Scanning The Supply Chain
Increased emphasis on supply chain tracking will create new sales opportunities for VARs offering bar code scanning systems.
Bar code scanning...an old technology? Maybe so, but many key players in the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) industry believe the technology has yet to see its heyday. With so many businesses focusing on supply chain management, scanners are becoming a staple in tracking systems.
Where Are The Markets?
Almost everywhere according to most industry experts. Metrologic Instruments' (Blackwood, NJ) Vice President of Sales, North America, Kevin Woznicki told me, "Our customers have fully automated their systems. Tracking occurs from the back room of a business to its front-end checkout counters...and everywhere between the supplier and the retailer. E-commerce/Internet fulfillment also requires bar code tracking systems. Package handlers, such as UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service (USPS), are major players in the supply chain and require scanning systems. The list goes on."
Tom Schaefer, managing director of industrial marketing for Intermec Technologies Corporation (Everett, WA), believes warehouses provide huge opportunities for VARs and integrators involved in scanner sales. "Warehouse functions, such as order picking, receiving, and cycle counting, are still critical to a business' profitability," said Schaefer. "As such, the market for scanning products remains viable."
Know The Technology Offerings
It is critical for VARs to understand the various technology offerings. For instance, parcel handling "hubs" usually require stationary scanning stations and tunnel scanners. Tunnel scanners facilitate scanning of a parcel from many sides. Handheld scanners are more prominent in order picking and front-end retail applications. Imaging scanners (often referred to as CCDs [charge-coupled devices]) allow the reading of 2-D Matrix codes as well as other matrix-type symbologies. Less expensive CCD models can be purchased for "linear-only" scanning. Laser scanners are most often used for linear symbologies, but can read the PDF 417 2-D code.
Metrologic has achieved great success with its laser holographic fixed scanners. These units are mainly used to automate back room applications. "Although we started in the handheld business, we had to become a full-line vendor to meet the demands of today's users," said Woznicki.
Schaefer touted Intermec's CCD line of scanners. "As this technology has developed, we have improved our read-range capabilities," Schaefer said. "The price of this technology has also come down, making it more appealing to the end user market. You can now purchase a CCD scanner for under $500. And, with CCD scanners, there are no moving parts. There is less power consumption and less maintenance."
How To Address The Market
Woznicki and Schaefer said the best advice for VARs is, "Specialize." VARs should focus on a particular niche market and develop expertise to serve that market. However, this does not mean all other markets should be ruled out. But, there are many markets and many integrators. Becoming the best integrator in a particular market could be better than trying to become a jack of all trades.
These experts also said VARs should NOT rule out large customers. Many VARs think users such as UPS, Sears, or Wal*Mart are beyond reach. This could not be further from the truth. National companies, by definition, have offices/outlets across the United States and even across the globe. These companies need service in their local facilities. They also need special software. VARs are often the best source of customized packages. So, use this knowledge to grow your business and be confident you're the key to bringing scanning products to market.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at Editor@corrypub.com.