Hardware for using the Ongoing WMS scanning module

Table of contents

Introduction

The Ongoing WMS provides a scanning module which can be used on hand-held units. Ongoing is hardware independent, which means it works with any device fulfilling the requirements. The device must:

Ongoing Warehouse does not sell or provide any hardware.

This article is a guide for selecting hardware and contains some examples of devices that has been used by us or our customers. There are other options that will work just as good as those provided in this article.

We recommend that you buy and try one or a few units before doing a larger purchase, to make sure the hardware suits your processes and works with the barcodes you intend to scan.

When selecting hardware, you should consider:

Barcode types and reading technique

The first thing to consider is what type of barcodes the scanner should be able to read, e.g. regular linear barcodes, 2D barcodes such as QR codes, or maybe even RFID which is not a barcode but can be used in the same manner in Ongoing WMS. Within each type of barcode, there are different formats. E.g. Code-128, Code-39 and EAN-13 are all linear barcodes, but different formats. When looking at the technical specifications of a scanner, this is often named “decode capacity” or just “barcodes”. Make sure the barcode reader supports the formats you intend to scan.

Linear barcode in Code-128 format and a 2D QR barcode

There are two main techniques for reading barcodes. A laser scanner reads black and white (or other high contrast) barcodes by reading in the reflection of a laser fired on the barcode. With a laser scanner you can scan 1D barcodes. The other option is barcode imager that takes a picture of the barcode and analyses it. Linear imager reads 1D barcode, and 2D imager can, as the name suggests, read 2D barcodes as well as 1D barcodes. In most cases the reading technique is not important per se, but it affect what barcodes you can read and other qualifications such as speed and the distance at which the scanner can read the barcode.

To read RFID the device must have an antenna (for passive RFID-tags) and a reader. Some RFID readers only read RFID, but there are also several options on the market combining RFID-readers with a laser or imager to scan 1D and 2D barcodes.

Design

Regardless of what reading technique you need and what formats you will scan; you will find barcode readers in all shapes and sizes. You can think about the scanner as two components. One component that reads the barcode and one that shows you the interface on a display. In some case those components are combined into one device, such as mobile computers, which both reads the barcode, process the information and display the application (such as Ongoing WMS scanning interface). In other cases, you have to combine a device for reading the barcode with a device showing the interface. An example of this is a Bluetooth scanner connected to a computer, tablet or phone.

When selecting the design, you should consider what requirements you have in your goods flows. A mobile computer might be suitable for a pallet flow, whereas a ring scanner combined with a mobile phone might be a better option if you are picking with a picking cart and need your hands free for picking goods.

Devices

Each type device can be equipped with any technology for reading the barcodes and be able to read different formats. The named brands and models are devices we, or our customers, have tested. There might be others which are just as suitable.

Tablets and mobile computers

Tablets and mobile computers are devices that combine reader, screen and processor into one device. They look like a rough mobile phone or tablet and contains either a laser reader or imager. There are also mobile computers with a handle. Those devices are best suited for goods flows where you do not need both hands for the working process or where the picking frequency is lower e.g. pallet flows and larger goods.

A tablet and a mobile computer with built in reader

Examples of tablets/mobile computers:

Bluetooth and USB scanners

Bluetooth and USB scanners contains only the reader and a processor for decoding the barcode and sends the scanned data to another device via Bluetooth or USB. They are often cheaper than a tablet/mobile computer with integrated reader and can be used with devices that you might already have in your warehouse mobiles phones, tablets or computers. Since they are often small and light, they are suitable for goods flows where you need both hands for the working process.

Handheld scanners

Some of the smaller handheld Bluetooth scanners can be worn in a strap around the wrist or neck to free the hands. During picking they are often used with a mobile phone attached to the warehouse workers arm, or to a tablet attached to a forklift or picking cart.

At packing stations, it can be a good idea to connect a handheld scanner with a computer or laptop. The lager screen is convenient, as is the possibility to type with the computer keyboard when entering e.g. pallet information.

Handheld Bluetooth scanner connected to a mobile phone and a USB scanner connected to a laptop

Examples of handheld scanners:

Ring scanners

Ring scanners, also known as finger scanners, are worn as a ring to be able to use both hands in the working process. Ring scanners are often used in combination with a mobile phone attached to the warehouse workers arm, or to a tablet attached to a forklift or picking cart.

Bluetooth ring scanner

Examples of ring scanners:

Gloves

This example is a glove with a connected Bluetooth scanner from ProGlove. This has not yet been tested by us or (to our knowledge) our customers.

Bluetooth scanner on a glove

RFID scanners

RFID scanners can read multiple RFID tags at once, which makes it possible to scan a box of items without opening it. This can be used at inbound delivery or to scan a box from the picking cart for outbound delivery to make sure it has been picked without errors.

The scanning modules in Ongoing WMS is, in most cases, built to take in one article at the time. Therefore we need to adjust the scanning module you want to use before you can scan multiple articles at ones. Let us know if you are planning to use RFID.

Examples of RFID scanners:

Using the camera of a mobile phone

You can use the camera of a mobile phone to scan barcodes. To do so you need to install a barcode keyboard app which will decode the picture of the barcode and enter the result into our scanning module. As to our knowledge, there is no app for iPhone fulfilling the requirements at the moment and we therefore recommend that you use an Android device if you want to scan using a mobile phone camera. You find instruction on how to use the camera as a scanner here.

Since a mobile phone is not designed for this purpose, using the camera of a mobile phone might be a bit slower than other barcode readers and not as ergonomic. Yet it can be a good option to try scanning without investing in any hardware, or for goods flows where you do not scan often.

Another option is to use the scanning module without scanning. This video shows how you can use the scanning module as a digital picklist.


If you are using a device you would recommend, please let us know!