Beauty, it is said, is in the eyes of the beholder. Much the same can be said of the scanning equipment used in asset tracking. What may be the perfect scanner for one user may be cumbersome or unusable for another. No two client situations are identical and scanner requirements deserve careful review before the system is purchased. With that in mind, let’s take a look at available readers and some of the important considerations.
Mobile Scanners – Mobile data collection devices are scanners that have on board processors and storage and can collect data without reliance on another processor. Though available for 20+ years, these devices are the dominant data collection tool for asset tracking because of their convenience and reliability. The installed software will provide data collation prompts to the user, and completed entries are stored on-board for later uploading and processing in the asset data base. Their capabilities are driven by the on-board software and, bear in mind, there are vast differences in vender offerings for these units. Even within this class of scanners the hardware design, features, capacity, durability and form factors vary widely. Such devices should be evaluated carefully, but are essential for self-contained, anywhere-anytime data collection.
Network (WIFI/Cellular) Scanners – These scanners are grouped together because both rely on a network connection, the only difference is the type of network. Network scanners connect to the data base and update records real-time, eliminating the need to upload batch data and verify its accuracy after transactions are completed. Large databases where field verification and asset look-ups are commonplace require some type of network scanner. However, using network devices is dependent on the underlying network and the reliability of the connection. If the network is performing at slower speeds, transaction latency can be frustrating and noticeably slow the inventory process. Here again, carefully review the on-board software as vender offerings can be profoundly different.
RFID Scanners – For those with the need and budget for radio based asset identification, RFID scanners are essential. Generally, these devices are identical to the bar code scanners but simply add an RFID scanning engine. In fact, any RFID scanner worth considering will read both bar codes and RFID tags. (There are a host of fixed RFID scanners that can be used for security and asset control but those are a topic for another day). The chief benefit of RFID technology is that tags can be read without being physically seen and from far greater distances than bar codes making inventories much easier and less time consuming. RFID technology is considerably more costly than bar code based systems and requires a learning curve to master all of the elements needed for success. We will cover these considerations in a blog in the near future. As always, carefully review the on board software for capabilities before selecting a product.
The watchword then is to be careful. Match your requirements to the hardware recommended. Spend some time visualizing how that hardware will work in your environment, who will use it and the expectations you have for the results. We have taken over many clients who previously purchased inappropriate equipment only to become dissatisfied and purchase replacement equipment long before it failed. Give us a call for a free, no obligation evaluation. While we can’t promise you will find our recommended equipment beautiful, at least you will find it correct for your needs.