5 New Ways to Improve Efficiency and Costs with Barcode Scanners

Warehouses and manufacturing plants are always under pressure to maximize efficiency and minimize costs, but today’s labor shortages, cost issues, and fulfillment demands are making it tougher than ever before.

However, many warehouses and plants can easily make some major efficiency and cost gains by looking in the right places, and that includes processes that are often taken for granted or overlooked.

A good example is any process where you’re doing data capture, whether it’s through barcode scanning or by manually entering data from paper forms or other documents.

Normally, if we’re using barcode labels and scanners to manage inventory, pick and pack orders, and track shipments or work-in-process, we might think we’ve already automated the streamlined the process.

If we’re dealing with printed documents or other paperwork, especially from third parties, it can seem like there’s no other option than to manually re-enter the data we need from those documents so we can get that information into our systems.

But that’s where many warehouses and manufacturing plants are missing out on some easy efficiency and productivity gains. Here are five ways that new advances in barcode scanning and imaging technology are enabling a much faster, less labor-intensive and less costly way to get things done.

Multi-Code Scanning

Let’s start by taking a look at barcode scanning, where we might need to scan a number of different barcode labels on a pallet or even on a single product or shipping box in order to track and manage inventory, inbound items in receiving, or outbound shipments.

Instead of having to scan all of those barcodes individually, one by one, newer barcode scanners such as Zebra’s 3600 Series Ultra-Rugged Scanners have built-in multi-scan capabilities that allow you to scan up to 20 barcodes with single trigger pull. You can use your scanner like a “wand” and simply move it across the face of a pallet or wave it around different sides of a box, and all the barcodes you need to scan are captured flawlessly.

Each time you use this multi-code functionality, you can shave seconds or minutes off typical scanning processes, and when you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of inventory items, assets or shipments, it adds up quickly to a lot of time and effort saved.

Form Field and Signature Capture

Another big advantage of Zebra’s new scanners and imaging technology is that you can use it to automatically read and capture data from form fields and even scan signatures from shipping documents or other paperwork. Instead of having to manually enter or re-enter that data into your systems, Zebra’s devices can capture and parse it directly from documents and even selectively scan and transmit data based on your preferred targets and configuration.

This way, you can choose what you want to scan and what you want to ignore, and it reliably and instantaneously captures that information and gets it into your warehouse management, ERP or other business systems. Since you can also use the same capabilities to capture images of signatures, it’s also a great way for importing signature verifications into your systems as well.

Long-Range Scanning

Yet another way to boost efficiency and reduce time and labor is with scanning inventory or assets from longer ranges. In many warehouses, for example, palleted goods or inventory may be located high on warehouse shelves, and when it’s time to pick and verify individual items or entire pallets, that can mean having to use a ladder to get up high or use a forklift to bring down the pallet so you can scan the right barcodes.

However, Zebra’s latest industrial barcode scanners can eliminate these steps by allowing you to scan barcodes from as far away as 70 feet, even through shrink wrap. This represents a 30% increase in scanning range compared to previous devices, and it’s helpful for any process that can benefit from not having to get within close range of barcodes in order to capture them. It’s also great for worker safety because it helps minimize some of the ladder use and forklift traffic in the warehouse.

Uninterrupted Scanning

To round out some of the easy wins you can get from newer scanning technology, another big help comes from improvements to battery capacity and performance.

For example, Zebra’s 3600 Series Ultra-Rugged Scanners have 50% more battery capacity than other devices on the market, so you can get 50% more scans per charge. That means fewer trips to a charging station and fewer interruptions to your scanning processes, which adds up to more efficiency and labor savings over time.

Cost-Saving Device Durability

Finally, while this next advantage isn’t about saving on labor costs, it’s about saving on your warehousing or manufacturing technology generally.

In the barcode scanning world, Zebra is already well-known for its unbeatable product durability, but its 3600 Series industrial scanners have taken ruggedness to an entirely new level, offering 23% greater durability than any other competing device.

These devices are virtually indestructible in the real-world use and abuse that we see every day in warehouses and on plant floors. They’re built to withstand drops to concrete from up to 8 feet and have survived tests involving 5,000 consecutive tumbles.

They also have IP65 and IP67 rated dust-proof and water-proof sealing, and they can handle a full-force hose down as well as submersion in water. They’re also engineered for extreme temperature resistance with corded models that can operate at temperatures of 122°F to -22°F, and cordless models that can withstand temperatures ranging from 122°F to -4°F.

All of this durability adds up to one simple benefit: instead of having to pay for expensive repairs or replacements for your damaged or broken devices, you’ll potentially save thousands of dollars on your IT budget and get extremely long life and the highest level of durability from any scanning device today.

Ultimately, these five ways to improve efficiency and minimize costs aren’t the only ways to improve warehouse and manufacturing operations with scanning technology. To learn about more the ways that you can create leaner and more cost-effective processes, connect with our team at Tri-State Business Systems, and we’ll be happy to set up a call to discuss more recommendations and potential solutions for your needs.

 

Quick Guide to Choosing the Right Barcode Label

 

 

If you need to use barcode labels in your business, you always want a few basic things.

You want your label to stick, and you want it to be easily readable and scannable throughout the life of your application.

Those seem like pretty simple requirements, but they can become a lot harder to achieve if you don’t choose the right barcode label for your application. And that means picking the right label based on the environment where you’re applying it, how and where it’s going to be used, and specific challenges these factors might create.

This is why there are thousands of barcode labels to choose from, including many with specialized materials and matching ribbons to make sure your labels stick and remain readable and scannable for as long as you need.

But you can quickly narrow down your choices and find the right label by understanding the following key factors in label selection.

In this quick overview, our label experts at Tri-State Business Systems will walk you through the factors you should keep in mind, and provide some initial tips to help point you in the right direction. And once you have a good idea of what sort of label you might need, we can work with you to help select a specific solution from our selection of over 500+ stock Zebra labels and printing supplies products. Or we’ll connect you with Zebra and help you design a custom solution for your application.

For now, let’s jump into our quick guide to choosing the right barcode label and review the main factors to consider. 

Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer

Direct thermal printing is designed for applications that require a shorter lifespan, such printing labels for office use or shipping.

Direct thermal printing doesn’t use ink, toner or ribbon. It creates the image directly on a paper label. But this means the image has limited durability.

If you need a long-lasting and durable label image and/or protection against temperatures, abrasion or chemicals, you need to use thermal transfer.

Thermal transfer uses a thermal printhead to apply heat to a printer ribbon. This melts ink onto the label, forming a much more durable image.

This process, combined with specialized label materials, can meet demanding application and environmental requirements. But you need to choose the right label and match it with the correct thermal transfer ribbon.

Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Wax Ribbons are for applications with little to no exposure to weak chemicals and/or moderate abrasion.

Wax/Resin Ribbons are for extreme chemical exposure and/or exposure to moderate abrasion, or where UL/cUL approval is required.

Resin Ribbons are for harsh to extreme chemical exposure and/or exposure to excessive abrasion, and UL/cUL approval.

Application Factors

Label Lifespan

If your label only requires readability for a limited time and doesn’t need resistance to chemicals, moisture, and/or abrasion, a direct thermal paper label will meet your needs. Otherwise, a specialty thermal transfer synthetic label is almost certainly required.

Surface

Different materials and adhesives may be required to adhere labels to curved or unusual surfaces.

Extreme Temperatures

Application temperature is the temperature at which you apply your label. Service temperature the range when your label is in use.

Standard label materials perform well when the application temperature is a minimum of 25°F, and service temperature ranges from -65°F to 200°F.

If you’re labeling outside these ranges, you need to use thermal transfer printing and labels, and probably a specialty adhesive.

Abrasion Resistance

If your label needs resistance to rubbing or scratching, use a ribbon with higher resin content.

Applicator Use

If you’ll be using a label applicator, the label must be cut differently so it peels off properly from the liner. Perforations aren’t recommended because they alter label stiffness, making it difficult to release from the liner.

Chemical Resistance

If your label will be exposed to moderate to extreme chemicals, use thermal transfer printing and labels. In the case of harsh and extreme chemicals, a high-durability resin ribbon is also recommended.

Indoor/Outdoor Use

If your label will be regularly exposed to outdoor conditions such as sun, rain or snow, it’s best to use a thermal transfer synthetic label.

Print Speed, Darkness and Dots Per Inch (DPI)

Certain label materials and ribbons will cause printing to be slower or faster, and some combinations will require higher print darkness and/or higher DPI. Synthetic labels may also be needed for proper printing. Keep these factors in mind and ask your label provider what you can expect.

 

Getting Help with Choosing Your Barcode Label

These guidelines should help you narrow down the barcode labels and printing supplies you’ll need to consider. But if you’d like to get expert advice, contact our team at Tri-State Business Systems to request our Zebra label and supplies selector guide, and get professional guidance.

 

We’ll walk you through the selection process and make sure you choose the right label, materials, and ribbon for your application.

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Warehouse with Labeling Solutions

When we think about using labels in a warehouse, most of us think of using barcode labels for tracking inventory.

That’s certainly the most common use case for warehouse labels. But there are many other warehouse applications where labels can help automate processes, save time, and boost efficiency and accuracy.

At Tri-State Business Systems, we’ve been helping businesses streamline and optimize their operations with labeling solutions for decades. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about where labels can be most effective and where they can help solve common problems that get in the way of warehouse performance.

In this article, we’ll share five ways you can use warehouse labels to improve your operations in:

  • Receiving
  • Cross-docking
  • Rack and bin identification
  • Packing
  • Shipping

In each of these areas, you can use specialized Zebra labels to implement operational improvements and solve common labeling problems, so you can fulfill orders faster more accurately.

Let’s take a look at these 5 improvements you can make with Zebra labels.

  1. Create and Apply Packing Slips in Under 15 Seconds

 Many businesses lose precious time and money at the packing stage by having to fold packing slips multiple times, slide them into a sleeve, remove the liner, and put the sleeve on a box.

This is a time-consuming and inefficient process. In timed studies, it often takes 40 seconds to a full minute to complete.

However, with Zebra’s Z-Slip all-in-one packing slip solution, you can print, peel and apply a packing slip in just 11 seconds. That’s 73% faster than traditional methods.

Z-Slip is a specially prepared packing slip material that combines a packing slip with a built-in label and protector. When paired with a compatible Zebra industrial printer, Z-Slips completely transform your pack slip process, and they also deliver benefits for your shipment recipients.

Unlike traditional packing slip envelopes, which have to be cut open with a knife, Z-Slips can just be quickly peeled away and removed, with no damage to the slip and no risk of injury.

 

  1. Easily Sort and Identify Shipments and Special Handling Requirements

Sorting and properly handling packages is critical to getting the right goods to the right place as safely and efficiently as possible. But all that black-and-white print on shipping and packaging labels makes it difficult to immediately identify shipments visually and know if they need special handling.

To tackle this problem, Zebra developed a breakthrough labeling solution called IQ Color. Zebra’s IQ Color is an innovative invisible ink technology that allows colors to be printed on labels, and in specific locations, to facilitate quick and accurate identification, sorting and handling.

For example, you can print special identifying information or instructions with a color background, add color shapes or icons, or even print reverse-colored text.

You can do it all on demand, using Zebra labels pre-manufactured with invisible ink that adds the colors you need, when you need them, so you can decide when and how to apply color whenever you need it. And you don’t need to order, stock, and switch between different rolls of labels with different colors.

  1. Identify Inbound Raw Materials, Parts and Products Faster

Similar to issues with identifying and sorting shipments and packages, it can also be a challenge to quickly identify and put-away inbound raw materials, parts or products arriving in receiving.

Workers often have to read labels to identity items as well as which ones were first-in and first-out. This slows down the process and can also get in the way of prompt and efficient product recalls.

To help speed up identification, sorting and put-away, you can use Zebra’s direct thermal flood coated Z-Perform 2000D paper labels. These labels apply pre-printed color across the entire label, which can be used as an immediate and highly visual indicator of an item’s identity and even its receipt date or other characteristics.

Zebra produces these labels in several world-class ISO:9001 certified label production facilities, where PMS colors are precisely matched from order to order, to ensure you will always be able to identify received materials, parts and products correctly.

  1. Error-Proof Your Cross-Docking and Sorting

Mis-shipments are a common problem for many warehouses. And they often occur due to incorrect sorting of packages onto the correct skids during cross-docking operations. Without a way to visibly and more accurately identify and sort packages, warehouse workers often have to manually sort them using a letter and number combination, and this is where human error can occur.

To error-proof your cross-docking and sorting, this is another area where Zebra’s IQ Color labels can completely change the game.

With Zebra’s IQ Color invisible ink technology, you can add color indicators to your labels on demand, using your existing Zebra printer. There’s no need to buy, stock and use different rolls of labels, which take more time to change out.

Instead, you just use one label roll for all your cross-docking and sorting, and you can add color, text, shapes, symbols or background colors to create immediately visible indicators that make packages easier to sort.

  1. Improve Your Rack and Bin Identification

Running an organized and efficient warehouse starts with having a good rack and bin identification system in place, so you know where to find inventory and what belongs where at all times.

But rack and bin identification sometimes breaks down when labels become scratched, torn or otherwise damaged and potentially unreadable due to contact with chemicals or other abuses in your environment.

That’s why Zebra created its Z-Ultimate 3000T gloss polyester thermal transfer labels, which are designed to be used with Zebra’s 5095 wax/resin ribbon.

The label materials and ribbon work together to produce incredibly durable and long-lasting labels that remain readable and scannable, even in the toughest environments. The matched label and ribbon set are pre-tested to ensure abrasion, smear, scratch and chemical resistance, and they’re made with a synthetic material that does not tear.

Once you apply these labels to your racks and bins, they will stick, and they’ll withstand just about anything you can hit, scrape, or douse them with.

Want to Learn More About Zebra Warehouse Label Solutions?

Contact Tri-State Business Systems now to learn more about our complete portfolio of Zebra solutions and find out more ways you can use labels to boost efficiency, accuracy and productivity in your warehouse.