4 Ways to Improve Logistics Traceability

By Lauren Boutwell, Global Content, Cognex

Traceability in logistics starts at the dock door. From the moment products enter your facility, they need to be tracked and accounted for accurately. But that’s easier said than done since many products arrive on a pallet – which has a large field-of-view, making it difficult to scan barcodes. Many companies still use hand scanners to capture all barcodes on a pallet, but that approach is time consuming and inefficient.

Companies need a solution that will eliminate the manual aspect of pallet scanning and automate the process. Cognex’s DataMan fixed-mount barcode readers accelerate inbound pallet receiving at the dock door, but also ensures proper traceability of all products on pallets. With an integrated High Speed Steerable Mirror, DataMan readers can capture multiple barcodes in a single field-of-view.

Here are 4 areas where barcode reading technology can improve traceability at your facility:

1. Pallet Scanning on a Conveyor
This application deals with pallets that are moving along the tracks of a conveyor. In this scenario, there is no need for multiple readers to capture the barcodes on each pallet, instead you can use a single fixed-mount barcode reader equipped with a High Speed Steerable Mirror.

The Steerable Mirror scans up and down the pallet, automatically capturing all barcodes as the pallet is in motion (even capturing codes that are wrapped in plastic or partially covered) and registers a 2D image of each code.

 2. Inbound and Outbound at the Dock Door
When a pallet moves through a dock door, it presents unique challenges that differ from a conveyor. Dock doors aren’t always straight or may be wide, which can make the working distances for scanning more difficult. Also, pallets are more likely to be covered in plastic or other wrapping, which can make it tough to accurately read barcodes.

Rather than using a handheld scanner, you can move a pallet through a dock door equipped with two High Speed Steerable Mirrors and capture barcodes on both sides of the pallet simultaneously. This process eliminates manual scanning and is seamless even if you’re dealing with plastic-covered barcodes or your pallet is made up of both covered and uncovered barcodes (by plastic or other materials).

3. Product Aggregation
This scenario involves scanning individual items within a box as it moves along the conveyor. The challenge with capturing codes on individual products is that they can be sitting in the box at different heights or aligned unevenly. For example, a large box might be filled with small rectangular boxes of medical devices and to ensure the large box is completely filled, the smaller boxes need to be lined up in different directions.

Rather than using a typical line scan solution or multi-camera solution, the High Speed Steerable Mirror allows you to use a single fixed-mount barcode reader. By placing the reader above a conveyor, you can scan codes left to right, capturing each individual item within a box as its in motion.

 4. Forklift Mounted Pallet Reading
When a pallet is loaded onto a forklift, oftentimes barcodes need to be applied in a very specific way so they can be accurately captured by hand scanners. If barcodes are not applied correctly, it can present challenges downstream, such as if an operator expects a barcode to be in a specific location, but it’s not, and they waste time trying to locate it. To improve pallet reading, a High Speed Steerable Mirror can be mounted directly onto a forklift, allowing you to maximize the amount of the pallet face that can be scanned and freeing you of the specific barcode application rules. This enables you to move pallets faster in and out of your facility since you can eliminate manual scanning.

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