Not all scanning technologies are created equal

Zebra Technologies
Friday, 20 November, 2020

The modern supply chain depends on fast and accurate scanning to maintain momentum and keep customers happy.

Consider the number of workers who touch raw materials and finished goods from the factory to the final destination. Then consider the increasing volume of scans they complete on a typical day, and the rate at which those scans must be completed to keep pace with on-demand production and delivery expectations in our current “now” economy. If their scanner fails — or has a delay — for even a few seconds, then you could lose a significant amount of money.

Those two or three seconds are multiplied by, say, 10 workers each hour, which is then multiplied by eight hours per day, and then multiplied again by 250 days each year. Those few seconds can add up to real money lost.

Not all scanning technologies are created equal, however. Businesses should thoroughly consider these 7 key scenarios before investing in a 2D scanner.

Liquid spills, spray and dust

When rain is hammering the screen, or the barcode scanner is splashed in a delivery depot, regular scanners may underperform or pack up entirely. Ultra-rugged scanners are designed to be much more immune to common on-the-job occurrences, including rain, high-pressure water sprays, coffee spills and chemical wipe downs. Furthermore, ultra-rigged scanners have dust-tight design qualities, which prolong the device lifetime, and becomes a necessity when used in open-air environments.

Multiple tumbles and falls from height

As floor availability shrinks, warehouses are placing shelving higher than ever before, and/or using mezzanine floors. The risk of scanners tumbling onto rock hard flooring is par for the course. Businesses should choose a scanner with a best-in-class drop rating, which should be determined by multiple tests onto concrete with no side effects. Ultra-rugged scanners fare much better than regular scanners in this instance.

Extreme temperatures — from freezer to furnace

When scanners are exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures, risks include frozen triggers/buttons, ice damage or melting screens. It is critical that businesses choose devices which are able to operate with zero performance degradation in all temperatures. If you’re considering a corded model, ensure it can operate soundly from -30°C to 50°C. Some cordless models may offer a greater temperature tolerance range. This is imperative for selecting a barcode scanner that will thrive in high humidity, cold storage environments, proximity to steam generating equipment or when left in direct sunlight (like a dashboard on a hot day).

PPE-proof scanning

Users in environments that command personal protective equipment (PPE) — like thick gloves or ear protectors — wish to avoid wasting time removing gloves, mis-scanning or mishearing a successful scanning notification. To combat this, choose a scanner that has been tested and designed with an oversized scan trigger and extra-loud beeper with vibration feedback. It should be super accurate, even when the user has compromised mobility or senses.

Precise short and long-range scanning

Dim or artificial lighting can affect scanning capabilities of less rugged scanners. Businesses need a scanner that can capture any size barcode in any lighting conditions. The greater the working range, the better. For example, even when access and space are limited, scanning should be flawless, whether the target barcode is a hand’s-length away or up to 21.3 metres away. That may seem like a long distance, but this is the goal that businesses should be aiming for in their scanning technology selection.

Simultaneous capture

A scanner should be able to capture all types of barcodes, optical character recognition (OCR), images, signatures and direct part marks. Scanning poor quality, dirty or damaged barcodes or those under shrink wrap or on a screen should also be effortless. Not all scanners can achieve this. Ultra-rugged barcode scanners are not only designed with a greater level of physical protection, but many will deliver a significant performance boost too. For example, the best ultra-rugged scanners will boast multi-code functionality that captures and processes up to 20 barcodes simultaneously.

Versatile and durable cordless connectivity

Mobility demands are mounting in today’s supply chain environments, driving greater demand for cordless barcode scanners. Businesses who need this freedom should consider a device that uses Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy) technologies, which helps to facilitate fast wireless communications with optimum energy efficiency. Businesses should also consider a device that has a Wi-Fi Friendly Mode, as it will eliminate the wireless interference that Bluetooth devices may otherwise create in your Wi-Fi environment.

And don’t forget about hazardous locations, environments where explosions are an occupational hazard. A rugged scanner that is safe to use in potentially explosive environments helps to assure performance and protect workers.

The takeaway: Barcode scanners may be subject to rough handling and external hazards in every use case. That’s why dropping, dunking and driving over scanners are a standard part of Zebra’s product user experience testing.

Find out more about Zebra’s range of rugged and ultra-rugged scanners for all industries here.

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