How to Take Full Advantage of Mobile Printing and Streamline Your Supply Chain

Written by  on 29 November 2017
Mobile printing is more than just a convenience for employees on the move. Whether you need to print on the warehouse floor, at a customer site, or inside the cab of a truck, mobile printing can help you streamline your supply chain in a number of ways. By taking full advantage of this technology, you can simplify tasks that were previously labor intensive and complex.
How does mobile printing improve operations? There are three general benefit areas where mobile printers can streamline your supply chain:
Reduce Cost
In most cases, none of your employees would list “printing” as a primary job responsibility. However, when you require workers to travel back and forth from their work station to a centrally-located printer to retrieve labels, pick lists, receipts or other documentation, then print operations begin to eat up an increasing amount of their work day.
The busier your company is, the more things need to be printed and the more time employees spend walking back and forth. By equipping workers with mobile printing to print at the point of activity, you can eliminate this travel time — which adds up to hours of non-value-added labor that you pay for per week. And by reducing that nonproductive time, employees can spend more time at their work stations or tending to their primary tasks.
Increase Productivity
On the flip side of that cost reduction, you will also improve worker productivity. With less time wasted on travel to the printer, workers can complete more tasks — pick/pack more items, make more delivery stops, and complete more transactions per shift.
Zebra Technologies conducted a much-cited time/motion study of receiving operations demonstrating the power of mobile printing. In that use case, employees took just nine steps back and forth between a pallet and a printing workstation. When that process was upgraded with belt-worn mobile printers, eliminating those nine steps from the labeling processing resulted in a 42% reduction in labeling time.
In route delivery, mobile printers allow drivers to generate delivery documents and accurately invoice for customers without having to walk back to the truck (or worse, wait until they return to the depot to generate documentation).
In retail environments, mobile printers allow staff to update shelf prices and markdown item prices accurately without having to rely on lengthy preprinted sheets. A quick scan of the existing labels can identify what changes are required while automatically printing new labels.  The immediate application of the label can then be used to ensure the POS item pricing is updated for new price.  This eliminates the uncertainty of synchronizing item prices on the label and at the POS.
For mobile point of sale applications, point-of-activity printing saves time for both employees and customers. Wait staff at a restaurant could swipe credit cards and print receipts right at the table, giving them more time to take orders or refill drinks. In a retail store, staff could easily provide mobile check-out during busy periods.
Improve Accuracy
All that walking back and forth to a central printer doesn’t just waste time, it can also lead to delays and distractions that reduce accuracy. The staff doesn’t have to go away from the item, get the new label and come back only to look for the wrong label again.  Any gap between retrieving the label and applying could lead to employees picking up the wrong labels or applying them to the wrong product.
Those simple labeling errors can delay shipments, increase returns, or even lead to costly fines or chargebacks from customers. By allowing employees to scan, print, and apply in a seamless process, you can eliminate many of these errors. According to Zebra’s study, improving accuracy by as little as 1% can potentially save as much as $26,000 in error-related expenses annually (base on an average error cost of $250). 
Mobile printing, producing labels or receipts when and where you need them, can improve efficiency and accuracy, lower costs, and streamline your supply chain. As customers become more demanding and companies are pressured to complete more transactions faster and at a lower cost, mobile printers can play a key role in maintaining profitability.
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