Encompass and Saberlogic partner on many projects aimed at enhancing performance through better utilization of barcode systems. For years the gold standard on the shop floor has been to use dedicated barcode scanners to replace time consuming and error prone manual keyed entry. Unfortunately many mobile applications require the user to verify that they are in the correct field prior to scanning a barcode, and then re-checking after the scan to ensure that the correct data was entered into the correct field. This removes some of the efficiency of the system because it requires the user to be constantly going between the handheld unit and the task that they are performing.
The first efficiency that you can add is by adding field qualifiers to your barcode labels. These can then be interpreted and the data can be automatically filled into the correct data fields instead of relying on the user to have the correct fields selected. Most customers benefit from adding an automated process in their purchase order receipt process to print off an internal label which can be added onto any raw material received. This process ensures a consistent label format for all internal transactions.
The below carton label is printed by the customer as a finished good label, they have listed their part number, job number that produced it, and the quantity in the carton. By having this information to perform inventory movements, pick for shipping or assign product to a shipment the user can simply scan the three barcodes, have it entered into the correct fields automatically, and complete whatever transaction they are performing.
The next efficiency that can be added is providing non-visual feedback to the user. When the user has scanned the necessary data to perform the transaction, you can add an audio or vibration cue for them so that they can focus more on the task than providing constant visual verification of the process.
These simple changes can provide a dramatic improvement of data integrity and employee efficiency for shop floor operations, but to quote Steve Jobs “one more thing…”
Most modern handheld devices including smart phones or the latest generation of mobile computers for shop floor applications such as the Zebra TC7x and TC5x series include a camera. Now while shop floor selfies may not have a use yet, the camera can still add substantial value to shop floor processing efficiency.
Many of us have used the barcode scanning applications on a smart phone, the problem is that they are much slower than a traditional barcode scanner, they are unwieldy to use, and are not appropriate for the most part in a shop floor environment due to these issues. But that is for scanning one barcode, instead by using the camera you can scan all of the barcodes at once. Using our customer barcode at the top, let’s say to add that box to a picking process the user would need to scan the 3 individual barcodes to pick that box as they put it into a cart. Using that exact image above, we can extract all 3 barcodes our simultaneously and then by using either their data qualifiers or by using their relative locations on the label we can pick with a single operation.
Now scanning efficiency with data qualifiers and a quality feedback mechanism to the user means that often times scanning a single box with a dedicated barcode scanner will be quicker than taking a picture, but there is nothing that limits the transaction to a single box. Take for instance the illustration below:
Scanning each of those barcodes although efficient would mean that you would have to perform a transaction for each box. By using the camera we could either choose to perform that transaction on all of them simultaneously, or provide the user with a touch based interface where we present all of the data that we gathered from the image (each box) and allow them to select the boxes that they would like to perform the transaction on. This increases process efficiency dramatically by having a single step to perform many complex operations.
In this case working from our photo we’ve extracted all of the labels that were visible. From there we’ve created a mobile UI in the Ionic framework allowing the user to select the cartons they would like to pick and pick all of them in a single operation.
Hopefully this inspires some of you out there to look at what else mobile devices can do to increase employee efficiency for shop floor operations. If you have any thoughts or questions please feel free to reach out and we’ll help however we can!