Monday, September 18, 2017

Bringing Telnet into the 21st Century on mobile devices

Bring your Telnet Client into the 21st Century

Don't miss our free webinar on this topic September 20th 2017 at 11am PST

If you are familiar with Moore’s Law you will know that in 1965, Intel co-founder, Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors per square inch doubled every two years. Today we think of Moore’s law referring to the doubling of human knowledge of technology every 18 months. We certainly see these advancements in the computer hardware, software, and the medical fields.

However, there is a piece of technology that has not changed in 47 years. Do you know what it is? 

The Latest Zebra Device Running Telnet
It’s hard to imagine, but this exists in Telnet – the interface between the host computer and its operational terminals. Today the dumb terminals are all but gone and in their place we find PC’s and mobile computing devices, but the way these operate under Telnet has remained unchanged.

The rugged mobile devices today have color graphics capability and touchscreens, but running Telnet on them does not use either of those features. In fact approximately 65% of applications run on these products are still using old green screen telnet interfaces. When I ask customers why they would continue to operate this way the answer is generally the same, …“because it works” and they are right. When implemented correctly telnet’s accuracy and security is undeniable. So unfortunately, even with today’s most advanced mobile devices, a Telnet interface performs like something built before the average user was born, until now.

My company, RedLine Solutions, sells rugged mobile computers used in many applications including manufacturing, warehousing, and inventory management. We also offer a system that can let companies work with their existing Telnet software on the latest mobile platforms, but upgrades the way that the graphic user interface (GUI) operates, bringing these systems into the 21st Century.


We recently helped a long-term customer implement a new telnet client that allowed them to significantly upgrade the green screen interface, which they had been using for the last 17 years. The change enabled them to not only add intuitive graphics, and touch operation, but also update the operational flow of the screens, which enabled better productivity through a more user-friendly operator experience.

Our customer had recently purchased new Zebra’s TC8000 mobile computers. RedLine Solutions helped them get set up with a Smart Telnet Emulation client by our partner Staylinked Corporation. This system builds upon the speed, accuracy, and reliability of Telnet while leveraging the rugged mobile devices color touch screens. With only three days of on-site assistance, our customer redesigned many of their screens and understood how to use the tools, so they could be self-sufficient.


“Staylinked is very easy to learn, and now we can make the changes in-house without any programming,” stated the VP of IT at Louis Raphael. “You can convert your whole system over in a very short amount of time, and we had about 50 screens.” The Louis Raphael team found that the ability to customize the screens also gave them the possibility of controlling the operational flow of the tool, which previously would have required a programming change on the green screen. 

“Before we even rolled out the Staylinked solution, we had estimated that the change in the operational flow would save us about 10% based on an increase in productivity, with the auto response and elimination of obsolete processes. However, once we rolled out the Staylinked conversion we found that we actually save 25% in productivity, and the updates have also led to training times being cut in half.”  

The promise of a better way to do telnet has been out there for years. With the help of RedLine Solutions and StayLinked, we were able to fulfill that promise to this customer, and we can do the same for you!

We recently ran a webinar with Justin Griffiths the CTO of Staylinked on this topic. Watch this at our website.


Author: Todd Baggett - CEO of RedLine Solutions

© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.traceabilitynerd.com. Images in this blog were provided courtesy of Zebra Technologies and Staylinked. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Act Now If You Use The Zebra MC9090 As The End of Serviceable Life Has Arrived!

Act Now If You Use The Zebra MC9090 As The End of Serviceable Life Has Arrived!

If you have a Zebra MC9090 mobile computer, as shown in the image on the right, you should look to update immediately, or at least have a contingency plan in place. Sales of the MC9090 unit stopped during 2012. The MC9090 was truly a work horse, but produce and functionality have moved on. The MC9090 was initially replaced by the MC9190, which in turn was itself replaced by the MC9200.

On the Zebra official customer website it states that the Service & Support Discontinuation Date of the MC9090 WM MOBILE COMPUTER SUPPORT (windows mobile version) is July 2017. The same site mentions that the Service & Support Discontinuation Date of the MC9090 CE MOBILE COMPUTER SUPPORT (the Windows CE version) is Dec the 28th of 2017. 

However, our team has been informed by many customers that repair services for the MC9090 are currently taking significantly longer than expected, and it is clear that if you are still using MC9090 units you will see more and more support challenges in the future. 


Of course, there are companies that purchase used units and break them down into parts so they can continue repairing units in the field, but how reliable and costly will this actually be? 
It comes down to: 

  • How reliant is your organization on the MC9090s?
  • How many MC9090s do you have?
  • What is the cost of updating to newer models?
  • How compatible are newer units to your existing software and its configurations? 



Zebra MC9200
Zebra TC8000
We would strongly suggest looking at options and at a minimum, and we would highly recommend having a plan in place. 

We suggest the best plan is to get hold of the latest units like the MC9200 or the TC8000 and test their compatibility with your applications. This will help assess potential changes, suitable configurations, and be able to accurately budget for updates. At least you will have a contingency plan in place, and even if you do not want to replace your complete fleet of units in one go, you can start to purchase new units, to replace old units as they fail. 

RedLine Solutions have been a partner of Zebra for 20 years and would happy to talk about what your options are to help you plan, with no obligations. Feel free to call us at 408-562-1700 or email sales@redlinesolutions.com.


© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.traceabilitynerd.com. Images in this blog were provided courtesy of Zebra Technologies.




Monday, July 24, 2017

What is the difference between thermal direct and thermal transfer label printing?

What is the Difference Between Thermal Direct and Thermal Transfer Label Printing?

I had a few questions on this recently so thought it would be a good topic to cover here. The main differences between the two processes is the label material that is being used. Many label printers being sold will work with both direct and transfer materials, you just need to select and purchase the correct materials to best match your application and make sure you select the matching option in the printer driver setting when you print.



Thermal direct label stock has a chemical coating on its surface that changes its color when heated (normally to black, but colors are available at a premium). The heat is created by a row of very small resistors at the front of the printers print head. 

A thermal transfer label looks the same as a thermal direct label, but to put an image on it, you must use a special ribbon (these come in many colors including gold and silver).

The ribbon and the label material travel under the print head at the same time and are heated in the same way that the direct material was heated. However, in this process material from the ribbon is transferred to the surface of the label, which generates the image.








How to tell what label roll you have?

If you have a roll of labels and you are not sure if it is a thermal direct or thermal transfer label there is a simple way to test. Quickly scratch your nail over the surface of the label (put the label on a flat hard surface and run your nail over it quickly when applying pressure). If the label is a thermal direct, this action will heat the material enough to leave a black mark. If you do this and there is no mark, then it is more than likely to be a thermal transfer label.

Applications for thermal transfer and thermal direct labels

If your application requires that the label only needs to last a short time and it is not used in a very hot environment, then a thermal direct label is usually ideal. It is important to note that this type of label is susceptible to fading if left out in the sun, and will change color if heated. Both heat and the sun will leave the label unreadable. 
Thermal direct labels are often used for shipping labels or receipts. They are also used on products that have a short shelf life like sandwiches. Many retail application use thermal direct materials as they only require staff to replace one consumable, which is simpler.

If your application requires the label to be readable for a longer period of time (months or years), or will be left in the sun, or even in a hot environment then it is better to use thermal transfer. The best match for asset tracking, warehouse location, and UL labels would be thermal transfer.

It is also important to note that thermal transfer works with several types of ribbons – wax, wax resin, and resin. The ribbon used depends on the label material to be printed, and/or the environment that the label has to withstand. Wax is more a general purpose, cheaper material that makes a great image, but can be scratched off. If you need to print on a polymer material or the label has to withstand harsh environments, then a resin ribbon is the better way to go.'
Zebra ZD500 runs in direct thermal or thermal transfer mode.

Other things to remember when talking about labels

Zebra ZT410 runs in direct thermal
or thermal transfer mode.
  • What is the ideal external diameter of the label roll for your printer? – each label printer is designed to hold a maximum label roll diameter and will not work with larger rolls
  • What is the ideal external diameter of the label roll core? – most large printers are designed to handle a roll core of three inches, but smaller printers have different sized cores, so check what core diameter your printer needs
  • How are your labels wound onto the core? – the labels can be wound inside (with the face of the label pointing into the center of the roll) or outside wound (the face of the label pointing away from the core). Again, it is important to know which wind your printer works with for optimum operation.
  • What label roll width is supported by your printer? – Each printer will work well with labels of a certain size (min size and max size). If you try to operate the printer with wider or narrower labels will cause issues.
  • Are you running the printer with the ideal ribbon width for your label? – though not every width of label is supported by ribbon widths, and it is also impractical to stock every width of ribbon, it is best to use a ribbon that matches your label width. Using a ribbon that is much wider than you label can cause print problems, like ribbon wrinkle and of course wastes ribbon that you are not using to print on. 
Zebra 110xi4 runs in direct thermal or thermal transfer mode.
This blog is written as a rough guide and we recommend researching the product you need in more detail before making a purchasing decision. We hope that it is helpful and if you have any questions on anything in the blog or want more information please feel free to call the RedLine Solutions team at 408-562-1700 or email us at sales@redlinesolutions.com.

© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.barcodenerd.com. Printer images provided by Zebra Technologies.

Friday, July 14, 2017

RedLine Solutions Help GA Foods Better Serve Their Customers

RedLine Solutions Help GA Foods Better Serve Their Customers

RedLine Solutions have many customers throughout the USA and Canada. This is a story about one such customer, GA Foods. Read other customer stories at our main site.

GA Foods is a specialized maker of highly nutritious meals, serving the unique nutritional needs of healthcare patients, seniors, children, the military, and emergency responders to disasters. Their products are marketed under the SunMeadow® brand and are available in over 40 States.

Business Challenge 

GA Foods are always looking for ways to better serve their customers, and needed to provide their staff with technology that would increase efficiencies. Prior to installing the new system they were using a legacy AS400 based solution, stretching its functionality in order to achieve their operational goals. They wanted to streamline their processes, improve productivity and enable better inventory control. To complete the upgrade they needed reliable hardware that would compliment their software solution and function reliably within their freezer and warehouse environments. They looked to procure the hardware from a vendor that would be supportive and collaborative throughout the sale and beyond.

The New System 

GA Foods wanted a cutting edge system that provided more informative data in real time, and was fully integrated across their organization. The main objectives for their upgrade were:

  • To operate with one fully integrated system
  • To have access to timely, detailed and accurate information
  • To enable greater visibility for management, higher efficiencies for their staff, and better service for their customers
  • To provide their staff with a modern and efficient system.

RedLine Solutions were recommended to GA Foods, but the GA Foods team first looked at several alternative vendors, before concluding that RedLine was the most suitable candidate. SVP and CFO Beth Ann Valavanis said, “It was obvious quite quickly that RedLine had a lot of experience with this type of process, had worked with our software vendor before, and also knew which hardware configurations would get the best out of the system.

RedLine provided consistent communication, addressed questions and concerns, and continually updated and adjusted quotes as the project planning cycle progressed. RedLine also provided the GA Foods team with sample hardware so that they could carry out real-life operational and environmental tests. Ms. Valavanis went on to say “I didn’t have to worry about hardware through implementation, which I am very grateful for.”

System Benefits

The new system provides GA Foods with a more granular picture of their daily operations, enabling them to access more detailed answers to their business questions, and supporting more informed decision-making. Now GA Foods regularly compare employee productivity levels, cost per meal, cycle counts, and other important business metrics, that were previously unavailable.

Customer Comments

“Given this project to do again, we would absolutely go with RedLine! They were price competitive, they were great in communicating with our team throughout our long buying process, and they worked very closely with us on all our delivery requirements,” explained Ms. Valavanis.

Download full story
We hope that it is helpful and if you have any questions on anything in the blog or want more information please feel free to call the RedLine Solutions team at 408-562-1700 or email us at sales@redlinesolutions.com. Images are provided by courtesy of GA Foods.
© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.barcodenerd.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 2)

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 2)

As mentioned in my last blog I will expand on various elements of barcoding equipment, their applications and how to use them as I write. Here we will talk a little more about barcodes, their scanning, and verification.



Talking 1D and 2D barcodes

1D barcodes

A 1D barcode is a set of black and white lines/bars and can be only be printed horizontally or vertically. There are many 1D barcodes e.g. UPC A, UPC E, Code 39, code 11, Codabar, Code 128, Interleaved 2-of-5 and many more. The most important thing to remember about 1D barcodes is they are just a reference or look up for data held somewhere else in the customer's system. So if you look at the human readable under the 1D barcode generally you don’t know much about that item unless you have access to the database that the number references.
2D barcode - 1D barcode
scanning with a laser - scanning with an imager
When it comes to scanning a 1D barcode, they can be scanned by a laser scan engine or an imager engine. If a laser scanner is used to scan a 1D barcode it is important to know that the laser line must fall perpendicular to the bars in order for the code to read. An imager can be used to scan a 1D in any rotation.

2D barcodes

A 2D barcode looks like a lot of small black and white boxes that make up a bigger box and you will see on your FedEx shipping label. These codes can hold a lot of information so though they may refer data stored elsewhere they may also hold a lot of information about the item they are on. You may also see the QR code and other 2D codes used in marketing pieces, which can be scanned by a phone app and will take the user to a landing page or offer for that product. 
scanning a 2D barcode

2D codes can also be etched onto the surface of a product so that it can be tracked, as with the UDI requirements for items like pacemakers.When it comes to scanning 2D barcodes cannot be scanned by lasers, but only by imagers. 

Laser vs Imagers

Laser scanners have been around for a long time and so have been much lower cost than imagers, though imager prices have reduced considerably recently. Laser scanner will only scan 1D codes and with the increased use of 2D codes in many applications this type of scanner can be limiting.  
Imagers will scan 1D and 2D codes and do not care about the rotation of the code being scanned, helping speed up the scan process. 
The latest imagers can scan large distances like the one offered in the Zebra TC8000, DS3600 or MC9200, which will scan up to 70ft and down to 3 inches. Imagers are also a lot more flexible than lasers, scanning through shrink wrap and off monitor screens. The addition of this technology has also enabled devices to take pictures of items e.g. shipping damage, or even scanning content on forms and signatures. Zebra offer Simulscan as a feature of some of their hardware, that will scan multiple text and barcode elements directly from a form simultaneously with one scan. 
Zebra Technologies Simulscan functionality

Scanners vs Verifiers

Just because you can scan a barcode, does not mean it is a good code. If you are a manufacturer you may be required to have barcodes that meet certain specifications by your customers. 1D codes might be checked against the GS1 or ISO/IEC standards and 2D codes may be checked against GS1 or ISO standards.
verifiers vs scanners
A scanner’s software is designed to get the data from the code in the worst condition, so it is not a good check for the code’s ability to meet any standards. A different piece of equipment should be used for verifying a barcode. For instance, the Microscan range of verifiers provides reliable verification to application standards such as GS1, HIBC, USPS, FDA UDI (Unique Device Identification) compliance for Medical Device Manufacturers and Labelers, as well as ISO/IEC 15415/15416. The system will also provide a report for codes checked so activity can be logged and recorded if needed later. These types of verifiers can be handheld for use with checking sample labels, or a unit can be connected directly to the front of a label printer, so checking the validity of every label and stopping the printer if an issue arises.

This blog is written as a rough guide and we recommend researching the product you need in more detail before making a purchasing decision. We hope that it is helpful and if you have any questions on anything in the blog or want more information please feel free to call the RedLine Solutions team at 408-562-1700 or email us at sales@redlinesolutions.com. Images are provided by courtesy of Zebra Technologies and Microscan. 


© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.barcodenerd.com


Thursday, July 6, 2017

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 1)

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 1)

There is a lot of equipment out there and a lot of information about it, which can be quite confusing. I wanted to create a snapshot of the type of equipment grouped by the application that might simplify this topic for a reader. I have created this blog in multiple parts to discuss this topic, each getting more detailed. Part 1 will focus on a basic overview of the equipment.

Basic barcode overview

A barcode is a set of numbers (or letters) represented by a pattern of lines or boxes, that are printed either on a label, directly onto an item, or its packaging. There are a number of different types of codes for different applications. The barcode you might see the most is the one on any item in a retail store that is scanned when you checkout. This is called a UPC A or UPC B (depending on the number of numbers used / size) and is used to look up pricing when you buy an item. It is also used to update the stock or inventory record of the store, so they know how many of that item they have left. I will discuss barcodes in more detail in a later blog, but you need to know that there are 1D codes (they are the barcodes that look like a bunch of lines) and 2D codes (look like a lot of small black and white boxes that make up a bigger box and you will see on your FedEx shipping label).
2D barcode and 1D barcode

Handheld Barcode Scanners

Barcode scanners are either hand held or built into a stationary device, like the scanner in a retail store. At a basic level, the handheld units act to read, decipher and input the number represented in the barcode into your software or system. When I say input the number this is very similar to you manually typing the code in, but to save time the scanner is used. I am sure you have seen in retail if the barcode is damaged, so cannot be read, the store cashier will manually type in the code as read from the barcode label or tag.

two different types of barcode scanner

When selecting a barcode scanner you might look at these main parameters including:
  • Types of barcode it can scan (1D or 2D)
  • Connects to computer via cable (normally USB)
  • Operates on batteries and is connected via blue tooth (no cable)
  • Operates on capacitive charge via blue tooth (no cable)
  • How durable it must be
  • The scan distance (how far away from the barcode you will be when you scan)
  • Cost
  • The manufacturer

Mobile computers with scanners

There is a range of mobile computers that are handheld and have an integrated scanner. Unlike the basic scanner which just enters the numbers in the barcode, a mobile computer holds applications just like your phone. The user follows the direction on the screen of the mobile computer and will scan a barcode when promoted. The mobile computer is connected to a larger software system via wifi or sometimes via a cell service (just like your phone). There are two basic versions of handheld mobile computers one that looks like a phone and is held in the palm of your hand and the other has a pistol grip (a bit like a gun) that is used to hold and point the scanner at the barcode to be scanned.
One big difference between a handheld barcode scanner and a mobile computer is that with the scanner you don’t need any special software to run it. With a mobile computer, you do need an application on the device to make it work effectively. 
3 different types of mobile computer
When selecting a mobile computer, you might look at these main parameters including:
  • ·         Types of barcode it can scan (1D or 2D)
  • ·         The scan distance (how far away from the barcode you will be when you scan)
  • ·         The operating system that your application works on (Windows or Android)
  • ·         Connects to computer via a wifi connection
  • ·         Connects to computer via a cellular system connection (like your phone)
  • ·         Battery life vs length of shift
  • ·         Type of keyboard you need (or you may opt for no keyboard when the keyboard is on the screen just like on your phone)
  • ·         How durable it must be (will it be dropped a lot)
  • ·         The environment it will be used in (is this used in a freezer or very cold, humid room)
  • ·         Cost
  • ·         The manufacturer
  • ·         The warranty and support life of the product

Wearable devices

A mobile computer or hand-held device both generally prevent their operator from using both of their hands at the same time. If this causes you challenges in your application e.g. your operator is picking items in a warehouse for shipment then they might work quicker if they had their hands free. Wearable devices are similar in operation to the mobile computers i.e. they have an application running on them and connect to the main system in your facility via a wifi system, but they strap to the arm of the operator. The scanner is attached to two of the operator’s fingers. This way the operator can interact with the device and then immediately use both their hands to pick up a box or product, without the need to put the device down somewhere. 
wearable devices
When selecting a mobile computer, you might look at these main parameters including:
  • ·         Types of barcode it can scan (1D or 2D)
  • ·         The scan distance (how far away from the barcode you will be when you scan)
  • ·         The operating system that your application works on (windows or Android)
  • ·         Battery life vs length of shift
  • ·         How durable it must be (will it be dropped a lot)
  • ·         The environment it will be used in (is this used in a freezer or very cold, humid room)
  • ·         Cost
  • ·         The manufacturer
  • ·         The warranty and support life of the product

Tablets

Everyone knows the iPad TM, but when it comes to industrial applications you need something more rugged and that also has a scanner built in and strap to help the operator hold it. There are a number of different types of industrial tablet from general use in a ruggedized format for use in warehouse environments, to extremely rugged industrial ones used for the military, police and utility companies.
Tablets
When selecting a mobile computer, you might look at these main parameters including:
  • ·         How ruggedized do you need (warehouse or military applications)
  • ·         Types of barcode it can scan (1D or 2D)
  • ·         The operating system that your application works on (windows or Android)
  • ·         Battery life vs length of shift
  • ·         Will this be held in the operators hand or strapped round their neck
  • ·         The environment it will be used in (is this used in a freezer or very cold, humid room)
  • ·         Cost
  • ·         The manufacturer
  • ·         The warranty and support life of the product

Other scanners

In retail environments there are multiple scanners for checkouts like in grocery stores or smaller ones that can be picked up or stationary like those found in clothing stores. I will not go into these here, but see below for the two types, as RedLine Solutions do not tend to focus on this type of equipment.
retail fixed position scanners

This blog is written as a rough guide and we recommend researching the product you need in more detail before making a purchasing decision. We hope that it is helpful and if you have any questions on anything in the blog or want more information please feel free to call the RedLine Solutions team at 408-562-1700 or email us at sales@redlinesolutions.com. Images are provided by courtesy of Zebra Technologies and Xplore.


© RedLine Solutions Inc. 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RedLine Solutions and there is the inclusion of a link to www.barcodenerd.com