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The Visible Value Blog


Posted by David Barnes

October 25, 2017 at 9:08 AM


I was at a premium car manufacturer recently, and sitting on a table close to the line-side were about 15 handheld scanners. I assumed these were for pool use. But no, it turns out they were damaged and were being collected for repair. Thankfully the devices weren’t Zebra’s.

That table testified to a fact of life – that in busy environments, such as distribution centres, warehouses and plants, life’s tough on technology.In my time visiting customers, I’ve seen scanners dropped from high shelves, casually put down, run over by forklifts and – in one memorable incident – I’ve seen a scanner cradle resting in a pool of brake fluid. So it’s no surprise then that scanners break. But it’s a problem because there’s pretty much no part of a workflow in a warehouse or manufacturing plant that doesn’t require data to be quickly and reliably captured. Any time that a person spends looking for a device that works is lost time. What’s more, many of the customers I visit are still using laser or linear ‘1D’ scanners, and this can impair productivity.


Laser or linear ‘1D’ scanners have been widely deployed since the 1980s and dominate the installed base of handheld devices. However, the way these scanners collect data isn’t especially effective. They use either a laser or bright LEDs to reflect light back from the code, and it’s either absorbed by the black lines or bounced back by the white spaces to decipher the pattern and its data. While it’s a quick and reliable way to scan codes, any damaged or faint codes don’t absorb or reflect the light, which can cause a false read. A false read means that the user has to manually enter the data – a time-consuming and error-prone operation. When you consider that just in your weekly shop you may need to manually enter an item’s code on two or three occasions, you can guess how many damaged or faint codes might be present in a warehouse holding millions of items – and how big the time overhead that might create for warehouse teams.


One way to reduce the problem of false reads – and boost productivity – is to move to array imaging based technology (commonly known as 2D imaging scanners). 2D imagers use camera technology to take a picture of a barcode. Combined with their powerful decoding software, 2D imagers don’t need to have pristine codes to work with and can decode data from pretty much any code – whether it be faint, worn, torn or otherwise compromised. The devices can also read any codes – 1D, 2D and GS1, including high-density symbologies – so you don’t need to think about what symbols are used on packaging. And, as they can capture data from any angle, your users won’t need to spend time lining up the scanner against the code – they can simply point and shoot in the approximate direction to work more quickly and intuitively.

As well as investing in 2D imaging technology, if you work in rugged environments you should also think about buying rugged scanners.


As I mentioned previously, users can also be tough on devices. In my view that’s due to the fact that everyone’s under pressure to do more in less time – operatives simply don’t have the capacity to handle their technology with kid gloves. You’ll know where in your facilities tough devices are needed and they don’t come stronger than our DS3600 range. The first class of ultra-rugged scanner can survive being dropped from a multistorey car park (it’s been tried), can scan 70,000 barcodes on one charge and its battery life lasts 14 hours. There’s an extended range version, too, that can scan a barcode from close up to 21.4 metres away to handle numerous tasks that would usually require different scanning models to manage. Where you need first-time data capture of any code, allied to unstoppable performance, the DS3600 is highly recommended.

Learn more about Zebra's full range of 2D imaging scanners here.


Topics: Retail, EMEA, Barcode Scanners, DS3600