The team at POST-IS experts have well over 20 years of automatic identification (Auto ID) experience in concepting, designing and implementing a wide variety of automatic identification systems utilizing laser and camera-based technology. Based on a very thorough understanding of the underlying technology and applications, POST-IS guides customers through the entire process:
- Selecting a particular bar code or two-dimensional code symbology if these aren’t currently designated.
- Analyzing the symbology choices and making recommendations in terms of symbol size (symbol height, length and most importantly minimum bar/space measurement), printing technology, symbol placement, label selection, etc. to ensure consistently high read rates.
- Determining the application parameters such as minimum and maximum product sizes, transport type, size and speed, system mounting constraints and upstream/downstream processes.
- Based on upstream material movement as well as operator handling, analyzing the need for multi-sided systems that can locate the symbol on up to 6 sides of an item.
- Analyzing the cost/benefit/performance difference between camera and laser-based systems
- Defining host and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) messaging requirements
- Complete installation, commissioning and handover
- Spares provisioning
- Maintenance training
- Post-sale support (telephone, remote access or on-site)
Laser-based bar code scanners are part of a mature and very well developed technology with high flexibility, superb performance and an outstanding price/performance ratio. The price of laser scanning technology has come down such that customers can more easily afford multiple read points and/or redundant scanning.
Featuring products from SICK, POST-IS offers a complete line of scanners for typical applications such as:
- Carton identification for dimensioning/routing/sorting/manifesting
- Label verification
- Parts identification for manufacturing
- Airline baggage identification
- Tote routing
Scanners today have tremendous performance in a package that easily fits in the palm of your hand. These scanners are very small size (perfect for reading codes in tight applications), have adjustable focus distance making them extremely configurable, dynamic focusing, and are able to handle a variety of product sizes with little control of product positioning necessary.
Advances in imaging technology have made it possibly to use relatively inexpensive “array” cameras to read traditional bar codes as well as two-dimensional codes such as Data Matrix. These systems essentially take a picture of the item and use special algorithms to locate the bar code or 2-D code and decipher the information in the code. While array cameras such as these can’t scan over the distances that a typical laser scanner can, the array cameras work very well in applications where the bar code appears at a relatively consistent position in front of the imager. The pictures that the imagers take can be transmitted to a computer for later use for archiving, product tracking, customer service and failure analysis.
A perfect example of a capable image-based scanner is the SICK Lector 62X. Built-in LED lighting provides the illumination necessary to read codes printed with different technologies and printed on varied backgrounds; even when the symbol is etched directly into the surface of the parts. A wealth of built-in connectivity options means that the Lector 62X can be connected to just about any host system with little effort.
For the highest possible read rates on demanding codes, customers have increasingly turned to Charge Coupled Device (CCD) Line Scan Cameras. Where the smaller array cameras provide acceptable performance where the item is at a relatively consistent distance from the camera, CCD cameras have been used to read codes on the largest possible mix of product sizes at very high conveyor speeds. The technology has proven itself so well that all the major parcel carriers and many of the largest retailers use this type of camera in their sortation and distribution facilities. The systems can be configured so that all six sides of a parcel (including the bottom) can be read and images stored for the entire parcel. The high-resolution images captured by these cameras can be compressed for easier storage and can also be used for high performance Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to decipher address and other information.
Because these systems are imager-based, they can read two-dimensional codes such as Data Matrix, PDF417 and Maxicode plus postal codes such as USPS Postnet, Planet and Intelligent Mail Bar Code in addition to postal codes from other postal administrations. Once the image is captured, it can be sent to an operator key station to have information added to the record regarding ship-to and ship-from addresses, package contents, package conditions, etc. This process is known a video encoding and can be used to automatically process packages that would normally be handled manually to improve overall system throughput.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Early, widespread use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) occurred in postal administrations as a way to speed mail that didn’t have any bar codes to enable automated sortation. OCR algorithms and computer processor speed have advanced to the point where OCR doesn’t have to be limited to a few technically sophisticated customers who were able to fund the original expensive development of the technology. Today, OCR can be used more readily to identify shipping information (ship-to and ship-from) on mail items but in other applications such as manufacturing and distribution.
Today, OCR is available from a variety of sources such as Bell + Howell, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Planet, Parascript, PrimeVision and RAF. POST-IS can help integrate these packages into a complete system to meet specific customer requirements.
Parcel carriers are increasingly turning to dimensional weight (essentially a determination of cubic volume) rather than weight as the method for determining shipping costs. Since the space inside a truck or plane is filled by parcels and freight before the weight limit is reached, carriers want shippers who are sending larger cubic volume packages to pay higher rates. To determine dimensional weight, carriers measure the cubic volume of the package and divide by a constant factor to calculate the dimensional weight. If the dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight, the customer pays the calculated dimensional weight.
Shippers who don’t measure their package’s dimensions and include these measurements in shipping manifests are likely to be charged a billing adjustment when the carrier’s material handling system measures the package as is progresses through their system. Since the shipper has already charged the freight to its own customer, the billing adjustment from the carrier can’t be recaptured and ends up as uncaptured freight cost.
To avoid these billing adjustments, POST-IS can provide dimensioning systems that can be incorporated into automatic identification and sortation systems. These dimensioning systems can then feed dimensional information (and weight) to the customer’s manifest system so all items are correctly identified, weighed and measured. Systems can be created for regular, cuboidal freight and irregular, non-cuboidal freight as well.