Weighing is one of the most common operations in the logistics workflow. Weighing is used for measuring, counting and even auditing incoming and outgoing deliveries. A typical distribution center could have hundreds of weighing scales ranging from high accuracy sub 5kg scales to in-floor platform scales capable of weighing trucks.
And since no two businesses operate exactly the same way, there are various workflow complexities that need flexibility in configuration and integration of these scales. We cover a few of these common use cases. Feel free to reach out to us if your use case is not covered and you would like to figure out a solution!
Almost every enterprise has some form of digital ERP solution in place – whether this is a custom set of spreadsheets or a full-fledged SAP system. It’s very common to see operators on the shop floor capturing weighing data on paper before uploading this information to the ERP later. Such a workflow is prone to error and is not a great fit if additional just-in-time data needs to be captured such as vendor ID.
In 2022, this is not a new use case and, thankfully, weighing scale vendors have been shipping scales with built-in RS232/WiFi/BLE capabilities for a while now. However, these are often optional, expensive add-ons. While a RS232 scale is easy enough to integrate with a PC, the point-to-point nature of RS232 limits the ability to operate a large fleet of scales.
WiFi and BLE scales fare better in this regard but are still quite limiting as they are primarily local polled interfaces, i.e. the business application has to be in the same location and has to pull data from the scale at regular intervals. Given that weighing is inherently an event-driven operation, any polling based integration is highly prone to failure.
We designed the IoTReady RS232+BLE data logger to overcome precisely these operational challenges. Our data loggers connect to your existing weighing scales and convert them into smart, uniquely identifiable WiFi/Ethernet powered assets. Pre-built support for SAP, AWS, Azure and custom HTTP(S)/Websockets APIs allow easy and secure integration, validation and deployment with local or cloud-based ERPs. What’s more, you can integrate your existing scales with your custom software applications in a matter of hours. Secure OTA (over-the-air) updates ensure robust, long-term operational stability.
Barcode Printing With Dynamic Data Updates
Weighing scales with barcode label printing capabilities are a dime a dozen. You see them in practically every point of sale system. However, how do you update data for the barcodes, e.g. prices, expiry dates or even the label itself? Often, the only solution is to connect to the scale with a data cable (RS232 or USB) and use a custom desktop application provided by the vendor. What if you have a fleet of scales as is often the case in distribution centers?
Unless you have a WiFi enabled scale, get ready to spend hours each day updating this information! What’s worse, our customers tell us that even the scales with WiFi are painful to update robustly because they don’t confirm if a price update was successful. So, there’s a strong chance you will only realise the error once you have printed incorrect barcode labels – causing serious disruption to highly optimised workflows.
Our programmable data loggers come with built-in support for RS232 enabled barcode printers – which is most of them! You can remotely update prices, barcode labels or even SKU specific tare information and have these confirmed to any remote API periodically. You will have an up-to-date operational dashboard showing you the current status of each of your scales with complete audit traceability of all past changes.
Scan & Weigh Workflows For Audits
Most distribution centers have weighing scales at the input gates for audit and verification purposes. These are used to weigh and count incoming crates from vendors and collection centers. A common workflow is to scan barcodes on these crates while weighing multiple crates at the same time. Most commonly, an operator makes a note of these weights and barcodes on a sheet of paper for end-of-day audits.
However, it’s most effective to complete the audit in real time so that errors can be caught and fixed before cascading. This then requires the integration of the barcode scanner and the weighing scale with a validation routine running on the ERP or custom software stack. Imagine the chaos that a desktop PC based integration can cause while operators are trying to receive and sort hundreds of crates to meet deadlines!
The IoTReady data logger was designed to avoid this chaos with built-in support for RS232 and BLE based barcode scanners. If you are using a Zebra or Honeywell scanner, we will even power them from the same port – no additional cables needed! Integration with your ERP can happen over WiFi/Ethernet or even BLE if you are using a mobile application. A complete list of barcodes and the composite weight is sent to your application for validation and errors can be highlighted via the built-in buzzer and the optional LCD display. We helped one of our customers save hours in effort and over INR 15,000/day in pilferage through this integration.
These are only some of the common but unexpectedly complex workflows we have helped customers succeed with. If you have more complex workflows that you are struggling to integrate, get in touch and let us lend a helping hand!