Best Solutions for Healthcare Inventory Tracking: Zebra’s Healthcare-Grade Technologies

The last thing doctors and nurses want to encounter during patient care is a shortage of critical supplies and inventory. This is one of the reasons why effective inventory and supply chain management are so important in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

It can be difficult to set up optimal inventory and supply chain processes. There are thousands of supplies to manage across many different departments and even between multiple buildings on a medical campus. Without an automated and accurate way to do it all, it can be impossible to accurately account for inventory, track usage rates, locate items, and replenish them before a shortage occurs. You can easily end up with too much or too little inventory.

Thankfully, automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technologies are continuously evolving to keep up with healthcare needs, and building an effective inventory and asset tracking system is easier than ever before.

Most hospitals already use AIDC solutions such as barcode scanners to track inventory and assets. But one of the challenges is having the right form factors for each scanning need, especially when you consider the need for durability, battery power, and germ-resistance to withstand healthcare environments and demands.

This is why healthcare-grade barcode scanners, such as Zebra’s DS8100-HC and DS4308-HC scanners, are an ideal choice for automating inventory processes. They’re purpose-built for healthcare with a first-of-its kind housing that protects against the spread of bacteria, is resistant to harsh healthcare disinfectants, and provides extended battery power, hot-swappable batteries, and user-selectable feedback modes for around-the-clock use.

But scanning also comes in more compact sizes than a traditional barcode scanner, such as Zebra’s Symbol CS4070-HC Companion Scanner. It’s a pocket-sized barcode scanner that provides 1D/2D medical barcode scanning and pairs with any Bluetooth-enabled computer, workstation on wheels, tablet, or smartphone-style mobile computers, such as Zebra’s TC52-HC.

Speaking of the TC52-HC mobile computer, you can also scan barcodes with this device, since it includes a built-in advanced barcode scanner far beyond the capabilities of a typical smartphone device. You can scan 1D/2D barcodes seamlessly while also running all the healthcare and inventory apps you need and accessing secure voice and text communications. The TC52-HC is also specially manufactured with healthcare-grade durability and a disinfectant-ready design.

However, any barcode scanning system ultimately begins with barcode labels, so you can label and then track all your supplies and inventory. To produce labels, you need access to a barcode printer, and this is another area where recent innovations are helping the cause.

Barcode label printers are now available in mobile models that allow labels to be printed on the spot, in virtually any location. And Zebra has created healthcare-grade mobile printers with its ZQ600 devices. Designed specifically for healthcare, they connect via lightning-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless, and they include a large color display and advanced battery technology for full-shift power. They’re also built with disinfectant-ready plastics, and they’re easy to manage remotely with Zebra’s device management tools.

By combining mobile barcode label printers with your preferred barcode scanning devices, you can quickly label and track healthcare supplies and inventories with a push of a button and the pull of scanner trigger. At Informs, our AIDC experts can also provide the software applications to process your captured data and connect it to your healthcare inventory systems. We can help you design, deploy, and integrate a complete healthcare inventory solution that will put an end to your supplies and inventory headaches.

To learn more and get started with better healthcare inventory management, contact Informs now for free advice and recommendations.

Critical Reminder about Windows Embedded Mobile Systems

Time is running out on the Windows Embedded mobile operating system, and if you still haven’t developed your migration plan, now is the time to get started.

All Microsoft support has ended for most versions of Windows Embedded, and here are the final critical dates you need to keep in mind:

July 9, 2019 – Mainstream support ends for Windows Embedded Handheld 8.1, with no extended support option available from Microsoft.

January 13, 2020 – Extended support ends for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.

April 13, 2021 – Extended support ends for Windows Embedded Compact 7.

If you’re running any other version of Windows Embedded, your Microsoft support options have already expired. If you’re running one of the three versions mentioned above and you don’t have an extended support contract with your mobile device manufacturer, you’ll no longer receive OS updates or security patches.

Whether your OS support has already ended or is ending in the coming months, you’ll need to migrate to a new OS. Most companies are switching to Android due to Microsoft’s waning commitment to the enterprise market and a lack of cross-grades between legacy versions of Windows Embedded and Windows 10 IoT.

Manufacturers are doing the same in huge numbers. In fact, only 4% of today’s enterprise mobile computers are manufactured with Windows 10 IoT.

Android has become the new enterprise mobile OS of choice due to its open and customizable platform, easy-to-use touch interface, and over-the-air updates for simpler application of security patches.

Android has also become a fully enterprise-ready and highly secure OS thanks to several innovations from Zebra Technologies, who has worked with Google in recent years to develop well over 20 new Android enterprise mobile computers.

Zebra’s devices deliver all the benefits of simplified Android touch computing and the latest barcode scanning, mobile computing power and memory, and extended battery life. But they also provide enhanced enterprise security features, including the ability to control each device, app, user access, and connection with Zebra’s Mobility Extensions (Mx).

Zebra also provides 10 years of guaranteed Android security and OS updates through its LifeGuard™ for Android program. This adds 5 more years of extended support to Google’s standard 5-year coverage, ensuring that you’ll be covered for the life of your device.

If you haven’t already put together your OS migration plan, we strongly recommend that you get started as soon as possible. Our mobility experts at Informs can help you through the process—from defining your requirements and budget to choosing your new mobile devices, redeveloping your apps and databases, and then testing and deploying your solution.

When upgrading to new devices to run your new OS and updated apps, we also recommend giving Zebra your highest consideration. Zebra offers an array of Android workforce mobility solutions, including the groundbreaking TC8000 touch mobile computer, TC77 touch computers, L10 Series rugged tablets, and the brand new MC9300 Android touch handheld mobile computer.

These and all of Zebra’s mobile computing devices offer a rugged, reliable, and seamless way to migrate to the Android OS while boosting your enterprise productivity and efficiency by streamlining and optimizing your mobile workflows.

To learn more, request a free consultation, and find the best OS migration options for your business, contact our team at Informs right now.

 

RFID 101: A Quick Q&A Introduction

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has rapidly gained momentum as a real-time tracking and locating technology for thousands of businesses worldwide. In this article, we take a look at RFID: what it is, what advantages it offers over barcoding, where it can be used, and how to determine if it’s a technology your company should consider.

What is RFID?
RFID stands for radio frequency identification. RFID uses radio waves, much like Wi-Fi does, to communicate between an RFID reader and an electronic tag, which is applied to an object. Each tag contains a wireless transmitter and is encoded with a unique identifier, which is tied to a database and used to identify the object and pinpoint its location to within a few feet.

When they come within range of the reader, tags are read wirelessly and automatically, even while they’re moving. The range of each reader is usually 5 to 10 feet, depending on your environment and your RFID tag types. But ranges can be adjusted and customized for your unique application needs.

RFID readers are usually handheld or mobile readers, or fixed readers installed at doorways or other strategic locations. Zebra is the top RFID hardware provider worldwide and provides solutions including readers, tag printers, and RFID antennas.

What are the advantages of RFID versus barcoding?
Unlike a barcode, you don’t need to line up a scanner to read an RFID tag. Tags are read wirelessly and remotely, even if they’re not physically visible or accessible. They’re readable as long as they’re within your reader’s radio range. You can read multiple tags at a time, so you can identify, track, and locate an entire room’s worth of inventory without manual, item-by-item scanning.

You can also use RFID for real-time tracking of assets as they move through processes or through different areas of a building, especially if you’re using fixed RFID readers at entryways or in aisles.

Where can RFID be used?
RFID can be used in any application where you need to identify, locate, and track products, assets, or shipments. It’s often used in warehouses, distribution centers, and retail to automate inventory and eliminate manual barcode scanning and cycle counts.

RFID is also commonly used in manufacturing for traceability and tracking of parts and materials as they are received, and as they move through production process and become finished goods. Hospitals are also using RFID to positively identify and track patients for better patient care and to avoid medication mix-ups.

How do I know if my company is ready for RFID?
RFID requires a significant investment, so consider your current processes, manpower, and budget, then determine how much you’ll potentially gain by automating your inventory, tracking, and traceability. Think about where you might potentially use RFID.

Compare the value of your potential gains to an estimated cost of an RFID deployment. To get a sense of costs and the hardware and infrastructure you’ll need, consult with an RFID technology provider such as our team at Informs.

Additionally, give some thought to whether you can devote the time to testing and training once you implement a system, and who will manage it.

What is the process for implementing RFID?
RFID should begin with a consultation with an RFID technology partner. This will usually involve site walkthroughs, process analysis, hardware recommendations, and a budget review. Once it’s time to launch a system, there will be testing, implementation, and deployment.

To learn more, get answers to your questions, and request a free consultation, contact our RFID experts at Informs to get started.

Label Quality: How the Right Label Extends the Life of Your Printers

You Can’t Print Money, But Here’s How You Can Save It with Better Printing Supplies

Printing supplies, such as barcode labels, are often treated as a commodity. Many companies buy cheap labels because the up-front costs are lower, and they think they’ll save money.

However, the up-front cost savings often come with a long-term price. When you’re using low-grade and low-cost labels and printing supplies, you can end up spending a lot more money on your printers, and as a result, costing your company a lot of money in lost productivity.

Here are the hidden expenses that result from using low-cost printing supplies and how you can save considerable long-term cost by investing in better quality.

  1. Low-cost labels are often produced with substandard and inconsistent materials that can damage expensive equipment such as your label printer printheads. Many have sandpaper-like surfaces that cause printhead elements to fail prematurely, which costs you hundreds or thousands of dollars in early replacements.

 

Premature printhead wear can also result in poor print quality and unreadable labels. That means more re-scanning and delays in your workflows as your workers deal with these issues.

 

  1. If you’re using cheap labels for direct thermal printing, heat sensitivities often become an issue, and lower quality materials often require constant adjustments to your printer settings to avoid barcode scanning issues.

 

  1. If you’re using pre-printed colors on your labels but buying them from a low-cost manufacturer, your colors can actually end up transferring to your printhead and causing an ink buildup that slows down your printing and can cause print quality issues.

 

  1. Low-cost labels are generally produced for the most basic applications and not for applications where labels might be exposed to sunlight, moisture, water, or chemicals. If you choose cheap labels and they’re not made with the right materials to withstand these conditions, you can easily end up with damaged and unreadable barcodes and information.

 

  1. Adhesion is another common problem with low-cost barcode labels because they’re often produced with substandard adhesives and aren’t matched to specific labeling applications. Your labels can end up peeling or falling off, leaving your assets, products, or shipments unidentified and not trackable.

 

  1. Buying cheap labels often means you’ll end up buying cheap supplies or potentially mismatching your low-cost label with your printer ribbon. Since specific labeling applications require a proper match between the label and ribbon, the wrong ribbon can quickly cause print fading and rub-off.

 

How to Avoid High Long-Term Labeling Costs

At Informs, we work with our customers to minimize long-term labeling and operational costs by matching the right printing supplies with your application requirements and avoiding the commodity trap.

In our experience, our best recommendation is to invest in Zebra-certified printing supplies. Zebra’s labels, ribbons, and printing supplies are manufactured with consistent and ISO-certified processes, which ensures the highest quality and performance.

They’re rigorously pre-tested on Zebra printers to assess printhead wear, and they’re thoroughly tested for adhesion, durability, and scannability according to the environment and demands of each application.

In the end, you get labels that print and perform flawlessly, reduce your printhead wear and related costs, reduce your supplies usage, and save your workers hundreds or even thousands of hours in reprinting, printer adjustments, servicing, or repairs.

As an added bonus, if you use Zebra printers and agree to use Zebra supplies exclusively, you get 100% protection against premature printhead failure. If a printhead ever fails early, it will be replaced at no cost.

To learn more about Zebra supplies and get expert advice for your application, contact our labeling experts at Informs for more information.

Mobility Edge and Device Support Through Android R

If you haven’t had “the talk”, it’s time you do – because your security depends on it. It’s time to talk about the Mobility Edge™ platform by Honeywell. Mobility Edge is the only platform that guarantees the longest security lifecycle support in the industry, by utilizing Android™ R and Google-supplied security patches through 2023. In addition, Honeywell offers the Sentinel Service, providing two more years of security patches, based on back-porting from future OS releases. Talk about security!

What Are the Facts?
Now let’s talk facts. Hardware refresh is expensive. It’s time consuming. And it’s precarious. But here’s another fact. Mobility Edge eliminates these three factors without even breaking a sweat. Incorporating an enterprise wide approach to patch releases, the total cost of ownership is significantly diminished, saving time, money and a whole lot of frustration. Plus, thanks to Android R, the hardware is designed to support twice as many OS upgrades as the competition. And here’s a fun fact: you’ll never have to deal with fragmented mobile computing again!

It’s also a fact that it’s impossible to predict the future, no matter how informed we remain. That is why Honeywell denotes two years as the appropriate length of time to responsibly deliver security patches based on backporting. It is due to the Android R compatibility that this is possible, as opposed to five or ten years of backporting offered by competitors. The fact is, Honeywell believes that five to ten years is quite simply an unacceptable risk.

 How Does This Impact Future Devices?
In previous analysis of the Mobility Edge platform, we identified numerous advantages: accelerated deployments, optimized performance, enhanced security and extended device lifecycle, leading to a unified mobile enterprise. We’ve discussed how this agility drives performance, productivity, worker satisfaction and revenue. But amazingly, Honeywell didn’t stop there. They essentially “future-proofed” devices so that that all subsequent mobile hardware and software upgrades would integrate seamlessly with future versions of Android. That is the epitome of lifecycle longevity.

How Do I Get Started?
The facts are clear. Honeywell’s Mobility Edge platform, supported by Android R, is the smart, seamless and cost-effective way to deploy mobile solutions that deliver intuitive integration and future adaptability. If you’re ready to respond to the facts, but the next steps seem daunting, Informs can help with every step, from understanding migration requirements, to integrating and deploying the Mobility Edge platform with Android R across your enterprise.

Let the technical experts at Informs provide:

  • Guidance on OS migration requirements and implementation.
  • Direction on enterprise-wide device integration.
  • Navigation through the comprehensive line of innovative Honeywell Mobility Edge compatible products and solutions.
  • ANSWERS to all your Mobility Edge questions.

It’s time to face the facts and look to the future. Contact an Informs Specialist today if you’re ready to elevate your mobile enterprise environment to the next level.