In logistics, the flow of information matters as much as the flow of goods. The advent of barcode scanning software that can run on multiple types of camera-enabled, smart devices is set to be a game-changer.
Logistics starts with orders. Increasingly, these orders are being generated by apps on smartphones with integrated barcode software to scan items, catalogues and lists. These apps are created by suppliers to run on almost any smartphone or tablet. Using the app generates an order that passes to fulfilment.
At the heart of fulfilment is the warehouse and distribution centre. The tracking of shipments through these centres used to be done with heavy, expensive, handheld computers and scanners. Their value was limited by the small numbers of these special devices available in each site. Barcode scanning software solves this problem by running on different devices wherever needed. Low-priced Android smartphones can be supplied to every worker for regular or occasional manual scanning and can be scaled-up quickly for peak. Fixed ‘gate’ or camera portals in receiving can scan pallet or parcel labels as they are unloaded. Forklifts with cameras can scan pallets as they are moved and scan the location barcodes at putaway.
Fixed cameras can scan barcodes on items moving on conveyors and in automated storage systems. Robots and drones can perform continuous inventory counts and highlight errors. Picking robots or cobots, with camera scanning, help find and pick inventory or verify the items being picked. Warehouse managers who have implemented these new scanning technologies know that their WMS system can then be trusted to be a true digital image of the warehouse and the information leveraged to reduce warehouse costs, and better serve both suppliers and customers.
At the end of the chain, goods are delivered to customers. Delivery methods continue to expand and they now include Pick-Up and Drop-Off (PUDO), Buy Online Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS), part load, pallet delivery and, of course, last-mile, parcel delivery. In all of these, barcodes are scanned to ensure the items match the order and to provide confirmation of delivery. Here again, smartphones and apps are becoming the standard tools to control these processes at very modest costs (especially if the hardware is a BYOD model).
The right hardware for camera scanning is relatively easy to find. Smartphones with scanning apps are already very able scanning platforms. For fixed and robotics solutions, industrial cameras with standard single board PCs or Jetson-type industrial computers running Linux provide the solution. The hardware is generic and so can be easily sourced. Even alternative second sources can be specified – a significant advantage compared to dedicated barcode scanners that by their nature are single sourced.
While finding the hardware is relatively easy, the barcode scanning software itself still has a tough job to do given the particular demands of this industry and its often-difficult environmental conditions. Dirty, damaged, marked barcode labels and the large distances between cameras and barcodes (especially in warehouses) add particular scanning challenges. Also, many of the above solutions require reading multibarcode shipping labels and multiple labels per image (as on a full pallet of marked items). Whatever the conditions, the barcode scanning software must read all of the barcodes, all the time, in any orientation.
Viziotix barcode software provides fast, efficient and accurate scanning on all of these different devices. Advanced computer-vision algorithms work on the high-resolution cameras used in nearly all smartphones and automation solutions, and provide higher scanning performance than the old dedicated barcode equipment – often with more than 5% higher read rates and up to 10x faster scan times. With high read rates, long-distance scanning and the ability to scan 10s or 100s of barcodes in a single image, Viziotix is ideal for these manual and automation applications. Whole pallets can be read in one scan by a gate-reader. Smartphones can scan multiple parcels for sortation and van loading in one scan. Robots and drones can quickly scan thousands of locations as they move around the aisles of a warehouse.
“We are leading the digitisation of the warehouse and logistics chain,” says Cedric Mollon, CEO at Viziotix. “Errorfree logistics is now a real, attainable goal and there are considerable, measurable, cost savings in eliminating errors, lost shipments, cycle-counts and manual corrective actions. Not to mention the value generated by the resulting better customer service. Our barcode scanning software is enabling all kinds of new solutions at every touchpoint in the logistics chain.”