The very essence of logistics lies in the movement of products from one location to another, ensuring each item reaches its destination in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Driven by greater frequencies and volumes, warehouse management systems and logistics departments rely more heavily than ever on barcode reading technology for tracking and visibility, and to ensure the effective use of resources.
As shipping volumes grow along with online retail sales, more distribution centres are choosing to upgrade their conveyor barcode scanners to cost-effectively increase package sorting efficiency and throughput by improving read rates. These are particularly important as higher read rates mean less products need to be removed from the line and reworked before being returned to the process. The time products spend off the line directly impacts efficiency levels and ultimately profit margins.
With an increase in the sheer volume of goods passing through warehouse facilities, coupled with customer service level demands and tighter legislation regarding tracking and traceability, labelling has been taken to a whole new dimension. Simple 1D barcodes have been the label of choice for many years, but 2D codes containing significant amounts of data, such as lot codes, expiry dates, product details etc. in a smaller space are now being rapidly adopted across a range of industry sectors such as automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and medical devices. With this shift in labelling preference, comes a need for image based code reading.
Traditionally, laser scanners were the preferred barcode reader. However, there have always been limitations with laser based scanners and more recently, these limitations have started to impact negatively on customers’ production processes and productivity.
Lasers scanners are unable to read 2D codes and struggle to read linear barcodes which may be distorted, blurred or which have low contrast caused during the printing process. If the code cannot be read, the product will be removed from the line, leading to reduced efficiency. To solve these issues and ensure throughput is maximised, high performance image-based barcode readers are now available and add value through:
• Higher read rates: Image based barcode readers see the entire barcode, not just the thin line that lasers see, thus improving the possibility to extract information from damaged codes. This leads to increased throughput and equipment utilization which in turn leads to reduced costs.
• Powerful visualization: Image based readers provide images of codes that cannot be read so that the root cause of this issue can be determined and remedied. This feature is particularly useful when considering process improvements.
• Lower equipment costs: because image-based ID readers have no moving parts; they are inherently more robust than laser scanners. Considering the increased read rates and the dramatically reduced services costs which feed into the total cost of ownership, image based readers offer a very attractive alternative to conventional laser based technology.
“As manufacturers look to update their lines, they are keen to benefit from long-lasting and reliable technology, with a swift return on investment measured in months, not years” commented Eyre.
Whether the business is a warehouse involved with store-based retail distribution, a fulfilment centre for an online e-commerce website, or a postal or small parcel distribution centre, vision and image based barcode reader products can provide a solution for every application, including:
• Carton coding
• Secondary packaging
• Small package sortation
• Hand insertion/Presentation reading
• Reading codes on warehouse tote boxes
• Code print verification
Eyre commented, “Across this diverse range of logistics applications, image-based barcode readers can offer increased read rates, ease of use and speed in a compact and industrialized housing at a price point comparable to laser scanners. In addition, the distribution supply chain is future proofed against any possible code changes such as the transition from linear barcode symbologies to 2-dimensional symbologies e.g. data matrix codes.”
Behind the Lens
For the past 30 years, Cognex has offered Automatic Identification (Auto ID) technology to a variety of industries. Traditionally, barcode reader (BCR) technologies are used in Auto ID systems to track components and products through manufacturing, in logistics automation for package sorting and shipping, as well as in imaging systems for material handling and postal applications.
“We continue to invest heavily in our R&D department to develop specific products to meet operational challenges across all manufacturing areas,” commented Paul Eyre. “We have identified the issues faced by the logistics sector and are able to offer solutions that are flexible and cost-effective, and capable of achieving our customers’ objectives.
“In response to the changing technology requirements within logistics and warehouse management, during the past 12 months we have launched a high performance image-based barcode reader designed to outperform laser scanners currently used in these sectors.
“And the technology continues to evolve. As the sector adapts to meet new distribution and delivery demands, we are listening to our customers’ challenges and working towards improved and refined technology to meet them head on” concluded Eyre.
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