The Right Bar-Code Printer For An ERP Solution
Using the right bar-code label printer with its ERP system helps The Wacker Corporation speed production of light construction equipment while improving data accuracy.
In 1997, Wacker elected to replace its legacy computer system -- a collection of software packages including PACS for manufacturing and SOFTWARE 2000 for finance operations — with Baan, a leading ERP (enterprise resource planning) software system that provides company-wide systems integration.
A primary operation affected by the integration of these software packages was the printing of bar-code labels for finished goods containers. Using stand-alone PCs with locally connected Zebra 105S printers and Label Matrix© (StrandWare, Inc.) software, this label-creation method required users to manually enter many serial numbers. The software would order the serial numbers sequentially.
Unfortunately, the ranges of serial numbers to be printed in a given batch were not usually contiguous, so intervention was still necessary. Entering bar-code data was labor-intensive and was error-prone because the AS/400©-based system was unable to verify that users were entering the correct serial numbers on the PCs. This method also slowed down production.
Access To Real-Time Data Slowed
Wacker's new AIX 4.2, IBM RS/6000©-based ERP system allowed access to real-time, dynamic data, such as engineering revision numbers. However, because of Baan's limited report output options, the company could not make effective use of the standard output in some circumstances.
To replace the time-consuming, inaccurate task of data entry for bar coding, Wacker, like other companies integrating ERP systems, appeared to have only one option: postpone bar-code integration until the ERP implementation was complete, and then spend significant resources customizing Baan's output to satisfy internal bar-code requirements. Wacker project manager Johannes Schulze Vohren was understandably leery of this solution.
"We discovered a common problem with Baan's ERP solution. The printed output from Baan would require manipulation to meet our needs. We wanted to continue using existing Zebra thermal transfer printers, and Baan cannot support them directly," said Vohren. "We were uncomfortable with the expense and time required to modify and, in the future, maintain customized report output. We had to find another way, so we began our search for a solution."
Printer Transforms Data Into Bar-Code Labels
Vohren chose Zebra Technologies' BAR-ONE© with JetForm Central, one product capable of transforming Baan's ERP output into high-quality bar-code label designs without a single Baan modification. Baan ASCII report output is merged into BAR-ONE© label designs via JetForm Central. Because this process happens transparently, the Zebra printers are seemingly just as accessible as any other Baan print device.
"The BAR-ONE with JetForm Central solution lets us create labels for our production serial numbers accurately and efficiently, without having to modify our existing databases," noted Vohren. "The concerns over input speed and data accuracy are eradicated because the Baan data is driving the process."
Printer Cuts Label-Creation Time
"An additional, unexpected benefit from this package was the reduction in required user support," added Vohren. "The end users are using the familiar and consistent Baan print session interface designed for this task. Also, we eliminated the need to support and maintain the separate PCs and the non-standard application."
Label-creation time has been cut in half with 100% accuracy on every label. The final phase of the implementation will be completed by the end of 1999. At that time, Wacker plans to integrate bar coding into additional manufacturing operations.