In an environment that is forever changing and evolving, transportation and logistics personnel are constantly looking for new ways to keep up and compete. Many have then started to implement mobile technologies that will allow more efficient management and optimization of the supply chain. Mobile communication tools give them the ability to work from wherever they are located. With such, they are able to monitor operations in real time and are exposed to shipment visibility, worker performance and asset-tracking data from warehouse to dock to transportation and eventually to customers.
Mobile solutions also use barcode technology to cut costs by automating workflows and making improvements to workforce efficiency and data capture accuracy. There are many options from hand-held scanners and mobile computers to having smartphones and tablets that can be amended with peripherals and add-ons. Smartphones and tablets can be turned into 1D barcode, 2D barcode and even RFID readers with new Bluetooth-based peripherals.
Now, you may be asking yourself what device would be better suited for your own warehouse and how to make the best selection. Here is what you should consider when looking for a barcode reader to integrate into your warehouse inventory management system:
Inventory management software
You need to first consider and keep in mind the inventory management software that your warehouse uses. Software for WMS differs in capability, customization and integration with barcode readers. Find out from your software vendor what data capture device integrates with the software. Don’t forget to also ask if whether or not they offer device-specific mobile applications or if the software is cloud based.
Mobile computers and hand-held scanners will need to be updated regularly and will have to be fixed at times. This needs a specific person to be in charge like an IT manager. They require a more “hands on” approach. On the other hand, smartphones and tablets receive updates automatically via the internet. This requires less IT staff and significantly cuts down on the department. Keep in mind however that with this option, you don’t have much control over how and when the upgrades or patches take place. When your device receives updates and is upgraded using the internet, the server-based software of the device no longer becomes compatible with the warehouse management system software.
Companies are advised to use client/server-based software with a database hosted on a local network in order to use hand-held scanners or mobile computers, even though you have some client/server software that are also compatible with smartphones and tablets. This allows your IT team control over how and when the hardware is updated or upgraded and enables them to corresponded hardware upgrades with updates to the software and inventory database, making sure all parts of the WMS are compatible.
Battery life varies with the model, manufacturer and usage. As compared to smartphones or tablets, hand-held scanners and mobile computers can run longer than barcode scanners. In addition, hand-held scanners and mobile computers also usually have a longer life span. It is said that they can last up to five years as compared to three years for smartphone and tablet enabled devices.
When you consider integration with latest technology and mobile apps that are available or will soon hit the market, barcode scanners connected to smartphones are a much better choice than hand-held scanners and mobile computers. Hand-held scanners and mobile computers often require specific development time for integration. You must keep in mind and remember that inventory management today and asset tracking mobile apps are not instantly used at the enterprise level.
If you need flexibility in terms of scanning barcodes from a distance, barcode scanners that connect to your smartphone or tablet typically have a reading range that goes up to 76cm. Hand-held scanners and mobile computers are able to read barcodes in a range of up to 30 metres or more. Additionally, they do rend to do better at reading damaged or poorly printed barcodes.
Reading barcoded labels at a range of 30 metres or more is not necessary for most however. Most barcodes are almost always read on items that have been just handled.
Size and environment of your warehouse
Hand-held scanners and mobile computers are still more tough and better suited for warehouse environments because they are built for sharp applications. A lot of industrial-grade hand-held scanners and mobile computers are built with dust and water protection standards and can handle tumbles, drops to concrete, liquid spills and extreme temperatures.
Warehouses handling high-volume inventory management would do best using hand-held scanners and mobile computers as they offer fastest scanning capability. Some of the fastest scanners in the industry can scan as much as 1,140 scans per second. Keep in mind though however that an industrial hand-held scanner or mobile computer and a barcode scanner that wirelessly connects to smartphone and a tablet are relatively comparable concerning scanning speed. They each range between 100 and 240 scans per second. Mobile Technology: How To Choose The Best Device For Warehouse Inventory Management
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