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End of Life Transition

Replacing mission critical thermal printers is rarely as simple as just swapping them out for a newer model, as one of our customers recently found out...

The Business Challenge

The depot logistics team is responsible for ensuring an even flow of goods through to the stores and depends on mission critical printers to help despatch goods to the right sales areas and overstock locations. The customer was using Zebra QL mobile printers to produce labels and wanted to replace its ageing devices with the newer, high-duty cycle label and receipt model, the QLN420.

Simple swapping out was not an option. Datatrade discovered a number of files loaded onto the flash memory of the working printers, some of which were no longer needed, while others were fonts and logos in regular use. There was also a special file which had allowed the customer to customise the front panels and printer buttons but which limited the menu to only a few useful options for operators.

This customised menu located on each printer worked in conjunction with the host warehouse management system (WMS) at the start of a shift and linked any given MC9000 scanner with that printer for the duration of the shift.

The Business Solution

Simply transferring files from the flash memory to the new QLN printers would not work so Datatrade had to carry out a number of specific actions to deliver a seamless transition. These included:

  • Rewriting and testing the customised file to ensure it was compatible with the operational functionality of the new QLN printer
  • Recreating the fonts to ensure they registered properly and were called correctly by the new printers
  • Removing superfluous files
  • Changing the CPCL test file to ensure that the new QLN printer, which is natively ZPL, could support all CPCL commands
  • Ensuring operational defaults of the new QLN printers would be compatible with older CPCL datastreams sent by both the MC9000 and the host WMS. This involved Datatrade getting copies of the actual datastreams being sent to the system by the WMS. It has developed a number of tools that work with the printers to allow this information to be captured as easily as possible in a live environment.

The Business Benefits

By carrying out all these processes, Datatrade was able to develop the procedures necessary to correctly stage and configure the new printers to allow them to integrate seamlessly into the customers live environment and not cause any disruption.

To further minimise downtime in the distribution center, Datatrade has installed its remote engineer service Reg. to allow the retailer to do its own ‘first line’ problem recognition and rectification with the press of a single button. Not only will Reg. reduce downtime and duration to problem resolution but it will also lessen the amount of times printers actually need to be sent away for repair.

A further benefit of Reg. is that it allows the customer to monitor the condition of its new printers’ batteries and be more pro-active in spotting potential problems that could cause printer communications and print issues.

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