Explore our blog entries to stay on top of advances and innovations in barcode-centric computing technology.
There’s so much information flying around about the impending end for Microsoft’s® family of embedded operating systems, and it’s true, they are going away. However, a lot of the information that is being put out there is being somewhat skewed, possibly with an agenda….one that might cause concern with someone that is currently using devices that run either Windows® CE or Windows Embedded Compact. Someone using these devices might be so concerned that they begin to replace their current devices, even if they aren’t that old, for fear that they will be rendered useless in the near future. And the thought of buying new devices with these operating systems would, of course, be out of the question.
The temptation to use consumer-grade tablets in business applications is a practice that really started to gain traction as the cost of these devices plummeted. They get used in many customer-facing applications such as point-of-sale displays and make-shift kiosks, check-in applications at the doctor’s office and now even some POS/Checkout systems are designed around consumer-grade tablets. The mentality behind buying these devices is, of course, “why not buy something cheap and if it breaks, just replace it”. But when it fails sooner rather than later, the out-of-service inconvenience to the user, the cost to buy a new device, and the time and resources required to replace the old one… all adds up. If we put a dollar figure on these variables it’s safe to say that buying a built-for-purpose, commercial or industrial-grade device is cheaper and far less trouble in the long run.
Rugged Mobile Computers are exactly what you might think… a handheld, battery-powered mobile device, with a small display and often times equipped with Wi-Fi and/or cellular radios, barcode scanners, and maybe a tactile keypad, all housed in a tough case with added features to protect it from drops, dust and water. These get used in manufacturing plants, warehouses, route delivery and anywhere the device might get subjected to a little (or a lot) more abuse than the average smart phone. They are an invaluable tool for thousands of organizations that need to track inventory and assets.
Historically, the mobile device and AIDC market has typically been dominated by Windows®. However, in recent years there has been an increasing demand by end-users and developers alike to move on to the Android operating system. This may be due in part to the uncertainty about Microsoft’s long-term plans in the embedded space and seeing no clear path with Windows moving forward beyond Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.
When I was a kid, my parents had a great, big console TV… one of those old glass tube types (CRT) mounted in a huge wooden enclosure, with big speakers on each side that were covered with that sparkly, gold fabric, and two mechanical channel changers… one for channels 2 through 13 and one for the “UHF” channels that never really quite tuned in right. This thing was more than just the family TV. It was a piece of fine furniture. My mom would set flower arrangements on it, flanked by candles on each side with each one carefully placed on a doily. At Christmas time the flowers went away and the nativity scene took its place. That TV was almost a member of the family. They had that thing for years and in fact it was still there when I left home.
When I was a kid, I used to marvel at watching my Mom run a “10-key adding machine”, a device that has gone the way of the typewriter and the corded telephone.
But it was amazing to watch her flip through the papers at her work, fingers flying, paper tape spewing out of the back of the machine… and not once did she look at the keyboard. She was doing it all by touch in the same way most people learn to type: memorizing the keyboard and literally using muscle memory to know which key is where.
Likewise, when we’re typing on the computer, we get the tactile feedback of the keyboard in addition to seeing what we’re typing on the screen. We “feel” that we pressed the right key, and we confirm it by seeing it on the screen.
When Mom was working that adding machine, there was no display to look at it… she just trusted her fingers and the feel of the keyboard.
The concept of “self-service” in a retail setting is certainly nothing new or revolutionary.
Self-check-out has been around for some time and has been so well accepted that many stores rely on it heavily. It’s not unusual to see only one staffed check-out lane open. Self-check-in at the airport is the “only way to fly” now, and movie theaters are steering movie-goers to purchase their tickets at kiosks (or even online), hours before their movie, and then to grab their tickets at a kiosk on the way to the concession stand. Fast food and fast casual dining establishments are trying various kiosk ordering stations and even order-at-the table kiosks.
There’s a lot of chatter lately about the pros and cons of using consumer grade devices (CGD’s) in commercial and industrial applications.
Specifically we’re talking about smartphones and tablets being used in places where historically we might see a purpose-built rugged device, designed to withstand the rigors of all-day, everyday use.
We see retail stores using smartphones and tablets, some even encouraging their employees to bring their own smartphone and use it in place of a company-issued device.
We also see warehouses and manufacturing plants using smartphones installed in “sleds” to add functionality such as barcode scanning and extended battery life, or some even mounting consumer-grade tablets on forklifts.
Small-To-Mid-Sized Retailers (SMRs) are often left on the sidelines when it comes to watching the technology that is made available to the “big boys” of retailing. Solutions range from high performance Point-of-Sale systems, mobile devices, sophisticated software tools, self-service kiosks and digital signage… all valuable tools when it comes to providing a higher level of customer service, managing inventory, or simply to ensure that the business is managed efficiently. But doesn’t the smaller retailer face the same challenges? Don’t they need to run their business efficiently and provide a high level of customer service? Of course they do. But often times these new technologies come with a price tag that is simply out of reach for the SMR, and usually requires technical resources or infrastructure that just aren’t available, affordable, or practical for the SMR.
“Obama team to expand overtime coverage” –(USA Today)
“Louisville’s minimum wage hike survives first court test” –(Associated Press)
“Ikea to hike minimum wage to $10 an hour.” –(CNN)
“Target hiking minimum wage to $9 an hour in April” –(CNBC)
In addition, 14 states have enacted minimum wage increases that will take effect later in 2015 or 2016. The inevitable reality is that the cost of hiring and staffing is going up, putting pressure on retailer’s profits, and it comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers need to be focused on optimizing the customer’s in-store experience. Customer retention and prompting purchases in the store is paramount, and it’s going to be a struggle if retailers are faced with the possibility of reducing headcount on the store floor to offset higher employee costs.
AML has been providing data collection handhelds and kiosks to our customers for over 35 years. While we pride ourselves on our quality products, we also believe in offering phenomenal customer service and support that is available before, during, and after the sale.
Whether you are researching new equipment for your company, considering upgrading your current system, or just looking for education on how to best utilize AML products – we are here for you. We do our best to educate our customers so the users have a better understanding of how AML products work.
If customers want to get to know our products better and see a general overview of what our products can do and how they can help your business, we encourage you to watch our product videos. AML provides videos with a high-level overview for each of our products so you can familiarize yourself with AML products. These videos are a short one to two minute overview. Our knowledgeable and helpful sales and technical staff can also answer any questions you have regarding AML products.
One of the driving factors behind any free market economy is competition. More competition in any given market means more choices for the consumer, keeps pressure on prices, and forces suppliers to constantly innovate, looking for ways to stay a step ahead of the competition. Even suppliers recognize that healthy competition serves as the catalyst behind moving their companies and their products forward. Without it, companies and their products stagnate.
Our industry, the Automatic Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) industry has seen a staggering amount of consolidation over the past several years. Trying to “white board” all the acquisitions and mergers can be a dizzying experience. Is it a good thing? For the end users that purchase AIDC products and the resellers that sell them, I think not. With each successive acquisition or merger, numerous products, and in some cases entire product lines, simply went away because they were redundant. Choices for the buyer are narrowing… and quickly.
Inventory is a vital piece of your business, but the actual process of keeping track of inventory can be intimidating and downright scary. Most small- to-medium-sized businesses take a full physical inventory once a year. The truth is that so much can go wrong in between inventory counts that goes unrealized until the full physical count. Inventory shrinkage can and will happen more than you think – damaged products, employee theft, and manual entry errors for example. How can you combat these issues without shutting down production on a continual basis? Cycle count.
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionials (CSCMP) is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of research and knowledge on supply chain management. CSCMP strives to provide opportunities for supply chain professionals to communicate with each other to develop and improve their supply chain management skills, identify and conduct research regarding supply chain theory and practice, and create awareness of the significance of supply chain to business and to the economy. In addition, CSMCP offers continuous educational opportunities to bring together supply chain professionals to exchange ideas and share their knowledge.
There’s an old adage that says “Always use the right tool for the job.” A butter knife might make a decent screwdriver in a pinch, but it wouldn’t be your first choice if you had to drive more than one screw. A Swiss Army knife is a great tool to have under certain circumstances, but I think a seamstress would prefer a better pair of scissors.
Choosing the right tool for the job applies everywhere. In business, there is sometimes a temptation to deploy equipment or devices that maybe weren’t designed for the intended purpose, but other compelling factors trigger the impulse to buy.
Consumer devices such as smart phones and tablets are attractive at the outset because of their relative low cost and ease of acceptance by their users because of existing familiarity. However, selecting such devices based on short-sighted logic will result in higher costs over the long term.
AML announces introduction of the new DC Console, an application generator that allows users to modify existing DC Suite applications or create new applications from scratch.
The DC Suite is a collection of software applications that includes seven common barcode data collection applications. It is pre-loaded on the LDX10, AML’s ultra-low-cost handheld computer with integrated barcode scanner, designed for light to medium duty barcode data collection applications such as inventory control and asset tracking. It stores data that is scanned by the barcode scanner or keyed into the keypad. Then, it uploads that data via USB to any PC, for use in spreadsheets or by importing it into an accounting or inventory management software.
Whether you are purchasing new AML handhelds to upgrade your current system or implementing a new system entirely, one important thing to consider when making your decision is the availability of extended warranties. When purchasing a new device, you should consider the best way to protect it from damage or risk. Most products come with standard factory warranties, but the option to upgrade to an extended warranty is typically offered to customers. However, extended warranties are not necessarily needed for every environment, so you should weigh your options carefully.
Small business manufacturers have a few different reasons for not instituting the use of barcodes. Some might not see how barcodes can increase the profitability of their businesses. Others might not understand how barcodes work, and think implementing a barcode system would be a daunting task. Regardless of the reason, these businesses are missing out on a higher level of efficiency, productivity, and quality that a barcode system could provide.
In this day and age, technology is no longer a choice for businesses. In order to succeed, technology must be embraced. The time has passed for paper-based systems; they simply can’t compete with the speed and accuracy of newer software.
Most small businesses require some sort of inventory in order to operate. Having inventory and selling it for a profit are essential to the growth of a company. However, managing inventory can be a real challenge. Some parts of your inventory are inevitably going to move faster than others. There is no optimal speed for inventory to move; every business works differently.
Small businesses account for more than 50% of employment in the United States, and businesses with at least one employee other than the owner have a surprisingly good survival rate through the first few years. However, only half of those businesses see year five, and just a third make it to year 10. How can businesses struggle so much after making it through the first two years? More often than not, money is the deciding factor. A business could be profitable on its income statement and still run out of cash. A balance sheet is a better meter of success than an income statement. Without cash, bills are not paid and doors don’t stay open.
Inventory control is quite possibly the most important aspect of the supply chain. The inventory manager acts similarly to a heart, pumping inventory throughout the system. If things move too fast or too slow, problems arise, and the whole business suffers. Maintaining the correct speed – or flow – of inventory proves to be difficult mainly because it is subject to change often. The information accompanying the goods that make up the inventory can be quite a lot to remember and organize.
When most people think of inventory management, they think of someone counting and sorting boxes. In reality, managing the inventory is much more complex. It requires knowledge of the supply chain, the customer, and the industry as a whole. The warehouse is but one part of the supply chain; it must work in harmony with the other sections, or the business will struggle. A manager that understands the business as a whole will be able to make smarter and more profitable decisions in order to create an efficient warehouse.
Over the years, new technologies have forced businesses to change the way they operate; a business that is unwilling to adapt is a business that will fail. Barcoding is just one of the many technologies to shape the way businesses are run today. Warehouses have turned to barcoding in order to operate more efficiently. Barcodes have become so popular that certain trends are being utilized in warehouses.
Every business that sells or manages products must have an inventory. Simply having an inventory, though, is pointless if it is poorly managed. Understanding which products go where, or how much of a product is in stock, is crucial to the operation of a warehouse. If miscommunication occurs at any level, it can cost a business money and hurt its reputation.
A supply chain consists of anything and everything that works to move a product from a supplier to a customer. As products pass through the supply chain, they tend to change hands multiple times. It can sometimes be difficult to keep track of the products making their way through the supply chain, which is where visibility comes into play. The goal of supply chain visibility is to allow items to be easily tracked as they are passed along. Knowing where a product is at all times can be extremely advantageous to a business.
The warehouse is perhaps the most important aspect of a successful business. It acts as a hub through which almost everything must pass. Without a warehouse – or without a functional warehouse – a business is extremely limited. In this day and age, a warehouse that operates manually is simply wasting money. Manually recording information and then entering it into a computer later is a two step process that requires time and effort from employees. Even the most diligent and efficient employees pale in comparison to a barcoding system.
Barcoding is a great way to maximize the productivity and efficiency of your business. However, a barcoding system isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Choosing a barcoding system at random would most likely help a business, but it wouldn’t be fine-tuned to the needs of that particular company.
Barcodes can be used in a variety of ways, all of which can save a business time and money. So much thought goes into implementing a barcoding system that little is put into how those barcodes will be printed and displayed. However, one overlooked aspect of barcoding is the use of barcode labels. Choosing the right type of barcode is important, and a company can prosper or suffer depending on the decision. A whole system can be compromised if the labels don’t adequately do their job. Here are a few things to consider when choosing barcode labels:
Barcode scanning has been around for decades, but its importance can never be stressed enough. Without barcodes, manufacturers would be forced to rely solely on employees in order to track inventory. Even if an employee is vigilant and dependable, he/she is still going to make mistakes. Barcode scanning allows for companies to bypass many forms of human error.
The warehouse has been an important part of a retail store’s supply chain for as long as retail stores have been around. However, the increasing popularity of technology has caused a shift in the way customers are shopping these days. Customers are using online shopping more than ever, and the prevalence of the smart phone means items can be bought at any time from anywhere. These changes are making omnichanneling the focus of almost every retail store.
Warehouses are constantly on the lookout for more efficient ways of working, but the recent trend of “going green” is something that can affect the world as a whole. The environment is an increasing concern for businesses known for making large carbon footprints. Warehouses are constantly packaging products and making deliveries, which, among other things, have not been known for being particularly friendly to the environment.
The first installment of Barcode Data Collection FAQs discussed the basics of barcodes and how they can help businesses. This blog post will discuss the different types of barcodes, and the various ways they can be used. Technology is only beneficial if it is being used properly, and barcodes are no exception. It is important to understand what each barcode type is used for. For the most part, industries have already discovered which barcodes work best for them. However, some businesses are unique and might use barcodes differently than others.
In order for a business to be successful, it must be as productive and efficient as possible. A barcode data collection system is one way to push a business forward. Barcodes allow for information to be quickly transmitted, and they also help keep human error from slowing a business down. Although almost everyone knows what barcodes look like, many people don’t know exactly how they work or what they do. This article will address some frequently asked questions surrounding barcodes.
The supply chain is vast, tracking the movement of limitless inventory from start to finish. This could mean products making their way across the country – or even around the globe. In between there are a myriad of interconnected businesses and related activities such as suppliers, transport and logistics companies, and service providers – before the products even get into the consumers’ hands. Just the thought of this seems overwhelming, with a lot of moving parts that could be out of your control. The use of spreadsheets or other “paper pushing” methods cannot efficiently keep up with the rapid pace of today’s commerce. However, there are powerful tools available today that can close the gap and make the supply chain much more manageable.
Managing a warehouse is a lot more difficult than most people realize. The job goes beyond receiving, storing, and shipping materials. An effective warehouse manager might make the job seem easy, but a lot goes into maintaining a smooth operation. Experience is usually the best teacher, but here are five things every modern warehouse manager should know:
Your customers’ view of your company is ultimately based on the level of service your business provides. But this extends further than just the quality or color of a particular product they bought or whether you have friendly phone support.
When your operation suffers from layers of inefficiencies, it can be a recipe for trouble. It’s no secret that expectations on your warehouse are rapidly increasing in correlation with customer demands for quick and accurate shipping.
Let’s be honest to say that the larger your distribution operations, the harder it is to effectively manage every stage of the product life-cycle, as well as your different lines of business. As the retail industry changes, warehouse managers are increasingly under pressure, due to fast-paced e-commerce outlets like Amazon.com, to fulfill orders accurately and as quickly as possible.
It’s no secret that the retail industry has turned to technology to streamline a number of business applications. From mobile point-of-sale for line busting and ease of use to using social media platforms to provide customer service and expand marketing campaigns.
Today, access to technology has led many warehouses to outgrow their old, manual procedures. To upgrade their data entry processes and improve efficiency, they are turning to two distinct technologies: barcode or RFID (radio frequency identification).
Outsourcing your IT needs allows you to reduce labor costs, gain access to advanced capabilities and make capital funds available. It is a cost-effective, long-term alternative to having an internal IT staff, eliminating the cost of hiring new employees. A business also greatly benefits from the knowledge and experience of a team of IT professionals with extensive industry training. Not to mention, outsourcing non-core business functions allows companies to better allocate capital funds and keeps employees doing business as usual, even during an enterprise-wide software system implementation.It used to be that outsourced IT was ideal for larger businesses. Today, anybody can – and should – outsource their technical needs; IT providers offer their services to resellers of all shapes and sizes. That’s why it’s especially important for resellers to carefully consider their options and zero in on the IT partner that best fits their unique business.
Although U.S. citizens continue to struggle in the current state of the economy and job market, we are experiencing a “made in USA” manufacturing revival. More and more manufacturers are going back to their roots – back to the American manufacturing jobs that supported families in the 1950s – except this time they’re using technology instead of toolboxes.
Handheld devices are subjected to constant use and oftentimes impact and abuse. The importance of an experienced technical support service for troubleshooting and repairs cannot be stressed enough. To evaluate your current support, consider these questions:
Although tablets and smartphones are typically considered consumer devices for personal use, many companies have been turning to the technology to take advantage of perceived lower investment costs. The rapid rise in adoption of consumer devices in retail stores and healthcare facilities has inevitably piqued the interest of IT personnel of warehouse operations. However, warehouse personnel beware: “industry-specific” still reigns supreme.
For manufacturing and distribution companies, even short interruptions in daily operations can be costly. The simplest of things such as weak or defective batteries used in handheld computers can slow or impede your mobile data collection tasks. Taking the time to properly care for mobile device batteries can prolong their life and minimize the time lost in battery changes. Further, proper battery maintenance can lower total cost of ownership by reducing the frequency of replacement battery purchases. Without the proper care, poorly maintained batteries can result in wasted time and money.
In modern warehouses, productivity is the key to success. The inability to properly manage inventory can result in a loss of time, money and customers for your organization. For companies that are currently struggling to manage their distribution operations manually, the time to move to a barcode data collection system may be right. This transition will enable your organization to automate operations within your facility by eliminating unnecessary processes and errors. Let’s take a look at three ways a data collection system can improve warehouse productivity:
When it comes to handheld computers for barcode data collection, you want to end up with the best model for your workload and environment. The first factor you need to consider before making a decision is whether you need a “batch” or “wireless” device.
Next, you need to determine how it will be used. Is the work environment light, medium or heavy-duty? The size, functionality and ruggedness of the handheld computer changes from application to application. Be careful to select a device that will survive your harshest conditions without being overkill. Ruggedness comes at a price.
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AML was founded in 1983 to respond to a need in the barcode data collection marketplace for high performance, easy-to-use, and cost-effective barcode and data collection products. Our goal is to provide sensible solutions for mission critical activities, to improve efficiency and productivity, and to make barcode data collection applications worry-free.
We believe there is more to buying a product, than just the product. It's also the service and support that is available before, during, and after the sale.
It's being able to communicate when you need to, and get action and responses that work for you. It means not being at the mercy of anyone, but rather being the recipient of stellar customer service and support. That's AML.