The way of the future for barcode scanners

wearable-scannerTechnology continues on a progressive path forward, but how will technology in barcode scanners change in the coming years?

With the requirements of the warehouse floor evolving, so too should the hardware. A common problem seen in manufacturing and warehousing is the ability to both scan and move items around. The operators are therefore required to carry a scanner as well as whatever they are moving, making tasks tricky to perform simultaneously.
Here are some of the possible changes we could see to combat this issue.

Wearable scanners

The Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona this month highlighted a hot item in the latest mobile inventions: wearable technology.

A wearable barcode scanner frees up an operator’s hands for their job. Motorola Solutions, for example, has created a ‘ring scanner’ – a small scanning engine mounted on the finger with unit on the wrist or hip.

Recently, there has also been speculation about integrating barcode scanners with items such as Google Glass – using the patented glasses to scan or show the operator where to go or what to select.

While these items are already available to the market, some of them are still a long way from being introduced to our local South African warehouses and factories. A major factor is durability – are they robust enough to suffer a fall? In our experience, a scanner that is dropped or falls off a forklift still needs to work. We’re hoping to see these new technologies modified soon to fit the more rigorous requirements of manufacturing and warehousing.

Screenless Voice Instruction Scanners

Another extension is the use of voice commands to instruct a user.
Largely, barcode scanners used in warehousing and manufacturing require screens on the scanner to direct the user. Voice prompts would free up both the user’s hands and eyes.

As with wearable scanners, the technology is available, but noisy factory floors is a hurdle yet to be overcome.
Some examples of companies already using advanced technology scanners:

Longo Brothers Fruit Market, a Canadian retailer, was one of the first businesses to use wearable barcode scanners to allow operators to free up their hands. The result, according to the company, was a 14% increase in improved productivity—from 140 cases per hour to 164 cases per hour.

Tesco, a supermarket chain, has implemented a similar scheme, using armband scanners to help tracking of items.
UPS also uses a wearable system to improve its operational efficiencies, increasing the speed at which packages are loaded.

In summary

New technologies like Google glass cause a lot of hype but are still a way from being useful, while others, such as wrist-worn scanners, are already in rotation. There are still limiting factors, however, such as the cost of the equipment, limiting them to high volume production processes.

The future of barcode scanners is definitely evolving. We hope to see these changes become more viable for South African factory and warehouse floors, creating exciting alternative solutions for many common problems.
While many of our clients are satisfied with the traditional barcode scanner, we know that many are also looking forward to these new opportunities. TransLution™ is eager to help clients envision their future as these technologies arrive.

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