By Richard Hughes-Rowlands, regional product manager for printer software and industrial print, Zebra Technologies.
The Enterprise Edge: Choosing the right printing solution for an Industrial Environment
Rising expectations from customers are fueling an on-demand economy and to survive, organisations need to adopt, adapt, and drive digital innovation. Digitisation of the warehouse or production floor is not a new phenomenon, but it largely remains today at the core of an enterprise, with solutions such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or WMS (Warehouse Management Systems).
The trend of digital innovation has now shifted to ‘The Enterprise Edge’; the touch points of an organisation and where businesses, their people and products, meet the customers they serve. The environment where the work gets done. Often, this is the same place where label printers are used. That’s why at Zebra Technologies we have created Print DNA, which is a central component in providing organisations with the intelligence they need when every asset and front line worker are visible, connected and optimally utilised. The overall benefit is to help those on the business deliver a performance edge.
Zebra’s Print DNA is powered by Link-OS, Zebra’s proprietary and robust printer operating system. Zebra’s Print DNA is the application platform that offers a broad series of tools that make life easier for everyone who touches your Zebra Link-OS printers, from workers and managers to IT staff and developers.
Zebra’s Print DNA can empower and enable organisations by providing control and visibility of their printers via four main software tools categories:
- Productivity tools: Reach new levels of productivity with innovations that streamline tasks and workflows, optimise device performance and solve tomorrow’s printing problems today.
- Management tools: Minimise IT effort and maximise IT control with Print DNA management tools – an easy way to add and manage any number of printers, from anywhere in the world. Zebra’s Print Secure tool is a core component providing the ability to secure connections, block unwanted access and ensure an organisation’s data and infrastructure are protected.
- Visibility tools: Increase the value of Zebra Link-OS networked printers with visibility tools that provide indispensable, real-time insight into printer health, usage and performance, regardless of if there is an existing mobile device management solution in place. This will ultimately help drive uptime and ROI to a new high, and TCO to a new low.
- Development tools: With faster, easier and smarter integration of Zebra printers with an organisation’s devices and applications, and integrated support for multiple operating systems that includes Android and iOS, Zebra printing solutions are up and running in less time, with less cost.
Giving your business its performance edge with the right printer
Consequently, Print DNA gives organisations the control and visibility needed to drive digital innovation across their fleets of printers. Whether it’s from warehouses to production floors to packing lines, printer hardware remains a core part of the enterprise space. In different industrial environments, the requirements can vary. Here are some guidelines for choosing a suitable printer.
Firstly, start with the software. With the shift of digital innovation to ‘The Enterprise Edge’ printers must be easy to manage remotely, especially with large multi-site fleets. It is not uncommon for industrial printers to function at full performance for five to seven years, so a connected print fleet can help maximise productivity, whilst keeping the IT costs down over time. Zebra’s Operational Visibility Service (OVS) which is part of Zebra DNA’s Visibility Tools, provide detailed insights into the status, health, and use of every printing device on a given network. This enables IT departments to have a bird’s eye view over its printers, and proactively manage and configure them.
Secondly, understand exactly where labels are being printed within an organisation. Some industrial environments can be challenging. Businesses often need to print on the manufacturing plant floor or in the warehouse. This inevitably can lead to bumps and knocks on the printing devices. Industrial-class printers are more rugged and built to withstand dirt, humidity, and even certain chemicals, making them perfectly suited to work in these hardy environments.
Thirdly, quantify daily print labelling requirements and the type of labels required. Some enterprises handle a high print volume, resulting in virtually non-stop printing every day. Other companies may need to print extremely small labels – for example, those used in chip manufacturing. Specific industrial printers can produce high-resolution labels with precise registration at a high frequency and can work for long stretches of time. In some cases, industrial printers are also used to imprint information on specialised labels, so they can be used for long periods of time. The selection of labels that suit various business needs is also paramount. It’s vital for businesses to understand the importance of using fully tested and certified, quality materials that can contribute to a smooth printing experience.
By producing durable industrial labels, printers can help introduce a sense of order into massive, chaotic, industrial business environments. These labels account for all products as they progress through the different stages in a manufacturing facility, up until they arrive at their eventual destination.
A visible journey for blueberries
As production size increases, many global enterprises are seeking new ways to track and trace their products more accurately and easily. Traceability is not an unfamiliar concept in the food and beverage industry, as many regulatory bodies globally require companies put a robust traceability system in place in the event of a recall – the businesses need to know which batch of products must be brought back and where they are in the supply chain. In recent years, this practice has also spread to other industries, such as those dealing with foods, chemical products, pharmaceutical drugs, and human specimens for clinical use.
In a related case study, the Carolina Blueberry Association was looking for a robust traceability system for its 24 growers. In the past, farms had been taping paper labels on palettes or handwriting lot numbers in spiral notebooks – a time-consuming and formidable task. As harvest was approaching, the Association sought a modern traceability solution – Zebra’s industrial printers.
Easy to configure and use, and delivering high-quality printing and throughput, the printers allowed the farmers to flexibly change labelling based on the size of the product they were packaging. Some ran a single line while others ran several. As a result, the farms generated a digital record of their operations, helping them track production and shipments. With accurate labelling and records, they were also able to track every batch of their produce, reduce the impact of a recall, and quickly remove the affected products from the supply chain.
Previously, this was a relatively taxing and cumbersome task. Today, thanks to cutting-edge technology innovations, companies can make product tracking more manageable. The solution includes a printer that prints barcode or encoded RFID labels; a mobile computer that captures barcode or RFID data and relays it to the backend systems; and a wireless infrastructure that provisions connectivity between the devices and the backend systems.