Tuesday, 12 February 2019

SAP S/4HANA - Printing complex barcode labels

A number of requests from customers with SAP S/4HANA, about barcode label printing has required us to think about the needs of our SAP customers printing complex barcode labels.  Here are some thoughts and solutions.

SAP is a very large ERP supplier and serves a number of industry segments and in this case the request is to print barcode labels directly from within an SAP standard transaction.

Normally this would be handled by the SAP spooler system and printed to a pre-designated label printer on the network.  But in an increasing number of cases, the complex and changing nature of the labelling requirement means that the normal methods of creating barcode labels "inside SAP" become unworkable, too expensive or have excessive SAP development time.

One very powerful solution is NiceLabel LMS Enterprise, that has a built in SAP application that captures the variable data needed from SAP to print labels and converts it into a format that allows LMS to merge this data into a label template and instantly print it to a local or remote barcode label printer.

NiceLabel LMS Enterprise is a Certified SAP Solution

This approach frees the business from having to have specialist ABAP programmers constantly having to understand and encode new or changed barcode labels, which can take days and lots of trial and error to accomplish an acceptable label to GS1 or similar standards.

The beauty of the NiceLabel system is that up until the point of printing, the SAP transaction is identical, then the NiceLabel ABAP script captures the standard transaction data and converts it into a XML stream.  This XML stream is then used as a variable data source for a user designed label template and converted "on-the-fly" into text and barcode fields on the label.  Non variable data, such as logos, fixed text, lines, boxes etc, are all stored in the NiceLabel template, so require no SAP input.

The label template design and the link to the SAP data is all user level work, once the ABAP package is installed, the designer is free to assign any SAP field to a text or barcode element, or combine multiple fields into a single element, in a simple to use Windows label design package.

Even very complex labels and barcodes can be created by the designer, with no programming skills whatsoever.  An example would be a 2D barcode to the GS1 Datamatrix standard, which can contain multiple fields ( GTIN + Serial + Batch + Expiry + Qty) merged into a single 2D barcode.  Easy in NiceLabel.
Another time saving feature is that "every" variable field within an SAP transaction is passed into the XML stream and these can be added to a label design template as variable fields. Not every field needs to be included, but if later a new element is required on the label, editing the template will allow the designer to add any unused field to the labels, without making any changes to the SAP transaction or ABAP script.

The design of the labels and templates is very easy and anyone used to Microsoft Office can be quickly trained in its use. NiceLabel supports every barcode type and contains wizards to guide designers through the process of creating industry standard such as GS1, EAN 128 and many more, including complex barcodes such as SSCC Pallet labels.

Another advantage of using the NiceLabel SAP solution, is that it is not limited to using a dedicated label printer language, such as Zebra ZPL ( a common SAP printer driver ).  Using Windows drivers, specially developed by NiceLabel and freely available for ALL makes and models of label printers, means that changing the make of printer does not require a change in software or any developer time, just a change in printer driver.  The NiceLabel printers drivers are free and are often better than manufacturers own windows drivers, in fact many manufacturers buy their drivers from NiceLabel, which is a very good recommendation.

For an in depth look at how your business can benefit from using NiceLabel LMS for SAP, call our SAP specialist team at Barcode-IT.  sales@barcode-it.co.uk   01200 441977.

You will get some straight answers and a real understanding of the Pros and Cons of the different methods of printing barcode labels from within SAP.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Printing Barcode Labels from SAP Business One

A number of customers have been in touch regarding the printing of barcode labels from SAP Business One ( SAP B1).  It seems that there is some confusion about this product and many customer are mixing up SAP S4/HANA ( a massive ERP system used by very large businesses) with SAP B1, designed for SME ( Small & Medium Enterprises)

Its good news however, as NiceLabel 2019 fully supports SAP B1 with PowerForms Suite and is available in licenses for 3-5-10 printers and addon packs of 5 printers.

So any product or shipping labels can be printed with data directly from your SAP B1 system and can be used by an operator using a Print Form created using NiceLabel or printed automatically upon an event in SAP B1 using NiceLabel Automation ( a component of PowerForms Suite )

To discuss your SAP B1 barcode label printing application or ask about Automatic label printing from within SAP B1, call one of our team for a costing and a demo of the solution, on 01200 441977 or email sales@barcode-it.co.uk

We also specialise in barcode labels printers and will recommend the perfect label printer for your SAP B1 application.
Sato NX Barcode Label Printers

2D or not 2D (barcodes or course!)

2D barcodes, such as QR and Datamatrix, have been around now for a long time and with fast reading and the ability to withstand transit damage, they are the perfect way to carry quite large amounts of data.

But if that's the case, why have they not been more widely used until recently?  The simple answer is the technology to read them has until been too expensive.  Simple barcodes can be read with a scanning laser or simple LED, which while rare and expensive when invented are now so commonplace that they are in many household devices and so have become very cheap.
QR Code - 2D barcode
However 2D barcodes need a different approach , where the whole barcode image is captured in one go, either by a camera, like when you use an iPhone, or using a simple camera like device called an Imager.

This has now caused an explosion in interest in  2D barcodes with many barcode scanners reading both 1D and 2D barcodes as standard. In fact 2D codes are now becoming so easy to read that many websites are advertised with a large QR code that can be read with any mobile phone.

But for commercial applications in the real world of products and logistics, it has been the adoption of Worldwide standards that has leveraged the power of 2D barcodes, using the ability to encode large amounts of data, that can be easily captured.

One example of this is the recent use of DataMatrix 2D codes to record individual serial numbers on prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals. From 2019 all drugs must have a serial number that uniquely identifies the specific box being dispensed. This is so that counterfeit drugs and black market pharmaceuticals can be identified and kept out of the drugs market. Only made possible by the use of 2D barcodes, in this case DataMatrix.
Other important applications include the routing of parcels and tracking data in the warehouse.

For further information on 2D barcodes and how they might impact your business, call the sales team at Barcode-IT on 01200 441977 or email sales@barcode-it.co.uk.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Dexterity WMS allows a Lancashire business to expand.

Since implementing Dexterity WMS from Barcode-IT, GFW Limited, a furniture distributor based in Lancashire, have been able to increase stock within their warehouse, improve accuracy and win new business with major customers. This is as a result of their ability to accurately and quickly ship goods to end users, made possible by Dexterity WMS using mobile barcode scanners and printers.

GFW began to see the benefits of the warehouse management system almost immediately and after six months, they were able to increase warehouse capacity by 45-50% and daily order throughput increased by 15%, without picking or shipping errors.

When GFW moved premises to a much larger facility, it became obvious that their existing system and bespoke development in Sage software, wouldn't be sufficient to help them grow their business and keep up with demand. On making the decision to upgrade to Sage 200, Jon Ponsonby, Director at GFW, began searching for a solution to fulfill their current and future business needs and he found Dexterity WMS from Barcode-IT.

"This month has been our busiest month on record! This is something that just wouldn't have been possible without the Dexterity WMS solution, and to be honest I don't think we've seen the biggest benefits the system will bring yet, so I'm confident about the future!"

- Jon Ponsonby, Director at GFW Limited.

Growing their business would mean supplying into large online furniture retailers, as well as high street shops and GFW Limited would need to be able to deal with multiple sales and distribution channels when processing orders on a day to day basis. This meant that finding a stock management solution that could handle complex dispatch rules, as well as providing full accuracy and efficiency benefits.

Every business has different needs within the warehouse and although all installations of Dexterity WMS contain the same basic WMS processes, the way each process is undertaken varies slightly from project to project. A major selling point for GFW is the requirement to print a carrier labels and delivery notes at the point of picking. This ensures that the delivery label is affixed to the box when picked, so there can be no mix up at point of dispatch.  Also Dexterity books the consignment directly with the carrier, removing another task when shipping.  This is increasingly becoming a much sought after feature in Dexterity, especially for On-Line suppliers who may be using multiple carriers to ship hundreds of orders per day, many requiring a specific carrier and delivery service.
At GFW, Zebra QLn mobile printers are used to allow warehouse operatives to print carrier labels and dispatch notes at the point of picking. This eliminates labelling errors and reduces the overall time taken to dispatch an order, by removing the need to take the items back to a fixed position printer or pre-print the labels and match up them to the correct item. 

For more information on how Dexterity WMS could provide a solution for your business, contact Jim Southern on 01200 441977 or email sales@barcode-it.co.uk 

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

L'Oreal Warehouse - Migrates to Android mobile computers

L'Oreal have updated their outdated mobile devices in the warehouse to the latest Zebra Android technology.  they found the process simpler than expected and have gained unexpected benefits.

Many customer are having to re-think their hardware strategy, now that all the major device manufacturers have dropped the Windows OS in favour of Android OS.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Industrial - Windows CE mobile devices - The bitter end for Windows CE and Mobile

Manufacturing - Warehousing - Logistics  :  The End of Windows CE

Throughout manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, users have been using Windows CE and Mobile Computers to connect to ERP systems such as SAP, Navision, Epicor, etc.  These devices are often made by major manufacturers such as Zebra, Honeywell or Datalogic and will in the past have run mobile operating systems such as Windows CE ( 5 or 6 ) or Windows Mobile ( 5, 6 or 6.5).

However the make of the terminal may no longer be available as there has been a lot of manufacturer consolidation, meaning that a big manufacturer buys up smaller manufacturers.  This has left a lot of warehouse and logistics managers and some IT managers confused as to where to get service and support or even buy additional devices for their businesses.  But this is about to get MUCH worse!

But first lets think about the current devices in use today.  

They can be from a wide range of defunct manufacturers, taken over in the last five years by a few big boys.  The list below is not comprehensive, but shows most of the major suppliers over the last 10 years. Clienty

Symbol - Motorola - Psion - Telxon - LXE
Hand Held Products (HHP) - Intermec - PSC

All these are now owned by
Zebra - Honeywell and Datalogic. 

So what?  Many don't know or care who makes the mobile terminals they use in the factory or warehouse, so why is it important now?  Well it is important now because all three of these Manufacturers have declared that they will no longer support Windows products - ONLY Android.

The Death of Windows CE and Mobile

With little public knowledge, all major industrial terminal manufacturers have deleted Windows devices from their price books and roadmaps, meaning that ALL future Mobile Computers and Terminals will be Android.  And by future I really mean NOW!

This causes two major issues to become apparent for big businesses running big ERP:
  1. With only Android devices available - will the corporate policy allow them onto the business network?  Many don't!
  2. If Windows CE devices are no longer available, will the ERP software run on Android?
Both are difficult questions and need some careful planning and some fundamental re-thinking about how mobile computers and terminals talk to big ERP systems like SAP.

Even today many users of SAP - Microsoft NAV - Oracle - Dynamics - Sage, etc, use Client Software that is simple Terminal Emulation (TE) or Browser based (web linked). They are not on the whole supplying custom written Mobile device friendly client software and where they are its mostly written for a particular version of Windows CE or worse, Windows Mobile 6.5 (discontinued in 2010).

So now that Android is becoming the only game in town, there will be some dificult choices to be made when new or replacement Mobile devices are needed for the factory, warehouse or supply chain.

However there is some good news!  Software suppliers such as Wavelink have been working hard in the background to create products that will bridge the divide between Windows CE and Android. 
WaveLink Velocity replace old TE client software, such as Naurtech  

Wavelink Velocity will run on Windows CE and Windows Mobile and Android, so by replacing old TE (green screen terminal emulation) software on older Windows CE devices with Velocity, businesses can have an exact look and feel across Windows and Android mobile terminals.

This means businesses can choose the right device for their business process, with out worrying about future license and obsolescence issues.

Velocity offers support for all Types of terminal emulations:  SAP: Naurtech : CETerm: Termite - VT 100 : IBM AS/400 5250 : IBM 3270 : VT220

Velocity also supports Web based industrial browsers and can dramatically speed up the response on Web based browser ERP connectors.

For the full story on your choices using mobile devices within your ERP, talk to the experts at
Barcode-IT - 01200 441977 - sales@barcode-it.co.uk - www.barcode-it.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Barcode scanning in a warehouse - best practice and tips for performance.

Scanning barcodes in a warehouse is a lot more challenging than in many other areas of the business and here we look at some of the issues that affect, which barcode scanners to use and how to ensure that barcodes are read perfectly every time.

Barcodes come in a number of types, some are designed mostly for retail use, such as this EAN13 (GS1) barcode

Some are designed for Warehouse, Manufacturing and Logistics use, such as these GS1-128 codes used for pallet labels.
But in the warehouse, workers may have to scan a wide variety of barcodes, on products, on packaging, on racking and on pallets.  This can cause problems, because while most barcode scanners can scan most barcodes (with the exception of some 2D barcodes), the distance that the barcodes are being scanned from will affect the reading.

Barcode scanners are simple devices really and can't tell if its a small barcode close to or a big barcode further way. The way to think about barcode scanners is to pretend they are wearing glasses!
  • Most barcode scanners are wearing reading glasses, meaning they will be good at smallish barcodes, close to the worker, say about 6 inches to 18 inches, but can't read even big barcodes further away.
  • Some are wearing distance glasses, they will read big barcodes, far away, up to 20 feet or more depending on the size of the barcode, but wont read small barcodes close to.
  • Finally there are barcode scanners wearing varifocal glasses, which allow them to read small barcodes close to and still read big barcodes far away.
These last barcodes scanners, really called Near-Far scanners or Variable Distance scanners ( they don't really have glasses!) are often used in warehouses, especially if being used on fork trucks, where the driver can't get close to the rack or pallet, but needs to read small barcodes on paperwork or delivery notes.
Scanning Barcodes in a Freezer Cold Store

Some examples: 
Scanning Barcodes on small items or paperwork
Scanning Barcodes on packages or boxes

Scanning Barcodes on racking that might be 15 feet or more in the air

No matter how good the barcode scanner is, it wont read barcodes that are:
  • poorly printed
  • too small
  • behind shrink wrap
  • too far away
  • part covered up
  • defaced or damaged
 However a little care in the production of the permanent barcodes within the warehouse, for racking labels or floor markers, etc, can make life a lot easier. Remember, BIG is better when it comes to racking, hanging and floor barcodes.  And NO paper please, labels MUST be printed on plastic or similar resistant materials.  Paper labels adsorb water from the air and wrinkle.  Wrinkly barcode will not scan.
Large Plastic Barcode Racking Labels

Floor Location Barcodes

Hanging Barcode Aisle Markers

Barcode Scanners for the Warehouse

Warehouses are tough workplaces and the barcode scanners need to be tough too, most are but you need to be sure that your scanners are wearing the right glasses!!  Just like real glasses, better barcode scanners, particularly the Near/Far ( Varifocal) are always more expensive, so you need to look at the cost and understand that even though the barcode scanners look identical, the more expensive models will have better barcode scanning ability.

Spot the barcode!  Barcode covered by shrink wrap

Paper Label with poor quality barcode.

The barcode scanners may look exactly the same on the outside, but inside it has special optics that read barcode from near and far.  Plus many top end scanners have clever technology inside that tries to "reconstruct" damaged or obscured barcode, such as labels under shrink wrap.  They are not infallible, but your workers will be much happier and much more productive, if the barcodes scan first time every time.

Many a purchasing manager is fooled by identical barcode scanners, from the same manufacturer, having wildly different prices and slightly different part numbers.  Going for the cheapest or even the most expensive, can be disaster!

Warehouses need the right scanner(s) for the environment and the products being worked with.
Rugged Barcode scanners from Zebra - the range includes Standard, Long Range and Near/Far.  But they all look the same!

Best advice?  

  • Get an barcode expert to make sure your barcodes are OK and that the barcode scanners meet the operational needs of the business.
  • Test Test Test!  Check out possible barcode scanners and barcodes INSIDE your warehouse on the real locations to be used.
  • Think about how the worker will use the barcode scanner and what to do with damaged or unreadable barcodes.
  • Get samples of barcodes from suppliers, before accepting products, or you will need to re-label poor or too small barcodes.
For some professional advice, call the team at Barcode-IT.  We advise some of the biggest businesses in the UK on barcodes, scanners and every aspect of the warehouse IT infrastructure.

01200 441977 - www.barcode-it.co.uk