Giving your warehouse the chill factor

Seamless tracking and tracing of goods is essential for a smooth and efficient flow in the warehouse, especially in frozen storage where cold chains have to be maintained and goods have to be tracked
 Has your warehouse set-up been left out in the cold?

Marco Dorjee, Director, Media Business Operations EMEA, Intermec Technologies

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Any errors in warehouse processes can cause significant losses, in fact Intermec research shows distribution centres are losing an average of nearly £242,000 a year simply due to mis-picks.

But another critical factor arises from the temperatures to which goods are exposed: frozen storage is a growing issue.

Freezing temperatures of minus 30° not only affect the stored goods, but logistics materials as well. Mobile computers, scanners, printers and voice solutions must therefore demonstrate exceptional resistance.

Why not just place devices outside of cold storage? Because doing so can drastically increase pick rate and staff efficiency levels due to the added distance travelled by workers.

Improving the ‘chill factor’ of devices is therefore imperative to any warehouse integrating cold storage. The capability of the printer media, in particular, is often underestimated but is crucial for a smooth process flow.

For example, faded or smudged ink, detached labels and illegible receipts reduce efficiency and productivity levels because it’s time-consuming and expensive to identify individual goods and reprint individual labels.

What is printer media?

Printer media refers to all consumables related to the printer process, such as barcode labels, RFID tags, receipts, tickets and ink ribbons.

In logistics, a distinction is made between traditional standard media and special labels, i.e. RFID Labels, hospitals wristbands and durable labels.

A distinction is also made between media with short-term resistance, used predominantly in parcel shipments, through to very resistant labels that withstand the effects of chemicals or temperature, often used in laboratories for example. Hence, it’s critical that companies choose a provider with the widest possible portfolio and varied experience in order to identify the best solution for any given application.

Obtaining a perfect match between label and printer is crucial across all environments; here are five tips to ensure your warehouse always gets it right:

  • The operating environment

The environment in which the media will be used has a direct impact on every single component of the printing process. Temperature plays a crucial role as the individual elements involved need to be of a specific composition depending on the level of cold.

This is especially true if the temperature to which the printer media are exposed is subject to fluctuations. For production facilities where chemicals are processed, it is important to choose ingredients for the media that will not react with the chemicals.

In selecting the right provider for the purchase of printer media, the customer and a representative of the manufacturer should accurately evaluate the operating environment so that a customised solution can be created.

  • Selecting the right provider

To identify the right media for your application environment, a thorough analysis is required to find the right combination of necessary components. Detailed advice from the expert is essential in this respect, especially for critical applications.

Ideally, following in-depth analysis, the provider will be able to test the recommended solution in a laboratory environment prior to implementation. After that, the customer should always receive a bespoke offer.

  • It’s all in the mix!

The adhesive is crucial for efficiency and for getting the best out of the printer medium.

Due to the wide variety of substrates (e.g. dry/wet, flat/curved, smooth/rough, clean/dirty, hot/cold, painted/rusted) and external influences (e.g. temperature, humidity, sunlight), the demands on the adhesive must be closely examined and taken into account in order to make the right choice. After all, the composition of the adhesive and binder determines whether the medium adheres well or becomes easily detached.

This is especially true for the particularly sensitive area of frozen storage where extreme temperatures as low as minus 30° are not uncommon.

  • Thermal transfer printing

Obtaining an optimal match between labels and ink ribbons is important for the thermal transfer printing of media. It is important to assess what demands the customer will be placing on the printed label.

In frozen storage, thermal transfer printing faces the particular challenge of needing to withstand temperature fluctuations of up to 40°. Labels must adhere reliably under these conditions, yet be easy to remove at any time.

Particularly in this kind of environment, companies need to be able to rely on the supply quality of their provider, especially when it comes to high label volumes, in order to ensure accurate and reliable operation and a high level of productivity in the warehouse.

Factors such as scratch and abrasion resistance, as well as resistance to temperature, chemicals and humidity must also be taken into account. In general: the harsher and more challenging the operating environment, the more rugged and flexible the media must be.

  • Relevance of the printer for selecting the right media

Ideally, companies will select their warehouse solutions from a single source, purchasing both hardware and media from the same provider; that way customers can be sure the device and the labels and/or ink ribbons are perfectly matched.

It’s even better if the provider offers other services too, such as a printhead replacement scheme. Receiving free replacement of parts that quickly wear is a great way to ensure a higher level of productivity and efficiency and therefore a rapid ROI.

Furthermore, in the event of system failure, the cause can be found quicker because the products used, including printers, computers, scanners, imagers and labels, all come from a single source so problems are easier to identify or do not even arise in the first place because of harmoniously integration.

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