handheld. This is followed by the automatic printout of the correct label or ticket on a portable printer, and application of that label or ticket to the item or shelf. The reduced cost and time spent on inventory management that’s enabled by mobile scanning, labeling, and ticketing saves margins and has a ripple effect by enabling more frequent and creative pricing and promotion initiatives.

In terms of process, the flexibility enabled by mobility is important as well. Because pricing and promotion changes can now happen so quickly, retailers can combine applications like price auditing, markdowns, clearance, and relabeling. For example, as an item is scanned for price auditing against the central store system, the system beeps if a new price applies to the item. Simultaneously, a new label or ticket is printed for application. Mobility speeds the time it takes to implement price changes by up to 50%.

“Store execution practices can also ensure that orders are automatically placed without associate intervention, with training regarding the ordering practices for new associates shortened,” says AMR’s Griswold. He also says supply chain leaders recognize the link between this kind of execution and merchandise planning. “Consumercentric merchandising integrates demand, assortment, allocation, space management, pricing, and promotional planning processes, allowing retailers to align product and promotional decisions with store-specific consumer demand signals,” he says. “Organizationally, retailers must move merchandising and marketing functions from traditional, vendor-driven events to more collaborative and consumer-driven strategies.”

 

- From Zebra Technologies