4 Ways to Automate and Optimize Operations with Fixed Scanning and Machine Vision
Traceability and Work-in-Process Tracking
With regulatory and quality demands on the rise, traceability is hugely important in production and warehouse operations, and so is work-in-process tracking. Having visibility into fast-moving inventory or production processes is key to being able to manage them effectively and make sure the right goods and packages get to the right customers. By deploying fixed industrial scanners on conveyor lines and warehouse areas where parts, assemblies, finished goods or packages are on the move, you can automatically scan and decode barcodes that identify each asset and trace its status and location along the way.
With advanced imaging technologies such as Zebra’s fixed industrial scanners, you can capture 1D/2D barcodes, DPMs or even OCR text, and you can do it reliably and accurately, even on high-speed lines and even if you need to capture multiple codes or data points from a single target. The exact solution will depend on what you need to capture, at what distance, and under which lighting conditions. But you can easily combine Zebra’s plug-and-play scanning devices with its simple Aurora software and built-in or external lighting to configure virtually any job.
Ensuring Label Presence and Quality
Making sure the right labels are applied to products or packages is another big priority, especially for supply chain performance and quality. If a label isn’t properly applied or the wrong label ends up on the wrong product or package, then you can end up with untraceable products or inventory, an expensive shipping mistake, or even a dangerous or embarrassing mix-up of the wrong products in the wrong packaging for your customers.
This is another area where fixed industrial scanning can play an extremely useful and valuable role. Using fixed scanners after print-and-apply labeling operations, or at key points in your production or shipping processes, can help you verify that the right label is present and that its barcodes and other data match the proper requirements. For example, some food manufacturers use automated label verification to ensure the right products are labeled correctly for time-sensitive seasonal promotions or to indicate products that are special in some why (i.e., sugar free, unsalted, etc.). Many also use fixed scanners to check for the correct date and lot codes.
There are many potential use cases for label verification, but the unifying factors are automation and accuracy. With fixed industrial scanners, you can verify label presence and print quality without the time, effort, or risks of manual scanning and labor. Additionally, you can take things a step further by upgrading your fixed scanners to machine vision capabilities to inspect labels for more sophisticated requirements such as their exact placement and orientation as well as complex text validation. You can even do things such as sort packages based on different courier logos that are printed on a box or package.
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of buying a new product and discovering that a key part or insert is missing. But imagine if something was missing from the assembly of a life-saving medical device or an important piece of equipment that’s needed to keep a production line up and running.
If parts are missing or products aren’t assembled correctly, the stakes can be high and the impact on customers can be extremely damaging. But fixed scanning and machine vision provide automated and extremely accurate ways to check that all components of an assembly are present and that assembly steps are completed in the right order. For example, with fixed scanners, you can conduct barcode-based assembly checks to scan barcodes or DPMs to check kits and assemblies and ensure the correct components are present. Or, if components, kits or assemblies aren’t barcoded, you can use machine vision to visually check that all required items are present in a kit or assembly, and you can even verify correct assembly in the right sequence. Machine vision can also be used to check for the presence or absence of inserts, leaflets, additional parts, or other items in a product’s package, before it’s sealed and moved along in your processes.
Chances are that you’ve used a presentation scanner in a grocery or retail checkout, where we move a coupon or a QR code under a fixed-mounted barcode scanner, and the code gets scanned automatically, without a cashier having to handle a scanning device.
Now imagine the same quick, touch-free, and automated process with a fixed-mounted scanner placed overhead in a shipping area. You could just carry or move a box under the overhead scanner, and the scanner could capture multiple 1D/2D barcodes or QR codes without you ever having to put down a box or pick up or handle a device. The same thing could happen on a conveyor line as well.
This is exactly what some warehouses and shippers are going with Zebra’s fixed industrial scanners, which can be mounted and placed overhead in shipping areas to dramatically speed up shipping processes. In a timed study, one warehouse was able to process 40% more packages per minute with Zebra’s fixed overhead scanner, adding up to hundreds more packages processed per worker per day.
In addition to increased speed and efficiency, switching to fixed overhead scanners also improves quality and worker safety. Since workers can use both hands to handle a box or package, and they don’t have to juggle a scanner, it minimizes the risk of damaging goods by dropping a box or package while trying to scan it. Workers also don’t have to unnecessarily lift, carry, or put down boxes and packages hundreds of more times per shift in order to scan them.
Exploring the Potential of Fixed Scanning and Machine Vision
These are just four of the many ways that fixed scanning and machine vision can help automate production processes and visual inspections while dramatically boosting quality, efficiency and accuracy.
To learn more about what you can do to boost quality output with fixed scanners or machine vision sensors, or to find out how to get a solution up and running in your operations, connect with our industrial automation experts at Barcom.
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