Understanding Mobile Printer Technology
How Mobile Printing Benefits Warehouse Operations
Selected excerpts from the Zebra Technologies White Paper.
Mobile printing is adaptable to numerous applications because Zebra specifically designs mobile printers to integrate into industrial business processes and information systems. In most operations, workers use mobile printers with mobile computers, and have the communications interfaces and mounting options necessary to ensure convenient, efficient operation. The sections that follow describe the various printer connectivity, printer design, and media options that warehouse and distribution operations can leverage to maximize productivity and achieve the highest mobile printer ROI.
How to Leverage Networking
Mobile printers can use a wireless network connection to receive print jobs, label formats, variable data, and other information from host systems. The printer contains an IP address and appears like any other device on the network, which lets users take advantage of third-party software products available for network management and security. Wireless network printing is possible even if the mobile computer used with the printer does not have a wireless network connection.
Warehouse management systems and other enterprise applications can take advantage of existing wireless networks to direct mobile printing operations. Organizations that already have wireless LANs for warehouse management systems or other enterprise applications can integrate wireless printers without having to develop special interfaces. The wide variety of radio technologies and designs makes it easy to add wireless printing to most information systems. Wireless connectivity provides many safety, convenience, and productivity advantages.
The Importance of Printer Design
Warehouse workers typically wear mobile printers on a belt or shoulder strap, or mount them on a forklift or cart. Size and weight are the most obvious and easily understood design characteristics but may not be the most important, especially if workers mount the printer on a vehicle or carry it on a strap. Features like the size and location of displays, position, and style of controls, and accessibility to media can have much more impact on productivity than size or weight. Mobile printing should provide convenience, and the benefits to implementing a mobile printing system fall short if the printers are awkward to use.
Application testing by the user can reveal which design features are the most important, and the suitability of specific printer models for the operation. Testing and evaluation shows how cables flex, and if they get in the user’s way during normal activity. If warehouse workers wear gloves, be sure to determine if users wearing gloves can operate printers easily. In cold storage warehouses or other facilities where equipment is subject 0 A Zebra Technologies White Paper to extreme temperature changes, test to ensure that condensation does not reduce display screen readability, and that temperature conditions do not affect print quality and label media performance.
Match Media to Printer Usage
Businesses must consider resistance to moisture and temperature ranges, in addition to many other factors, when identifying a warehouse’s media specifications. Media must match to the specific model of printer and the usage environment to ensure optimal performance for the label material itself and for the printer. Media optimized for the printer requires less battery power for printing, and extends the life of the thermal printhead. Additionally, appropriate levels of adhesive ensure that the label will adhere for the length of time desired, and that excess adhesive does not clog the printhead.
Most mobile printers use direct-thermal media, a technique also used by most stationary printers in warehouses to create picking and putaway labels. Mobile printers used in warehouses accept a variety of label, tag, and ticket stock to produce shipping labels and other types of barcode identification that retain quality and readability through all storage, handling, and supply chain operations.