Using a handheld scanner eliminates human error and speeds up processes, which ultimately has a positive impact on productivity. The scanner also ensures that costs are reduced. Finally, administrative requirements are reduced and paper consumption can be limited. A barcode scanner thus has countless advantages for warehouses, industry and trade.
What is a handheld scanner?
A handheld scanner or barcode scanner is a device in the form of a (often) wireless terminal for reading 1D or 2D codes. This mobile scanner is used in the industrial environment for automated data collection. Compared to the handheld scanner integrated in the POS system, a mobile scanner or wireless handheld scanner is operated by hand. This makes it possible to scan unwieldy objects or a product with oversized dimensions. It also gives employees more freedom of movement, allowing them to complete tasks faster and more effectively.
In addition, the devices must be characterized by certain criteria in order to withstand a handheld scanner test. For example, the scanners should be resistant to high temperatures, have an appropriate protection class and be extremely robust. Since the barcodes are not always readable, scans should be possible even under difficult conditions.
How does the handheld barcode scanner work?
A handheld scanner can only do its job if two conditions are met:
- connection to the company's management system
- complete labelling of the goods
The management system is usually designed for the logistical context in order to provide the required functionalities. A connection between the management programme and the hand-held scanner is often established via WLAN or Bluetooth. In the meantime, however, there are already manufacturers whose devices operate with 3G, 4G and soon probably also 5G. This makes it possible to work outdoors.
Once the initial conditions are met, scanning can begin. It is important that the label on the product has a readable code. This can be a barcode, QR or BIDI code. Another identification option is the RFID system. With this variant, there does not have to be a line of sight between the label and the barcode scanner, which can prove very practical in everyday working life.
Once the data has been captured - regardless of the type of scan - the instructions on the scanner's screen must be followed. The individual processes must be confirmed manually.
The transfer of data takes place in real time, which means that the management system is always kept up to date. One therefore speaks of a permanent inventory. The history is stored on the micro SD card.
Different types of handheld scanners
Nowadays, a variety of handheld scanners are available on the market. The different types are characterised by different performance. But the more performance you want, the higher the price.
In recent years, handheld scanners have undergone extensive modernisation. For example, there are now two categories of devices: floor-standing devices, which are anchored in fixed stations, and wireless scanners, which offer more flexibility and freedom of movement.
Some manufacturers' offerings include special features. These include, for example, touch screen, integration of an SD card, USB connection or voice recognition technology.
In addition, 1D and 2D scanners are also differentiated. The 1D handheld scanner specialises in scanning classic linear barcodes. These are usually found on product packaging and are also used in the food industry. The 2D scanner, on the other hand, hits the nerve of the times and is able to read two-dimensional codes. For example, admission tickets or public documents in DIN A4 format are often provided with QR codes.
A further distinction is made on the basis of the operating system. Android and Windows are the most common and are produced by well-known manufacturers such as Datalogic, Honeywell or Zebra.
What technologies are there?
The handheld scanners make use of different technologies. These include:
- CCD sensor
This type of scanner is based on CCD technology. The barcode is illuminated by LED light and then reflected. With the help of a decoder, the bars and distances of the code are analysed and deciphered. The decoder forwards the results to the output device. The fast detection and high resolution of CCD scanners make them particularly popular, but unfortunately they only have a range of 50 cm. In addition, QR codes cannot be deciphered.
- Laser scanners
As the name suggests, laser scanners use laser beams. These capture the barcode thanks to the different reflective strengths of the dark and light stripes. The photodiode finally transforms the reflection into electrical signals and creates a comprehensive evaluation. Poor lighting conditions do not affect the functionality of the laser scanner and the range of the hand-held scanner is also considerable - this makes guidance easier. But like the CCD sensor, the laser beams only read one-dimensional barcodes.
- Camera or imager technology The last technology uses a compact camera. The image of the code is analysed and decoded. 1D, 2D codes - the camera decodes all types of codes. Those who opt for such a hand-held scanner must prepare themselves for high bills, because the technology is not cheap. In fact, even smartphones are now capable of deciphering two-dimensional codes. Many online shops therefore go easy on the bank account and work with smartphones and the corresponding app to register stocks and sort products.
Data transmission by radio or cable?
Data transmission for hand-held scanners is via radio or cable. Wired transmission can be done via USB or a keyboard interface, for example. This is the optimal solution for working at the computer or at the packing station. However, the connection with a spiral or smooth cable can limit the work considerably.
Wireless data transmission uses WLAN, narrowband radio or Bluetooth and has great advantages. Ultimately, however, the choice should depend on the environment.
Where can you use a handheld scanner?
The areas of application of the hand-held scanner are versatile.
Retail and office
The hand-held scanner is a particularly helpful tool in the retail trade. The goods can be scanned quickly and reliably and relieves the employees in their daily work. However, a barcode scanner is also useful in the office. For example, the OCR software can help transfer invoices into the ERP system.
In the healthcare sector, handheld scanners are suitable for managing patient data. Pharmacies, laboratories and hospitals use the devices to monitor the administration of medication to patients. It is important that the scanners are easy to clean and resistant to disinfectants.
Logistics and production
Work in the warehouse benefits enormously from the use of handheld scanners. Goods receipt and stocktaking can be better controlled and processes are accelerated. When choosing the device, make sure that the hand scanners are very resistant and insensitive.
What should be considered when purchasing?
As more and more companies specialise in the production and distribution of handheld scanners, it is often difficult to choose the right manufacturer. The following purchasing criteria can be used to narrow down the choice:
Interface to the host system
Many companies base their purchase of hand-held scanners on the current system. However, it is recommended to choose a scanner that has a USB interface and is compatible with RS232. The more interfaces the barcode scanner has, the more extensively the device can be used.
Weight and size
In general, small and light devices are more comfortable to use. However, this always depends on personal preferences.
Special accessories for the barcode scanner are a nice extra. Additional charging stations, feet for setting up the scanner and additional cables can be well worthwhile.
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