How to eliminate PCs, terminals, and label errors with Smart Printers
Guest Article by Ed Weber of ToolWorx
Have you or any member of your organization ever put a wrong label on the wrong part or container? If so, then congratulations. That just means you’re human and, like every human, you make human mistakes. But mistakes in labeling can cost a company money. In some cases, lots of money, as in fines, expedited shipping costs, quality demerits, expensive consultants invading your facility at your cost, etc.
To fully eliminate the possibility of mislabeling, you need to take the human element as much out of the equation as you can. That’s what Smart Printers try to do. Smart Printers are made by Intermec Technologies Corporation out of Everett, WA. What makes their printers Smart? Well, to start with, they are 100% programmable using Intermec’s built-in language called Fingerprint. That means that these printers can do everything a PC or handheld terminal can do. And that means you just have to buy the printer (which you have to do anyway) and that’s it. No PC, no Windows updates, no Solitaire games or web surfing, and no handheld terminals with batteries to charge and lose.
The Smart Printer can accommodate numerous devices to plug into it to make it act more like (and sometimes more than) a PC. To get an idea of just how versatile the Smart Printer is, check out this example of the types of devices that you can connect to it:
All the Smart Printer software runs inside the printer itself. ToolWorx Information Products of Brighton, MI, is Intermec’s #1 North American Partner for Smart Printer applications. Our suite of Smart Printing applications has helped numerous customers achieve the following label error proofing results:
- A meat processor implemented the SmartPack system whereby they enter an order number into the printer via the keypad, place the meat on a scale connected to the printer, and a label gets printed with the correct order number and weight. This information is then stored in memory for later download into the customer’s billing system. The Smart Printer eliminated all of the inaccuracies in labeling and data entry into the billing system.
- Several automotive suppliers have used our PLC Printer application where digital signals from PLCs making parts are sent to the Smart Printer and each signal represents a row in a table inside the printer that contains the unique data for the label. For example, signal 1 could represent Part ABC and signal 2 could represent Part DEF. By tying the PLC directly into the printer, all possibilities for human labeling errors were eliminated.
- A food processor uses Smart Printers for Pick Error Proofing. Labeled containers are picked from warehouse shelves and tossed onto a conveyor to be stacked onto a pallet. Fixed scanners tethered into the Smart Printer scan each label as the carton goes by. The printer software verifies that the product is actually on the order, that the picker hasn’t picked too many (or too few), and that the lot number isn’t too old. If the software detects any error, it sends a signal out to the conveyor PLC to stop the line. Otherwise, it prints a pallet tag that lists what items, quantities, and lots are on the pallet. This system has eliminated picking errors.
- Transtar Autobody, an automotive aftermarket supplier, uses Smart Printers to automatically print and apply carton labels as they are packed and taped. In addition, each label is scanned after it is applied and that information is passed to a PC server that automatically prints a pallet label when the appropriate standard pallet quantity is reached. This system not only eliminated human error and manual labeling, it also allowed them to double production. To watch the video case study, just click on this link: http://www.intermec.com/public-files/videos/en/csTranstar_web.wmv.
- Food growers are using the ToolWorx SmartPTI Suite in the field when picking produce to eliminate the need for a PC or handheld terminal when they need to print case labels to meet the requirements of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). All the pickers need is the printer and power which they can draw from a harvester battery, a pickup truck battery, or a marine style battery like in the picture below. Eliminating PCs and terminals from the equation also makes printing labels much more economical as well as increasing accuracy.
Check out the ToolWorx SmartPTI Suite in action:
Ed Weber is Vice-President of Sales and Marketing of ToolWorx and has been part of ToolWorx since its official startup in 1999. Mr. Weber has been in the automated data collection business for 23 years and has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from Penn State University.
Here at Winco ID we have worked with Ed and ToolWorx on several Smart Printing projects and will be happy to help anyone looking to find innovative ways to improve their label processes – David