Barcode Scanning for Logistics When Social Distancing Matters

Barcode Scanning for Logistics When Social Distancing Matters

Handheld devices, barcode scanners and barcodes and are an integral part in Transportation and Logistics (T&L) are necessary tools for helping to move products and goods thought the supply chain.  Especially in recent months we have seen incredible stress put on T&L to keep freight and ecommerce moving while adapting to social distancing and keeping their workers safe. 

These devices help increase efficiency so manufactures and retailers can adequately maintain inventories, drive on-time deliveries to warehouses and doorsteps. Together devices and barcodes enable real-time visibility for operations, advanced decision-making companies, and improved order processing/fulfillment and customer services from the manufacturing to warehouse to delivery.

Warehouse workers, drivers and retail associates need devices that can withstand the demands of working conditions that push these tools to their limits with drop/tumbles/vibrations, extreme environments, and varying workflows. The devices must be dependable throughout years of shift work to instantly collect and update data accurately and securely.

Barcodes have made business more efficient for companies, providing an essential method to track and store information about millions of items. In T&L barcodes are used in

  • Manufacturing for inventory management, work in progress, asset tracking, shipping and receiving, and compliance labeling.
  • Warehouse distribution to automate and optimize workflow functions such as picking, put-away, stock replenishment, shipping, and receiving.
  • Transportation and logistics to help track every item throughout the supply chain such as cross-docking, fleet management, and pick-up and delivery operations.
  • Postal and parcel delivery services scan all barcoded mail pieces (flats, letters, and packages) that enter the mail stream and track those items with additional scans up to the point of delivery. Scanning accuracy is critically important to the success of real-time visibility.
  • Ecommerce for order fulfillment, marketing efforts, packing/shipping, transportation, inventory, warehouse operations, and more.

Let’s take a closer look at the importance of mobile devices and barcodes and just how they work together to keep T&L moving in a time of social distancing.

Importance of the 1D and 2D Barcodes

When most individuals think of barcodes, they picture a horizontal linear code made up of variable-width lines and spaces spread from left to right as ubiquitously seen on consumer goods. This is a 1D (one-dimensional) barcode.

The 1D barcode is the 12-digit UPC number. The first six numbers are the manufacturer identification number, the next five digits represent the item’s number, and the final number is referred to as the check digit, which is used to help the scanner determine if the code was read correctly. When this information is scanned and sent to the computer database, the information can then be associated with data specific to the item such as price, number of items in stock, item description, and item image. 

Unlike the 1D barcode that is read horizontally, the 2D (two-dimensional) barcode, looking like a square or rectangle, stores information both horizontally and vertically, thus it is read in two dimensions. The 2D code uses patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and other shapes to encode data. This little shape can hold over 4,000 characters and 7,000 digits while still appearing physically smaller. An example of a 2d barcode scanner would be a QR or Data Matrix code. A 2D barcode encodes alphanumeric information as well as images, website addresses, voice, and other types of binary data.

Difference between 1D laser and 2D imager barcode scanners

Laser barcode scanners were the original 1D barcode scanner. The scanner directs a red beam of light toward a horizontal variable-width row of black and white lines and spaces. This beam of light is directed back and forth by a rotating mirror or prism. The light reflects off the barcode into a light-detecting electronic component called a photoelectric cell. The white areas of the barcode reflect the most light and black the least light. The scanner detects the width and sequence of black and white stripes and converts them into decimal numbers. Standard laser scanners can read from a few inches to a few feet depending on the barcode. Extended range laser barcode scanners can read over 30 feet when using reflective labels.

The 2D imager barcode scanner functions like a digital camera. These scanners can read both 1D and 2D barcodes. Rather than using a laser, the imager barcode scanner takes a picture and uses a decoding algorithm to locate the barcode within that image and then decode the data from that barcode within that image. Unlike a laser scanner, the imager does not require the barcode to be oriented in a specific way to be read. Most barcode scanners today are camera-based. 2D imagers can read barcodes off any surface including smartphones.

Mobile Scanning Solutions for Transportation & Logistics

At Honeywell, we make barcode scanning easy for workers in Transportation & Logistics. That’s why Honeywell barcode readers are plug and play with industry-leading scan performance, making even the most difficult-to-read barcodes look good. Honeywell scanners provide superior durability and reliability, with water- and dust-proof housings and rubberized to reduce damage from falls.

  • Ease of Use. Ease of use is an important variable for how well a mobile device enhances productivity. Seconds count in high-volume operations. By saving a few seconds recording each transaction, businesses create value by producing significant time and labor savings that lower their overall cost structure.
  • Barcode Scanning. Barcode scanning capability is an important ease-of use differentiator among devices. Smartphone cameras are capable of reading some barcodes but are not necessarily designed for the task. Not only is scanning speed a feature that should be considered, it’s important to recognize the ergonomic design of a device that enables snappy scanning from different angles and devices without causing strain on the wrist, as well as the device’s ability to read damaged barcodes.
  • Productivity. Productivity will decrease and costs will go up if the mobile device does not easily support the work process. Consumer smartphones and tablets are not optimized for entering data (via keypad, touchscreen, barcode scanning, imaging or other peripherals). If those activities will be part of your enterprise mobility work process, carefully consider how convenient and ergonomic consumer devices will be for users. Some purpose-built enterprise computers have keypads and touchscreens that are intended for use by gloved operators to support more convenient and accurate data entry. Making a typo on a text to a friend has different consequences than entering the incorrect digit for quantity or part number on an order form. Screens also need to be readable in direct sunlight, another feature of enterprise-designed devices.

    Handstraps on an enterprise device should also be taken into account. They allow a field worker to carry parcels or handle other equipment at the same time as the device and often are accompanied by a stylus for signing on screen by the customer. When coupled with buttons that allow left- or right-handed use, straps can save seconds per transaction or event and so improve productivity.

  • Solution for Social Distancing and Contactless Delivery. Ruggedized mobile devices/consumer grade devices with enterprise level scanners are able to easily accommodate scenarios like
    • Last mile providers who use connectivity applications allowing customers to request deliveries be left at their door and be alerted by SMS or push notification.
    • Couriers can take a photo of the delivery at the customers doorstep and then email it along with the delivery notice.
    • Delivery drivers drop parcels at the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and then ask the customer to confirm their name from a safe distance.
  • Power Management. Mobile devices designed for productivity have power management advantages that can help ensure that batteries will last the length of the shift. For remote mobile workers, device uptime is crucial because dead batteries could represent a lost day of work. Enterprise devices have more powerful batteries, which extends the working day of a device before it will need to be recharged.
  • Product Lifecycle. Product lifecycle is the key differentiator between consumer smartphones and rugged mobile computers. Consumer devices have a much shorter timespan before they are superceded by a brand-new model, whereas enterprise devices are designed to provide many years of service.

Honeywell Ruggedized Mobil Computers

Rugged mobile computers that are purpose built for enterprise operations often have built-in support for barcode reading, document scanning, speech input, mobile printer drivers and other functionality. Having these capabilities native to the device helps to future-proof it for multi-use cases.

Honeywell’s has a complete line-up of rugged handheld scanners and computers on the Honeywell’s Mobility Edge unified hardware and software platform. They provide multipurpose utility in an ergonomic form factor, driving improved productivity for your mobile workers and a lower total cost of ownership for your business. It allows for rapid deployments, enhanced performance, and adaptability to changing needs. With Mobility Edge, a one-time investment in setup, deployment, and provisioning is reusable across all devices.

Honeywell ruggedized devices on the Android Mobility Edge platform offers the longest lifecycle in the industry with support through seven Android releases, Android N to Android 13/T *, plus security updates for up to five years after Google’s last patch which is 2030.

  • Our handheld computers combine the advantages of consumer devices and high-end industrial mobile computers into a single rugged package.
  • Honeywell devices are designed with the worker in mind, and they provide targeted functionality, a tactical keypad and enhanced connectivity.
  • Our mobile devices have power management advantages that help ensure batteries will last the length of the shift. For remote mobile workers, device uptime is crucial — dead batteries can represent a lost day of work.
  • Barcode scanning capability is another important ease-of-use differentiator. Smartphone cameras can read some barcodes but are not necessarily designed for the task.

The Mobility Edge family includes:

  • Honeywell CN80 mobile computer, an ultra-rugged device for warehouse, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics environments. The most durable handheld Honeywell has ever made, it features both keypad and large touchscreen interface for quick, efficient data entry.
  • Honeywell CT60 mobile computer, a rugged versatile business tool for highly mobile frontline workers in scan-intensive workflows in pickup and delivery, DSD, and parcel post. It offers a long-lasting battery, high-performance scanning, and exceptional durability and reliability.
  • Honeywell CT40 mobile computer, a full-touch, five-inch display device designed for retail, hospitality, and light field mobility environments. It’s an intuitive, compact productivity tool optimized for hours of comfortable use.
  • Honeywell CK65 mobile computer, a rugged, flexible solution for warehouse and manufacturing environments, with both touchscreen and keypad data input options for quick data entry and enhanced scanning read ranges of up to 15.2 m (50 ft).
  • Thor VM1A, the world’s top-selling vehicle-mounted computer, upgraded to Mobility Edge. Hits the sweet spot of overall size, display size, and keypad. The Smart Dock enables use on multiple vehicles and reduces support and maintenance costs. A field-replaceable front panel minimizes downtime.
  • Thor VM3A, designed for the toughest distribution center environments, manufacturing facilities and freight operations. In fact, it’s the industry’s most capable full-size vehicle-mounted mobile computer. The VM3 computer combines a 30.73 cm (12.1 in) display with breakthrough innovations that deliver rapid value for your workflows.

Honeywell Captuvo Enterprise Sled for iOS Mobile Devices

Honeywell’s Captuvo enterprise sleds For enterprises looking to extend the capabilities of their employee or corporate-owned iOS platforms, these platforms can be integrated with Honeywell’s Captuvo enterprise sleds. This transforms the consumer grade smartphone into an enterprise-ready device that provides instant access to critical business information across multiple shifts while leveraging the 2D barcode scan engine built into the Captuvo sled.  They come in  non-healthcare and healthcare-grade disinfectant-ready housing. Key takeaways include:

  • Quickly and accurately focuses, illuminates, and reads hundreds of 1D/2D barcode barcodes per shift, even when they’re damaged, poorly printed or on a mobile screen.
  • Scanner minimizes the amount of time spent in the delivery outlet, thus reducing exposure to other workers and consumers.
  • Protective disinfectant-ready housing that can withstand sanitization chemicals and keeps the iOS device protected from abuse such as drops, bumps, and spills common to T&L environments while providing a disinfectant-ready housing specifically designed to handle harsh cleaning agents.
  • Rugged specifications extend the iOS devices lifecycle and eliminate the more frequent replacements required for consumer devices alone.
  • Extends your iOS device battery life so it can last a full shift and beyond.
  • Designed for quick battery replacement, so you don’t lose valuable time taking care of customers.

Enhance Worker Productivity with Apps from Honeywell Marketplace

The pressure – the urgency – to speed order fulfillment and optimize your DC and T&L operations has never been greater. With Honeywell, you’ll have the technology and apps to easily connect your people, your assets, and your processes. It’s exactly what you need to drive greater productivity, agility, and efficiency throughout your supply chain. 

Honeywell Marketplace is a worldwide showcase for the latest apps and software solutions to help you increase productivity and drive overall profitability in the DC/warehouse and T&L. All of the apps are certified to run on your fleet of Honeywell Mobility Edge family devices and/or Android-based device. The online platform enables both Honeywell and our Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partner ecosystem to meet and collaborate to deliver solutions to the industries we serve. This online marketplace provides the ability for you to find, learn about, purchase, and deploy solutions that meet your strategic needs. For example, consider the following apps from the Honeywell Marketplace

  • Vector. Vector makes it easy for fleet operations teams to digitize documents in the field and the back office, resulting in paper elimination, reduced health and safety risks, and increased cash flow. Vector enhances existing technology investments with mobile capabilities and real-time collaboration, reducing physical interactions across logistics partners.
  • FarEye-Delivery. FarEye’s predictive logistics platform enables enterprises to orchestrate, track, and optimize their logistic operations. FarEye empowers enterprises to win in this customer-centric era with exceptional delivery experience and efficient movement of goods for both B2C and B2B segments.
  • ProntoForms. In last mile deliveries, it’s imperative to reduce contact. ProntoForms is a third-party custom app platform for easily adapting or building custom delivery workflows with no-touch delivery confirmation. The platform’s rich data capabilities allow drivers to capture photos as proof of delivery or record audio ‘signatures’ to confirm customer receipt. Its pre- and post-service web form option means customers can both state their preparedness for delivery—including adherence to safety regulations—and also provide post-delivery feedback. ProntoForms drives process refinement where it’s needed most and keeps deliveries safe in the hands of drivers.

Make Innovation Work within Your Budget

Honeywell as a Service (HaaS) is an offering that helps you navigate technology challenges during these tight financial times. It provides you with an innovative approach to acquire software, hardware and services by paying for them through a monthly payment with no upfront capital outlay.

Contact a Honeywell Solutions Expert today! Call 1-800-934-3163.

*Honeywell has partnered with Qualcomm in the design of SOM, guaranteeing compatibility through Android 11/R, and potentially through 13/T. What does potentially/committed mean?  Pending any unforeseen design changes with Android 12 and 13, Honeywell with input from Google and Qualcomm, anticipate that with reasonable commercial efforts, SOM1 will be compatible.

1 Solidarity in the last mile in the face of COVID-19

Barry J. Ewell

Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Content Marketing Communications Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Automation. He has been researching and writing on supply chain topics since 1991.