SELECTING A SCANNER
There are a bewildering array of options available when it comes to selecting the right scanner, and this white paper is intended to help answer some commonly-asked questions.
Mobile scanners are the most popular. Even though they are more expensive, they offer the greatest flexibility. Mobile scanners can be used either in a batch mode, which means that they can only communicate with a database when physically connected to a PC, or in RF mode—RF (Radio Frequency) scanners effectively act as an additional client on the network and can are constantly connected with the system database. The pros and cons of batch versus RF are outlined separately below.
Mobile scanners allow the user to move freely around the warehouse or work area, and to scan products and locations in-situ. Different scanners have different ranges, allowing distances of up to a metre or two between the user and the product being scanned. While mobility of these types of scanners is clearly an advantage, this does mean that the user has to carry the scanner, which can be awkward if heavy products need to be moved or lifted. This can be overcome if necessary with features such as wrist mount scanners or even vehicle mount scanners.
Mobile scanners are the recommended choice for any environment where the user will be required to scan the product in situ.
The clear advantage of RF scanners is that they are always connected and on the network. This means that validation of every barcode scanned can be done in real time as the scan occurs and transactions can be posted to the ERP as the scanning occurs. The disadvantage is of course than a wireless network is required which may prove to be expensive or, in some cases, impossible to install.
Batch Scanners do not allow any kind of on-line processing or validation which means that scanned data is only validated when the scanner is docked. Experience has shown that in environments where wireless networks are not a feasible option then batch scanning can be used, but that in all other cases, batch scanning should be avoided.
The most commonly used fixed scanner is the type typically used in a retail environment, whereby the scanner is fixed, and the user moves the product over or underneath it. In the Production and Warehousing environments, fixed mount scanners are most commonly used for checking, where the user picks up an item, scans it and then packs it into a box.
These scanners are best suited to environments where user mobility is not required. By using a fixed scanner, a user is left with both hands free to handle the product.
Some organisations opt for fixed scanners because they think they can run without an operator, thus reducing headcount. But this is not always the case. For example, using a fixed mount scanner to scan items on a conveyor belt will only work if all barcode labels are in the right position. This pitfall can of course be overcome through the use of interlocks, but this can prove expensive and will require an operator to handle complexities. It may therefore be preferable to keep the operator in the first place.
A wedge scanner is the cheapest kind available. It is effectively a keyboard emulator and is plugged into a USB port directly on a PC. It has no screen or interface of its own and can support very limited configuration, generally focused on barcode symbologies. For example if you will be scanning a complex, specially designed barcode label and you do not want users to be able to use the machine to scan a coke can or cigarette packet, a wedge scanner can be configured not to allow EAN13 retail barcodes.
Because a wedge scanner has no interface or mechanism to communicate with a user, it must be used in conjunction with a PC using the TransLution EasyTouch software. The cost of a wedge scanner is therefore effectively scanner cost plus a PC cost. These scanners are therefore not always suitable for industrial or dusty and dirty environments.
Wedge scanners are well suited to certain applications. We find they work particularly well for process flow implementations, where they are more likely to be used to scan documents or user ID cards than products.
After deciding on the scanner type, the client will still have to choose between a variety of models.
For TransLution, the single key requirement for the scanner to run Windows. Otherwise, any scanner is supported. The scanner must also suit the physical operating environment:
- If the implementation is in a cold store environment then a scanner rated for that environment must be chosen.
- If the environment is dirty and industrial, then a suitably robust scanner must be selected.
- If the user will be driving a forklift and scanning pallets, then a vehicle mount scanner can be considered.
Afrisoft can work with you and recommend a range of hardware suppliers to assist you in making the best choice for your implementation.