Adding speed and traceability to the FMCG supply chain

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Bar code is tried and tested technologythe no-brainer choice for identifying items in the supply chain. Yes, it does have short comings in that applying it means that everything has to be in line of sight because light is used to capture and read the bar code. But as goods are handled either by humans or machines, the goods are always visible, as are their labelslabelling standards mean that it is virtually impossible to not see the label and its bar code. This means that some form of scanner is usedthe range of available technology is broadeither by an operator wielding a hand-held device or by a machine-mounted or fixed-position scanner.

Beyond the bar code is RFID (radio frequency identification) where a chip within a tag carries information and is read using radio waves. This is a relatively robust data carrying technology and is seen by some as a successor to bar code but in reality it is a complementary technology. It does much the same thing as far as identification goes, but it does offer the opportunity to carry more datahowever there is an argument for not carrying data in a tag but to keep it secure within a database. But, we could go on forever about what and not to do with RFID tags and the wise would do well to talk to their supply chain software vendors to find out if RFID is something they can integrate with their existing systems.

So lets get back to the hardware and take a look at a few examples of the different kinds of technologies available.

Scanners for all reasons
Bar code scanners are very sophisticated devices these days. Functionality and reliability is extremely important but designergonomics in particularis right up there at the top of the requirements list too. And in response to user requirements it seems to me that the majority of scanner vendors have left nothing to chance in presenting excellent value products.

Metrologics VoyagerBT is a recent example of a Bluetooth-enabled hand held scanner. I saw one at a show and was impressed with its overall design, particularly its shape and balance, plus it offers Bluetooth as a communications interface. Bluetooth is becoming important for connectivity with so many other products taking it on board including printers, hand held computers, etc.

Datalogics scanner design and manufacturing divisions are prolific. Weve seen the Gryphon, Heron and FireScan all hitting the market of late. These are less radical in their form factors than the VoyagerBT, but are nevertheless fully functional products.

Hand Held Products draws on the know-how of its Welch Allyn roots for bar code scanning innovation. Its IMAGETEAM series goes right across the range from linear to 2D readingwhich utilises its class-leading imaging technology that is now threatening laser-based devices for functionality and future-proofing.

Symbol Technologies is notable for its technology. Symbol is also responsible for taking a lead in bringing superb ergonomic design to the AIDC market and is the first company to have delivered a boutique quality product nine years ago with its LS4000 for which it won a Silver award in the 1996 Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), co-sponsored by BusinessWeek and the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

Intermec offers good scanning products tooits ScanPlus Vista and Sabre range are notable. They look like they will do exactly what they are designed to do and this encourages confidence in the equipment and you just want to pick the devices up and scan with them.

 

Computing in the hand
Portable computing devices are the champions in the productivity tools world and their evolution over the last decade has been rapid. No longer confined to simple picking operations, hand helds are being deployed usefully higher up the chain of operational command allowing managers to make decisions more quickly and with greater confidence.

The products shown here are just a snap shot of what you can buy today. Whether its a PDA, industrial hand held or lightweight data collection terminal there is sure to be a tool to fit the job.

Belgravium
Milan 8500 series industrial hand held with integrated imager
Specs
- Size: 245.3 x 87.6 x 42.3 mm at display, 69 x 38 cm at grip
- Weight: 8500 terminal-Batch: 558 gm, WLAN: 573 gm, WPAN: 567 gm, WLAN/WPAN: 576 gm; 8550 terminal-Batch: 663 gm, WLAN: 677.5 gm
- Keyboard: three backlit keyboard options: 35-key numeric-shifted alpha, 43-key alpha-shifted numeric, and 56-key full alpha/numeric.
- Screen: 1/4 VGA (240 x 320 portrait mode) colour TFT LCD or monochrome display with industrial-grade touch screen
- Memory: 64 Mb RAM x 32 Mb non-volatile Flash
- CPU & OS: Microsoft Pocket PC Professional Edition, Intel X-Scale PXA255 400 MHz
Interfaces and comms: I/O Ports: Industrial-grade mechanical connector supports communicationsUSB at 12 Mbps, serial RS-232 up to 115 kbps, integrated IrDA port. Wireless options: WLAN: IEEE 802.11b DSSS WLAN radio, WWAN (8500 only): GSM/GPRS Tri-band (900, 1800, 1900 MHz) radio with accessible SIM card interface, WPAN: Bluetooth radio

Datalogic
Kyman industrial hand held palm terminal with integrated laser scanner
Specs
- Size: 227 mm H x 83 mm W x 60 mm D
- Weight: 480 g with battery and WLAN PC card
- Keyboard: 41-key full alphanumeric or numeric silicon rubber keypad
- Screen: Graphic high-contrast LCD with 160 x 240 pixel resolution and LED backlight feature; keyboard controlled contrast; screen format: 20 char. x 20 lines with default font
- Memory: System RAM 8 Mb, system Flash memory 8 Mb
- CPU & OS: 32-bit Amd 486 CPU, up to 32 MHz; Datalight ROM-DOS 7.10, Datalogic proprietary BIOS
Interfaces and comms: IrDA: bi-directional communication port with mobile printers compatibility Electrical integrated 7-pin RS232 with data rate up to 115.2 kbps, including fast in-line battery charger, 1 PCMCIA type II, WLAN, IEEE 802.11b or RadioReady option

Hand Held Products
Dolphin 7900 series rugged PDA type with imaging
Specs
- Size: 185 x 89 x 43 mm max, 81 x 38 mm at grip
- Weight: Batch: 482 gm; WLAN: 490 gm, WPAN: 484 gm, WLAN/WPAN: 493 gm
- Keyboard: two backlit keyboard options: 25-key numeric-shifted alpha, 36-key alpha-shifted numeric
- Screen: 3.8-in 1/4 VGA (240 x 320 portrait mode) colour TFT LCD display with industrial-grade touch screen
- Memory: 64 Mb RAM x 64 Mb non-volatile synchronous Flash standard; 128 Mb RAM high memory optional
- CPU & OS: Intel X-Scale PXA255 400 MHz, Windows Mobile 2003 Software for Pocket PCs - Professional Edition
- Interfaces and comms: Industrial-grade mechanical connector supports communications-USB at 12 Mbps, serial RS-232 up to 115 kbps- and charging via cradles or AC adapter cables, IrDA port-Integrated, Speaker-Integrated, Microphone-Integrated, Headset jack, Wireless Radio Options: WLAN: IEEE 802.11b DSSS Authentication Methodologies: LEAP, MD5, TLS, TTLS, and PEAP, WWAN : GSM/GPRS Tri-band (900, 1800, 1900 MHz) or (850, 1800, 1900 MHz) radio with accessible SIM card interface, WPAN: Bluetooth radio

Intermec
CK1 industrial hand held with choice of integrated bar code scanner or linear imager
Specs
- Size: 190 mm x 35 mm x 73 mm
- Weight: 218 g including battery
- Keyboard: 29 hard top keys including single Enter/Scan button, Numeric keys, with shift alpha, 4 navigation keys and 4 function keys
- Screen: Monochrome, anti-glare LCD display capable of configurable graphics and supporting up to 16 lines by 20 characters (160 x 160 pixels) with auto-off EL backlighting and scratch resistance surface
- Memory: Memory: 16 Mb DRAM, non-volatile Flash memory: 9 Mb
- CPU & OS: 67 MHz ARM 7 Processor, operating system: embedded Linux, EsFia uCLinux Version 2.4
- Interfaces and comms: TCP/IP over PPP using the following transports: RS232 direct single dock, USB multi dock or RS232 modem, TCP/IP over PPP GPRS or tethered GPRS mobile phone, Z-Modem communication protocols using either RS232 direct single dock, USB multi dock or RS232 modem

Nordic ID
RF650 wireless industrial hand held, with options for bar code and RFID readers
Specs
- Size: 173 x 22 (41) x 54 (79) mm
- Weight: including batteries: 257 gm with bar code scanner, 237 gm without bar code scanner
- Keyboard: 22 silicone rubber keys
- Screen: 8 x 20 characters with backlight
- Memory: N/Athin client
- CPU & OS: Hitachi 3337, Nordic ID thin client OS
- Interfaces: RS232: 19200, N, 8, 1 (CTS/RTS) connectors; modular 6-pin RJ11 for RS232; DC-jack for power supply

Psion Teklogix
WORKABOUT PRO Windows CE.NET based industrial hand held computer; colour screen version available, with integrated Bluetooth connectivity
Specs
- Size: 222 mm x 76 mm at grip area tapering to 92 mm at display area, : 31 mm at grip area tapering to 42 mm at display area.
- Weight: 454 gm with battery; add 75 gm with scanner expansion module and 19 gm with 802.11b CF card radio
- Keyboard: alphanumeric, backlit, high durability hard-capped keys
- Screen: Monochrome touch screen display 8.9 cm diagonal, 1/4 VGA, 240 x 320 transflective portrait mode LCD, backlight on/off control, adjustable contrast, sunlight readable (for outdoor use), high reliability EL backlight; colour touch screen display 8.9 cm diagonal, 1/4 VGA, 240 x 320 transflective portrait mode TFT, 16-bit colour, adjustable backlight, sunlight readable (for outdoor use), high reliability LED backlight; touchscreen (standard), passive stylus or finger operation, signature capture
- Memory: WORKABOUT PRO M 64 Mb Flash, 64 Mb RAM; WORKABOUT PRO C 64 Mb Flash, 128 Mb RAM
- CPU & OS: 400 MHz Intel Xscale PXA255, Microsoft Windows CE .NET 4.2
- Interfaces and comms: One SD/MMC memory card slotuser accessible, 100 pin high-speed expansion connector, supports serial, USB, PCMCIA Type II Compact Flash, Type II PCMCIA slotfield upgradeable, USB 1.1 Host port on base for tethered USB devices (printers, etc), low insertion force docking station port with: USB 1.1 device port, USB 1.1 host port, power; optional expansion modules for: 802.11b (via Compact Flash), GSM/GPRS (via expansion interface), CDMA/1xRTT (via expansion interface) (future project), integrated Bluetooth class II, ver 1.1, ver 1.1, 5m or 16.4 ft range standard on WORKABOUT PRO C, Note: WAN, 802.11b, and Bluetooth are available simultaneously on C

Symbol Technologies
MC50 enterprise digital assistant optimized for mobile business applications with imaging/scanning
Specs
- Size: NAV 121 mm x 75 mm x 24 mm; 2D imager: 121 mm x 75 mm x 29 mm; CCD camera: 121 mm x 75 mm x 28 mm; Qwerty: 136 mm x 75 mm x 24 mm; 2D Imager: 136 mm x 75 mm x 29 mm; CCD camera: 136 mm x 75 mm x 28 mm
- Weight (including standard battery): NAV 1D: 182 gm, QWERTY 1D: 192 gm
- Keyboard: NAV: 4 application keys and 5-way navigation key, QWERTY: 37-key
- Screen: Display: Transflective colour TFT-LCD, 65 k colours, 240 x 320 (QVGA size); touch panel: glass analogue resistive touch; LED backlight
- Memory: 64 Mb RAM, 64 Mb ROM
- CPU & OS: Intel XScale 520 Mhz processor, Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
- Interfaces and comms: RS-232, USB 1.1; WLAN: IEEE 802.11b; Integrated VoIP ready (P2P, PBX, PTT)

Unitech
PA950 rugged PDA with colour screen and bar code scanning, supports VoIP applications
Specs
- Size: 185 mm x 87.6 mm x 25 mm
- Weight: 350g with battery pack
- Keyboard: 19 hard-key backlit numeric keypad with navigation-/cursor-, ESC-, ENT-, FUNC- and Backspace key, supports alpha mode, 2 side buttons for scanner trigger
- Screen: 240 x 320 reflective TFT backlit colour LCD touch screen, supports 65,000 colours
- Memory: RAM 64 Mb, flashROM 32 Mb
- CPU & OS: Intel Xscale 400 Mhz Processor, Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC
- Interfaces and comms: RS232C: Full duplex asynchronous communication, USB: 1.0, Infrared: IrDA 1.2 (SIR) compliant, both slots accept memory-, modem-, WLAN- and WWAN cards or can be used for installation of a GPS modem, snap on reader etc, 1 CF Slot (Type II), 1 SD memory slot

Make use of your webportal
The hardware profiled in this article is by no means exhaustive. Improvements and new developments are released regularly. You can find out more about many of the companies featured above by using the Manufacturing&Logistics IT brochure request system.

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