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


Monday, 7 August 2017

Web Label Printing Portal - Now Open!

We have now opened a Web Printing Portal that allows NiceLabel customers to experience the power of Web Label Printing.  Here you will see a real "live" web form, that acts as the the entry point to a number of live label printing applications, hosted on our NiceLabel LMS server.



This portal is exactly what your remote users or remote suppliers would see and use to print labels. Everything is held on your own secure server with label designs, templates and the databases all stored on your secure central server.  A full range of administration tools allows the manager to create remote users, allocate Forms and labels to the user and control every aspect of the label printing.  All makes or models of label printer are supported, so suppliers with totally different makes, such as Zebra, Sato,Honeywell, Intermec, Citizen, TEC, etc, will all produce the exact same label.

But!  All label printing is local to the user, using his or her local label printer to produce labels. While the printed data is tightly controlled and stored on the central server, with a full audit trail is created

Do you want to try it?  Log in below:

User = dash
Password = barcode

Follow the on screen instructions and once connected, you will see a variety of label printing links each leading through to a different label printing application.  Everything you see is included and was created with PowerForms and Designer Pro.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

SAP Mobile Apps - a better way to get mobile with SAP

SAP has had a number of methods to allow workers to connect and use the ERP while working in a mobile environment.

SAP provide mobile tools such as ITS Mobile (Internet Transaction Server), SMP (SAP Mobile Platform) and FIORI.  But many workers find the SAP interfaces cluttered or too dificult to interact with.

Mobile users and workers often have very limited exposure to the normal SAP interface and want simplified access to the transactions they they need every day. Often only a few transactions are used and the fast pace of work-flow means that workers have only seconds between tasks.

Now a suite of SAP applications have been developed with Apps for SAP WM, EWM, PP, SD, QM, MM/IM and ENG. STORES, that focus on the user and the task.  These Apps have been designed to minimise what the user sees and where possible scan barcodes or use drop downs for fast accurate data entry.


SAP Mobile Applications
here we show the standard SAP form and the compact Mobile screen that the mobile worker sees. To SAP the input is the same, so there is no lack of function, just very fast efficient Mobile work-flow.
Mobile workers report that the simplified interface is less prone to mistakes, as the data required is minimised.  Worker frustration levels are also solved as they can concentrate on the task rather than on meeting the input requirements of a complex ERP data system.

A huge range of mobile devices are supported, so the right mobile computer or terminal can be chosen to suit the business need.  From ultra rugged for the warehouse or manufacturing area, to sales and distribution workers, there is a mobile device for all areas of the business. All with a direct connection to your SAP system.  Zebra/Motorola - Datalogic - Honeywell are all supported with a choice of Windows Android or Apple IOS.

These Apps will work within the four walls using Wifi or anywhere that your mobile workers need to go, all with fast and efficient access to the SAP application they need.

Your workers are used to Smart Phones in everyday life and these new SAP Apps allows them to work with SAP in a very familiar way, using barcodes or 2D barcodes to increase performance and accuracy. This enhances their User eXperience (UX) with SAP and speeds work flow.

For more details on how you can revolutionise your SAP driven business, talk to an expert in mobile computer solutions at Barcode-IT.  Contact the team on 01200 441977 - sales@barcode-it.co.uk


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Barcode Label Printing from SAP with NiceLabel Enterprise

Printing barcode labels from within SAP is not new, its been going on since I started in this business, which is a very long time ago.

But what has changed is the programming effort that is needed on the SAP side to generate quality barcode labels automatically fro SAP.

I the good (or bad) old days, some poor devil read the coding manual for the label printer of choice, Zebra, Printronix, Intermec, etc and wrote a custom SAP ABAP application to pull the data from the SAP database and then merge it with the hand crafted label design, hard coded from the printer language manual.  It took weeks!  In fact just getting the label design to work perfectly made many a good programmer a little greyer.

But finally SAP pumped out a finely made label and all was well, printers could be installed and labels easily produced.  Until...   Some idiot user or customer or marketing person wanted a change to the label design.  It could have been very minor or it could be a total label rewrite.  Whatever, its a very BIG deal, more or less a full rewrite as it was often easier to start again than try and alter (someone else's) code.

Today life is much easier and SAP Certified Business Connectors are available to allow printers like Zebra and Printronix to accept label information directly from SAP.

But, and its a big but, how easy is it to adapt a pre-defined SAP label ( one designed to support a standard SAP transaction, like a picking label or a warehouse put away label ), to meet the needs of a customer product label or a particular type of EAN 128 pallet label.

Enter NiceLabel and their SAP certified label print process.

Using the NiceLabel enterprise labelling platform, labels are designed using a easy to use Windows application ( NiceLabel Designer Pro ). This is made easy because text, barcode and other label elements can be simply placed on the label, moved around and connected to SAP standard variables, imported by NiceLabel into the designer.  So for example, a part number from SAP can be created as any type of barcode and placed on the label at any location, in any orientation.  Plus for complex barcodes, like those found in EAN 128 pallet labels, where the barcode is made up of an number of data items concatenated together.
NiceLabel does all the hard work of building the complex barcode using the standard data from within SAP.  And for a future proof operation, NiceLabel will build and print 2D barcodes like QR or DataMatrix, soon to be widely used by the Pharma industry ( see this Article )

If you would like to know more about SAP barcode labelling using NiceLabel we are happy to offer demonstrations.

Call 01200 441977 and ask for Jonathan Pressley who will discuss your requirement and offer you a demonstration.  Sales @ Barcode-it.co.uk