Bar Code VAR Cleans Up With Healthcare Uniform Solution
Linear imagers form the core of SSE Technologies' $13,000 solution for reading washed-out bar codes.
Long sales cycles are nothing new to VARs these days. But, a year seems excessive even for these times. Unfortunately, that was the timeframe VAR SSE Technologies (Elmont, NY) faced after it began working with a large healthcare uniform company.
SSE received the referral from HHP (Skaneateles Falls, NY) in February of 2002. SSE had some experience developing data collection systems for garment manufacturers but had never encountered the problem this customer was having. "The client not only sold uniforms, it laundered them for reuse at facilities such as hospitals and physician offices," explains Dave Murray, VP of sales at SSE. "Each garment had a fabric tag with a bar code on it that identified the type of uniform and the customer's ID."
The uniform company had developed a work-in-progress system where garments' bar code tags were scanned at different stages (e.g. receiving, storage, washing, shipping) of the laundry process. Employees were using discontinued handheld computers with a tethered bar code scanner to keep track of this data. The handhelds used non-rechargeable 9-volt batteries, which were constantly being replaced. As a batch data collection process, the terminals were placed in a cradle at the end of each day for uploading data to a PC. Once the data was uploaded, it needed to be edited before it could be imported into the tracking program.
Untether Your Clients
"The customer had problems with the scanners reading the bar codes after the tags had become faded from being washed so often," Murray says. "The customer solved this problem [before SSE was involved with the project] by switching to HHP 3800 scanners. However, the company decided it wanted a single-piece handheld/scanner because its old hardware solution was cumbersome," he explains.
Since the client wanted to stay with a batch system, SSE began testing various vendors' scanner/terminals with the washed-out bar codes. This step stretched out the sales cycle. In addition, the uniform company was having problems procuring funding for this project from its parent company. That really stretched out the sales cycle.
Promote Linear Imagers For Hard-To-Read Bar Codes
It's likely many of your clients don't need a real-time data collection system, nor want the added cost of installing a wireless LAN (WLAN) and making sure it's secure. But having a real time data collection system doesn't always mean you need a WLAN. That's a fact SSE needed to explain after it discovered the best solution for this client's needs was HHP's IMAGETEAM 3875 interactive cordless scanner. "The 3875 has a base that connects to a PC for downloading data," Murray says. "Up to nine 3875s can wirelessly connect in real time to a single base from as far away as 150 feet, which was well within the confines of this application." (Up to 20 bases can be located within 31,400 square feet.)
Most importantly, though, the 3875 linear imager could read the fading bar codes of the garment tags. Furthermore, this unit had a backlit display, a keypad, and could endure the customer's wet environment due to its IP54 (enclosure protection against water and dust) rating. The 3875's NiMH (nickel metal hydride) battery pack also offered the ability to perform 13,680 scans (19 hours at 720 scans per hour) before replacement.
Streamline Software Integration
Murray said SSE developed a custom software solution for the handhelds to prompt users to scan bar codes on garments, employee IDs, or in work zones. SSE also configured the software on the PCs, so data from the 3875s was immediately integrated into the data collection software without the need for editing. Five HHP 3875s, batteries, and holsters were sold to the customer. The entire project, including hardware, software, and service, cost approximately $13,000 and was completed in February 2003. Since then, SSE has been pursuing similar garment company accounts with this same solution.