Rugged printers; not as ‘dumb’ as you think

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When thermal printers became the mainstream devices for printing barcodes, the technology effectively stood still for a while as companies rushed to invest in other, more interactive, hardware like smartphones and tablets.

New printers just didn’t seem as sexy as the smart new devices, even though they were performing similar mission critical operations.

But a couple of things happened that brought these ‘edge of network’ machines in from the cold.

Firstly, mobile printers became more prevalent to match the increased use of handheld computers in warehouses. Secondly, a seismic change in vendor consolidation saw companies like Zebra effectively bringing mobile device and printer platforms together.

In recent years, mobile device management (MDM) has become a recognised enterprise tool, although less so for printers as traditional devices tended to only receive communication in data form from the host application rather than process information and connect to hosts. 

But printer manufacturers, primarily led by Zebra, realised that printers can also provide meaningful information in return and not just be ‘dumb’ edge of network devices. Their role has since been elevated on a par with mobile computers. Today’s rugged thermal printers are smarter and more connected than ever before, and can deliver information resulting in cost savings and increased workflow efficiencies.

But not every business has caught up, some still believe printers are dumb, difficult to manage, and a pain to configure and deploy and it’s this sort of thinking that needs to change as printers that only focus on speeds and feeds are no longer enough. Today’s thermal printers need to be:

  • Mobile device compatible; able to interact with and be managed by any mobile device anywhere
  • Connected; every device and user are linked to each other, the cloud and the IIoT.
  • Intelligent; packed with productivity tools to empower enterprises and workers.

Many may ask why they need to consider replacing their perfectly good printers and my answer would be that a human physically checking and troubleshooting printers is not only time consuming but also costly. If a device is not being managed centrally it’s unlikely it’s being managed properly.

Better visibility tools in the devices and supporting vendor software mean that organisations now have unprecedented access to the metrics of their fleets of mobile devices and printers enabling them to manage proactively rather than reactively. 

Why should companies care about the importance of this? Because they’re probably printing from all types of mobile devices, running on all types of operating systems and applications. They need to make it easy for users to pair with the right printer in a split second, irrespective of the device or operating system. They also need to support users reloading ribbons or trying to identify why a printer has gone down. 

Today’s printers are far from dumb, they can give you this sort of information in real time and help improve your operational uptime. The emphasis now is on pre-empting issues, fixing them before they have a chance to go wrong. 

Managed print services (MPS) have long been used in front offices to improve productivity and balance costs. Rugged versions like we offer are now being replicated in warehouses and back offices across the country to do just this kind of predictive and preventative maintenance. 

Take a look at how far rugged printers and service level agreements have come. It could prove a game-changer for your operation.

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 15 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…

https://renovotec.com

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