Ergonomics: On-demand printing reduces travel time, boosts accuracy
January 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial
Schwarz Supply Source supplies packaging materials and printed products across all aspects of a customer’s supply chain, from procurement, warehousing and fulfillment to logistics, budgeting and value-added services. The company’s three North American DCs have a combined storage capacity of more than 1.6 million square feet and more than 215 dock doors. By deploying on-demand printers on mobile powered workstations (Newcastle Systems, newcastlesys.com), workers now make fewer trips between the office and the dock doors.
Before turning to the new mobile workstations, the company pre-printed the in-bound paperwork for all shipments, including pallet labels to identify the item and its storage location. Typically, a shipment would consist of multiple pallets of various items, and the receiving clerk would have a stack of labels to apply to the various pallets.
According to George Guzman, director of distribution technology for Schwarz, clerks often ended up with too many or too few labels.
“If we ended up with too many, we were concerned that we did not receive the complete order,” he says. “If we ended up with too few, we were concerned the clerk put the wrong label on the wrong item.” Both instances slowed production as the clerk went to the office to sort it out and print additional labels. Even when the clerk had the right quantity of labels, there was concern that the correct label was being applied to the correct pallet.
Guzman tried a portable, battery-operated belt printer, and quickly determined that a faster, larger volume mobile printer was required. They chose a bar code printer with a powered mobile workstation, noting its affordability, battery life, ruggedness and ergonomics. Clerks now print the labels on-demand, where and when they need them.
“I had some experience with powered carts used in healthcare,” says Guzman. “Most were either too small because they were designed for laptop computers or too large because they would be holding PCs with flat panel monitors, baskets, mouse pad holders and such. This workstation was just the right fit for our needs—a ‘no nonsense’ piece of equipment.”
The mobile workstation design houses a bar code printer, label storage, a bar code scanner and desktop work area. The workstation can be moved to the exact location where the work needs to be done. According to Guzman, Schwartz has eliminated the need for employees to walk to the office for missing labels.
“We are also much more confident that the correct label is being placed on the correct pallet and item, since we are only printing the specific label needed,” says Guzman. “Therefore we have improved inventory accuracy and increased the warehouse associate’s productivity. We’ve come to rely on the workstations the same way we rely on our forklifts and pallet jacks.”
The new workstations are now used for receiving and labeling in-bound pallets on the receiving docks as well as going up and down each aisle in the warehouse to locate and re-label stock, shelves, or racking.