Operators are continuously looking for ways to cut costs and improve warehouse efficiency while still meeting customer satisfaction expectations and maintaining overall profitability. This can be especially challenging for warehouses that are already highly automated. Once a facility has deployed barcode scanning, automated material handling equipment, and other technologies, it can be difficult to find areas for additional improvement. One way is to further optimize the use of the technology to ensure that the equipment is being used to its fullest potential.
Barcode printers are a good case in point. Generally considered an enabling technology when it comes to warehouse automation, once they are installed and generating labels, most users consider the deployment complete. However, there are ways to generate new warehouse efficiency gains by optimizing printer operations.
How Barcode Printers Can Help Gain Efficiency
You can save time by printing at the point of activity. If employees spend a good part of their day traveling back and forth between their work area and a central print station to retrieve labels, odds are you can achieve a big productivity gain by deploying mobile printers or wireless printer carts. Workers can print labels on demand as they receive, pick, or putaway goods, which not only saves time but also increases accuracy. This can save tens of thousands of dollars per year in wasted labor.
Rugged printers can reduce downtime. If your barcode printer isn’t designed to work well in your business environment, it will likely fail more quickly and more often. In a warehouse, that means you need a ruggedized printer that can handle high-volume printing in a dusty environment and less-than-gentle handling. Consumer-grade or less-rugged printers will likely break down in a warehouse. This will result in costly downtime, repair expenses, or high replacement costs. Fewer breakdowns will mean improved warehouse efficiency.
Mobile printers will improve picking and other processes. In addition to reducing unnecessary walking, mobile printers can also enhance most warehouse efficiency in most operations. In receiving, they can save time by allowing workers to label goods on the dock as they arrive. A Zebra Technologies study also found that mobile printers used for putaway can improve processing time by 62%. Employees can also label items as they are picked, saving time at the packing/shipping station.
Barcode printers also improve accuracy and quality assurance (QA). Barcode labels help ensure that the right items are in the right package, and headed to the right customer. Using printers at the point of activity can help reduce labeling errors. And by ensuring the printers are correctly maintained and calibrated, you can be sure to meet customer requirements for legibility.
Efficiency-Minded Printer Features
Are your printers designed for quick media changes and maintenance on the floor? Proper maintenance and care are critical for ensuring a long printer life. However, if changing out media or cleaning the printhead requires a lot of time, training, and specialized tools, you are likely to bog down your printing operation. Upgrade to printers that are designed for fast media changes, and that can easily be opened for cleaning/maintenance.
Centralized print management saves time as well. Print jobs can easily be assigned or redirected, and software/firmware upgrades can be quickly deployed to the entire printer fleet without having to take the printers offline.
Optimizing your barcode printing operation can have a large impact on warehouse efficiency. Continuously monitor and evaluate your own printing processes to find areas that can be enhanced, and you can quickly achieve cost and productivity improvements.