Smart printers keep inventory data fresh

Mobile printer system traces product location in real time for fruit distributor.

By ·

LoBue Citrus is a family-run grower and distributor of oranges, moving between four and five million boxes each year. The company, based in Lindsay, Calif., automated its produce traceability program in October 2010 and by employing a series of industrial and mobile printers, it improved accuracy and visibility.

The process had been manual, but the new system enables the company to accurately process up to 1,200 packages an hour. Workers move a cart-based printer directly to the boxes that require tags. After using a handheld device to scan the bar code (Intermec, http://www.intermec.com), a worker selects the quantity on the printer’s display and the system determines which label to print.

“The key benefit for us is having a real-time, automated inventory control system versus the manual system we’ve had in place, and being able to make decisions both in sales and production on what we have available to us in real time,” says operations manager Tom Clark.

Once the boxes are wrapped, the workers use a mobile printer to generate a pallet tag. All labels include a bar code that identifies the kind of orange, ship date, destination, farm source and even the farm lot. This is a powerful tool should the company need to trace a shipment back to its origin.

The stand-alone nature of the new smart printers didn’t require an additional computer to print labels and minimized the cost of the solution. The system was also easy to use, speeding up worker adoption.

“We always look at simple as being the best solution,” Clark said. “With the new printers, all you need is a small area on a desk or a rolling cart to make this system functional. It seems to be a very cost-effective, simple solution to satisfy the requirements that are being requested of us today.”

At any given moment, a worker can instantaneously pull up all information associated with a certain lot, says Clark, who notes that the process used to take as much as two hours. Inventory accuracy has also improved from the high-80% to low-90% range with the older system to between 98% and 99%. Because the system is automated, physical inventories have become a thing of the past, saving eight to 16 labor hours each day. Given the early improvements, Clark believes the system will pay for itself within two years.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Your Guide to Voice for the Warehouse
Is voice a good fit for my operation? How would voice work in my warehouse? With the help of the Vitech Guide to Voice, you can find all the answers to your voice questions in one place.
Download Today!
From the October 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
An early adopter, Rochester Drug Cooperative is using robotic piece-picking technology to complement picking of slow-moving items. System report for Rochester Drug Cooperative, Robotic picking and inventory management, Innovative distribution center robotics solutions , IAM Robotics case study
This Month in Modern Materials Handling: Methodical steps into the future
The Warehousing Big Picture: Business as Unusual
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The State of the DC Voice Market
A lot has changed in the last 10 years, especially in voice technology. This webinar will cover the state of the voice market, review two leading voice solutions and help you gain a better understanding of the options and capabilities available today.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Rochester Drug Cooperative: Robots ready for work
It’s still early stages, but Rochester Drug Cooperative is proving that mobile robotic piece...
Manufacturing Day: 2,716 events from Hawaii to Alaska to Puerto Rico
Events to be scheduled throughout the month, so the remaining 249,185 manufacturing firms in the...

System Report: Pouch sorter powers Stage’s fulfillment needs
How a hometown department store chain transformed its e-fulfillment processes with pouch sortation...
Cubing and Weighing Equipment: Measure Up
The use of cubing and weighing equipment is growing beyond dimensional weight applications.