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Print Labels Directly From Oracle to Zebra Printers

Labeling is a very important business process that usually confuses even the best of us.  It involves many moving parts; including, but not limited to, ERP systems, printer hardware, bar-code symbologies, and label templates. It’s seemingly rare in corporate IT to find a single person who knows enough about all of these technologies to create a simple labeling solution. Third party companies like Bartender and Loftware have swooped in to provide “turnkey solutions” which have their own complexities. From my point of view, these third party solutions provide little, if any, value. I’d even go as far to say that they detract value from the overall solution.

Here are a few points which a third party software vendor may bring up which will seem enticing to you:

  • With a third party solution, you can have one centralized label template repository
  • We offer a visual label template editor
  • We can direct printing based on business data

Here is what the sales people won’t tell you about third party labeling solutions:

  • License costs are extraordinary high and repeat annually
  • Each server requires a license
    • Each server in a load balancing cluster will require a license (A license per IP address)
    • Each test/development server requires a license
  • The software requires hardware/virtual machines (VMs) to run on (which also has an additional cost)
    • Multiply it for each test/development instance
  • The software provides an additional point of failure which can be difficult to troubleshoot
  • Additional desktop software is also required, and may not be very robust
    • Precise formatting can be very difficult, or impossible
    • Even basic ZPL functions are difficult or impossible to implement
  • Some key features, like linking to data from external sources, is limited in capability
  • There’s a conflict of interest between the software quality and desire to sell consulting services
  • Zebra offers a WYSIWYG visual label template editor, for a lower price

Let me be the first to tell you; third party software is not going to make your labeling solution simple. In practice, it will likely make you want to pull your hair out.

Luckily, Oracle comes ready to print labels out of the box!  Don’t let the Loftware salesperson tell you otherwise!  Here are the steps you can take to print a label directly from Oracle; no third party systems involved.

Design a ZPL Template:

^XA
^MNW^POI^PMN^LH0,0^JMA^MD25^PQ1,0,0,N^CI0^PW812^MMT^LL406^LRY^FO20,25^GB773,0,70^FS
^FT340,80^A0N,60,60^FH^FN10^FDITEM^FS
^MCY^XZ

Save the template on your Zebra printer’s flash memory
ZebraTemplateZPL[1]

Configure your device IP address.
DeviceIP[1]

Set your profile option: ‘WMS: Label Print Mode’ = ‘Synchronous – TCP/IP’
Profile[1]

Set up your label Format and fields
(make sure the name matches the storage path on the printer)
LabelFormat

 

 

Back to the third party software benefits; are any of them true?  I don’t think so.

For one, Zebra offers software (ZebraNet Bridge Enterprise) that will push label templates to all your zebra printers in just a few clicks; making centralized label templates a moot point.  The Zebra software is only a few hundred dollars.  Once.

As mentioned before, Zebra offers label template design software (Zebra Designer) that is, in my experience, far better than a third parties software. Think of it this way, the easier Zebra makes printing labels, the more hardware/supplies your company will buy from them. On the flip side, with third party vendors like Loftware, the more complex the software, the more consulting services they can sell you.

Lastly, the ERP system, in my case, Oracle, should be robust enough to direct labels to desired printers.  If it’s not, you will likely be better off designing a custom solution in the ERP system rather than implementing a third party package, which itself will require much technical work.

With just a little work, you can be printing labels, directly from Oracle, without any need for virtual machines or complex middleware.

References

ERPschools – Oracle MSCA Label Printing
Zebra – Barcode Printing from Oracle WMS

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