4 Ways to Improve Retail Warehouse Efficiency and Reduce Costs

4 Ways to Improve Retail Warehouse Efficiency and Reduce Costs

An outsider looking in may not guess how much actually goes into operating a retail warehouse. They may have outdated views of simple storage locations for goods, and now understand how deeply warehouse operations affect the global supply chain. As a retail warehouse operator however, you are well-versed in the complexities and challenges that run rampant within the warehouse.

Operating a retail warehouse is by no means easy, but it can be made easier with the right strategies and tools in place. Here are a few ways you can improve retail warehouse efficiency and reduce costs:

Improve Warehouse Processes, Reduce Costs

Do you have a set of best practices for your warehouse and your workers to follow? Do you stick to them? Warehouses are not immune to growing pains that come with any expansion, and over time, processes can get muddled. It’s important to revisit and update processes when you need, especially to accommodate for growth.

Start by conducting an operational audit and see whether or not processes are completed in an appropriate timeframe. If not, try to identify any bottlenecks that may be hampering your efficiency.

Improve Supply Chain

Create an inbound and outbound freight schedule for the best workflow of dock employees, and schedule purchase orders to create the best workflow. If your schedules are jam-packed in the mornings and evenings, but slow in the middle, workers are not being utilized during that time, which costs you money. You can eliminate this by optimizing both freight schedules and shift schedules.

Optimizing your schedules won’t improve retail warehouse efficiency enough on its own, however. You need to incentivize your workers. Create a system of incentive pay—especially for pick and pack employees to help speed up some of the processes in your retail warehouse.

Upgrade Technologies

Old, obsolete technologies won’t help you create a more efficient retail warehouse. The only way forward is to adapt and leverage the advancements that warehouse technology has made. Unreadable barcodes can cause heavy fines and chargebacks to be levied against you. You can safeguard against this by implementing a barcode verification system.

There are a number of factors that can cause unreadable barcodes, like labels being printed at the wrong temperatures, low contrast, quiet zone violations, and more. Barcode verification ensures each barcode is readable before packages leave the retail warehouse.

Upgrade Management

The same way obsolete technology holds you back, the way you manage your technology can deeply affect your success. While you may not have the bandwidth to plan, deploy, evaluate and ready the systems in your retail warehouse on your own, you can benefit from managed services that will handle these tasks for you.

Conclusion

For a retail warehouse to reach maximum efficiency and productivity, each cog in the machine needs to be well-calibrated and working in tandem with the others. Analyze the processes in your warehouse that you can improve internally and create a plan to remove bottlenecks and optimize workflow. It may require a simple solution like updating the processes you currently have in place to be more efficient. For even more efficiency, you may need to consider upgrading your technology and how you manage it.

Informs, Inc. offers a wide range of solutions designed to help retail warehouses operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, as well as a number of managed services to help you get the most out of your technology.

Interested in learning more about our products and services? Contact Informs today.

5 Easy Ways to Prevent Barcode Printer Errors

5 Easy Ways to Prevent Barcode Printer Errors

Barcode printers are an essential part of operation. When you encounter barcode printer errors, you can experience costly downtime, chargebacks, and a loss in productivity. To prevent this, take a proactive approach and ensure you are taking care of your printers.

Here are five easy ways you can help maintain barcode printers and reduce errors:

Purchase the Correct Media

The first step is to ensure the media you use is right for your printer. If the barcode label is too abrasive, it can wear through the protective ceramic coating and cause damage to the print head. This doesn’t just apply to the barcode label, but the ribbon as well. Ensure the transfer ribbon is as wide, if not wider, than your label itself, and is made from quality materials that don’t leave wax/resin buildup. Cheap media can cause the printer to collect dust and debris, resulting in poor print quality, frequent print head replacements, and barcode printer errors.

Clean Regularly

Low-quality media isn’t the only factor that causes dust, debris, and build-up. You environment is likely to cause this to some degree. Every printer will need to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep it in ideal working condition.

Follow the instructions from the printer’s user manual, and clean the print head and platen roller each time you install a new ribbon in your thermal printer. This only takes a few minutes and could potentially save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the printer.

Monitor Printer Settings

Each printer has manufacturer recommended settings put in place to help you get the most out of your printer. While these settings are often customizable, increases or changes to these recommended settings can eventually shorten its lifespan. Fast printing speeds can not only increase the number of barcode printer errors you may encounter, but it could damage the printer.

Don’t Damage the Printer Sensors

Airborne particles like dust and paper fibers are unfortunately impossible to avoid. These particles can damage print sensors, or block them altogether over time if they are left to build up. In addition to regular cleanings, keep these at bay by brushing them away with small, clean paint brushes or canned air duster—the same you would use to clean a keyboard.

Prevent Print Head Contamination

Print heads are not only delicate, but expensive to replace. It is essential to prevent damage to the print head whenever possible. Make sure you aren’t risking print head contamination. Only use print heads that adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications. You may find inexpensive parts offered by a third party, but don’t be fooled by what seems to be a good deal. You will only end up paying more in the long run when these parts break or damage the printer.

Conclusion:

Barcode printer errors are a costly nuisance. If you are experiencing more errors than you should, it’s likely due to sub-par printer maintenance or materials. A barcode printer is a significant investment, and should be treated as such. By following manufacturer instructions and doing some basic maintenance, you can prevent these errors from occurring and extend the life of your printer.

Informs, Inc. offers a wide range of high-quality industrial barcode printers and media. For more information on printer maintenance and which media is right for your printer, contact Informs, Inc. today.

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.

Why Adopting Android Enterprise Mobile Devices may be the Best Decision for Your Operation

Why Adopting Android Enterprise Mobile Devices may be the Best Decision for Your Operation

Windows had announced it is ending support for its Windows-embedded devices. This has caused manufacturing and warehouse operators to go on a frantic search for a new operating system (OS) for their enterprise mobile devices before the end-of-life goes into effect.

While transitioning to Android devices may seem overwhelming and complex, manufacturers such as Honeywell offer business solutions to take control and unify the process, effectively simplifying the transition. Honeywell built a mobile device platform to help navigate this transition: Mobility Edge.

Filled with cutting-edge solutions, download our complete product catalog here.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider enterprise mobile devices built on the Mobility Edge platform:

A Unified Mobile Device Platform

The Honeywell Mobility Edge provides a unified hardware and software platform for all form factors, which allows for rapid deployments and great performance. Designed for Android, it is composed of common hardware, a common OS with support for multiple generations of Android, and a common software ecosystem that includes Honeywell software, as well as Honeywell-approved independent software vendors (ISVs).

Overall, this unified platform enables enterprises to streamline deployment and management for enterprise mobile devices, which improves efficiency and reduces cost, effort, and risk. It also helps to reduce the demands placed on the IT department.

Extended Lifecycle Means Less IT Frustration

Android enterprise devices, especially those built on the Mobility Edge platform from Honeywell, are renowned for their long lifecycles. In fact, enterprises can get six full years of life through 2025 when they invest in a Mobility Edge device from Honeywell. Not only that, but they can receive security support through the next five versions of Android.

The Mobility Edge platform also includes other features that extend the lifespan of enterprise mobile devices and provide a maximum return. The battery optimizer provides information about current charge and battery health. Users can choose different optimization profiles that can work to extend the available runtime of the battery pack. A self-diagnostics feature also allows users to identify and diagnose basic device issues, reducing the demand on IT.

Minimized Security Risks

An unmanaged device poses a security risk, which can be devastating to enterprises. When devices aren’t updated regularly and necessary security patches aren’t installed, cyber criminals have an opportunity to act, with some serious consequences. IBM reported the average cost of a security breach is up 6.4% to $3.86 million.

Honeywell provides regular security patches for Mobility Edge devices at least every 90 days—sometimes as frequently as every 30 days. This helps ensure that all devices on the Mobility Edge platform are secure, and data is protected.

Take Advantage of Honeywell’s Mobility Edge Platform

Honeywell is launching new enterprise mobile devices with the platform already installed. As the only company that guarantees support through Android R, Honeywell’s Android enterprise devices are future-proof and built to last.

  • Dolphin CN80—an ultra-rugged device that features both a keypad and a large touchscreen interface for speedy and efficient data entry.
  • Dolphin CT60—a durable and versatile mobile computer with a long-lasting battery and high-performance scanning.
  • Dolphin CT40—a full-touch mobile computer with a five-inch display that acts as an intuitive tool, optimized for long shifts and comfortable use.
  • Dolphin CK65—a rugged mobile computer with flexible data entry options and enhanced scanning read ranges of up to 15.2m (50 ft.).
  • Thor VM1A—a leading vehicle-mounted computer that has been upgraded to the Mobility Edge platform, and can be used on multiple vehicles.

 

Interested in learning more about the enterprise mobile devices built on the Mobility Edge platform and how they can help you navigate the transition from Windows to Android? Contact Informs, Inc. today.