Wednesday, 27 November 2019

An Android cautionary tale for Industrial mobile devices.

At Barcode-IT we have embraced and love Android powered industrial and warehouse mobile computers. We have learned how best to use them and how to configure them for best customer performance.

However recently we have come across an issue that we did not anticipate and which caused our customer serious problems.

We work with this customer to choose and configure some Zebra Mobile computers, which were running an SAP S/4 Hana mobile client.  The customer was very happy and everything worked well. 

Unfortunately as is the case sometimes, for the 2nd round of supply, the customer purchasing dept. opted to buy additional devices from another supplier, who specialists in internet sales and does not offer any advice or end user assistance, (you know who I mean!).  But hey what could go wrong? They had the exact model part number that we had supplied previously and so chose the cheaper supplier.  They had our config for the mobile devices and loaded the SAP client, but immediately ran into problems, the SAP client did not work as expected, the screen did not look the same and some barcodes had missing characters at the end, or did not automatically move to the next field.

The customer complained to the SAP supplier, who quite rightly said that the same client was running on all the devices.  Eventually after trying and failing to get assistance from the internet supplier, with tail firmly between legs, they turned back to Barcode-IT to ask why our devices worked but the same device from the other supplier did not.

After agreeing a fee to examine this problem (which was probably more that the saving made buying from the big internet supplier ) our technicians found the problem.  The Android version was a higher revision on the new devices!  Same part number, identical config, but some subtle difference in the underlying OS was changing the way that the SAP client interacted with the mobile device.

It was not the SAP software suppliers fault, his SAP client could be made to work on either device, but with slightly different configs, for how the screen was displayed and how the barcode scanner sent data to the software. We gave the customer two options, run the devices with two different configs ( a potential nightmare for the future ) or downgrade the new device to the original version of Android, which is fortunately possible, thanks to Zebra's Enterprise grade products.

Remember, Android is a mobile phone operating system underneath and is updated much more often than an Enterprise industrial mobile device.

Two big points to take from this tale.
  1. Use a supplier who understands your system and is certified by the manufacturer to manage and configure your industrial mobile devices. Not a box shifted!
  2. Just because its a later version of Android does not mean its better for your business.  There may be no advantage at all. Sometimes it's "better the devil you know!"
At Barcode-IT we stage all the devices before delivery, ensure the Android is the same version as that tested in the field and config the devices to be ready to work immediately.  Something that all good suppliers should do.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Create Barcode Labels Fast! Do's and Don'ts

Barcode Label Printing - Retail - Industrial and Warehouse
Tips and Best Practice

Barcode label printing can seem a very complex process, with labelling standards, barcode size and quality to worry about, and on top of that the label printer, label material and barcode print quality.

While this whole process may seem daunting, actually a few simple rules govern the use and printing of barcode labels and a professional specialist business should be able to guide you to the right solution.
Complex barcode label
So the real advise is, Use a Professional Supplier to buy the whole solution.  Avoid buying the separate items, Software, Printers, Labels, Ribbons for different suppliers.

The reason for this thinking is that without understanding the whole process of what you need barcode labels for, what your business is and what the labels are used for, it's impossible to specify the right combination of products.

 Do's and Don'ts -  Barcode label printing

  • Do speak to the supplier about the whole project, explaining what the barcodes are for, how the labels will be used and what industry your business serves.  There may be strict rules about the use of some barcode labels. Some customers will fine you if you get it wrong!
  • Do find out how many labels per day you will print, as this will affect what model of label printer you should buy. Large volumes of labels need industrial, faster, bigger printers.
  • Do use your ERP to print labels directly, if the ERP supports barcode label printing, many such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and Sage will print barcode labels directly.
  • Do make it easy for workers to print labels by using "smart" labelling software that does all the work for them.
  • Do buy a support contract for the software and the label printers. Production stops when you can't print labels.

  • Don't make assumptions about the labels, experts will explain about short life DT (direct thermal) labels and long life TT (thermal transfer) labels and when to use each.
  • Don't make a different label design for each of your products, use software that will connect to a database and pull variable data directly from your ERP or data system.
  • Don't buy the cheapest Barcode Label Software and expect it to print complex labels with variable elements, such as GS1 128 - EAN 13 - SSCC - any 2D barcodes or for pharma or medical applications.
  • Don't buy your labelling software from the cheapest supplier, you will almost certainly need help and training to get the best out of your system

So if you are ready to implement a sophisticated barcode label printing solution, just pickup the phone and call the professionals at Barcode-IT on 01200 441977, or send us an email to sales@barcode-it.co.uk.