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Print Labels Directly From Oracle to Zebra Printers

June 7, 2016 Leave a comment

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

BI Publisher Provides Our Organization Extreme Agility

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

A year and a half ago, our company embarked on a project to run Oracle E-business R12. Part of that process included a manufacturing migration from our legacy systems, and the other part included a migration of financial modules from Oracle 11i.  Included in the 11i financial modules was Accounts Payable, thus our Payment process needed to be migrated to R12.  One of my responsibilities was to create the payment output for the R12 system.  Payments in Oracle R12 are rendered with BI Publisher, an Oracle tool I became very skilled with while working on the AP project.  Although limited, BI Publisher has to be one of the most powerful technologies Oracle provides and has allowed our IT organization to become more agile.

From what I heard, it took the previous business analyst two years to get a check printed in the 11i production system, starting at the beginning of that project.  The R12 Payment processing seemed like a daunting task.  But I was up for the challenge and eager to enhance my skill set.

Within the first day of working on the payment output, I was able to get a check printed out of our test system.  Two weeks later I had a check ready to send to our bank for validation.

Although my manager was impressed, he still had some doubts. I have a feeling he was thinking around the lines of, “this is too good to be true; how can someone get a check ready for approval so fast, when took so long previously?” Whatever his thinking was, the bank validation had the ability to halt my swift progress right in its tracks.

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Open Letter: Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA)

January 17, 2011 4 comments

I first came to the Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA) because of a Groupon.  I loved the place!  The food was great, and the staff was friendly.  I was left with an extremely positive perception of the CBA.

Saturday, I returned with a few friends of mine.  I was excited to show them what the CBA was all about.  Although, when I tried to use the second and last Groupon I had purchased, I was unable to use it. I was told I could not use a Groupon on the weekend. Concerned, I looked at the terms and conditions of the Groupon and could not find wording which indicated the Groupon could not be used on the weekend, or wording that would allow the terms to be changed post-purchase.

I asked to speak to a manager and was told he was not in. I then asked to speak to the manager-on-duty; I was told there was not one and that every employee was a manager of the co-op.

My positive perception of the CBA quickly changed.  The customer behind me in line also came to use his Groupon.  He decided to leave; not paying for the food he had ordered.  Trying not to ruin my fiends experience I decided to stay and paid cash.

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H&R Block Confuses Customers

January 4, 2011 5 comments

H&R Block is really frustrating me; do they want me as a customer, or not?

I started doing my tax return with H&R Block online last week.  Upon visiting the site, I clicked on the “Start Now” under the FREE edition.  As returning user, I entered my username and password and clicked log-in.  Suddenly, I was thrown into the Premium service, without warning.   Thirty minutes went by as I tried to search the FAQ, support, and rest of the internet for a way to switch back to the free edition.

Giving up, I called their support phone number.  The gentlemen I spoke to asked for my e-mail address and birth date to verify my account. He verified that I was in a  premium account, but was unable to tell me how I got to the premium section without paying or how to get back to a free account, making sure I did not have to pay later.  It sounded like he was a complete novice.  I must have spent 20 minutes on the phone with H&R Block cycling between representative confusion and hold music.

Frustrated, I asked for the gentleman’s supervisor.  He requested my Social Security Number in order to verify my account.  Why would I be asked for my Social Security Number when requesting a supervisor?  And why now, not before.   That made absolutely no sense to me.  I refused to divulge the information as it served no purpose, and I had already been verified.

I was about to be late to a Fit-Core class at my gym, so I thanked the gentlemen and hung up.

Now, a week later, I am trying once again to start working on my tax return.  I login, and see this message:

H&R Block Online 2010 Screen Capture

H&R Block Online 2010 Screen Capture

What am I supposed to do? Was this proof-read at all?

  • The explanation makes no sense to me
  • There appears to be internal-use-only jargon and/or industry acronyms within the explanation
  • What is this newsletter they are describing?
  • What are the implications, other than price, for switching?
  • Will my tax data be deleted either way?
  • There is a space before a period within the explanation

I think it’s time to file with TurboTax Free edition.

**UPDATE**

Upon publishing this post, an automated Tweet went out on twitter, and I quickly got a response from H&R Block. I responded with my phone number a and the best time to call which they acknowledged.  Promptly, at the time I specified, I got a call back from H&R Block!  Within ten minutes H&R Block had apologized and solved my problem!

I would have liked to thank H&R Block for their quick response, but it is hard to do that when I had to go through all of this just to solve a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  Furthermore:  their initial line of support should have been able to solve this just as quick!

Aldi Takes Customer Service to the Next Level

August 21, 2010 9 comments

For quite some time now, I have been a deal hunter.  I’m cheap.  I love deals.  And thus, Aldi, a value oriented grocery store, has become a staple in my life.  Aldi’s strategy is quite simple; offer a low variate of store brand products at a small no frills store.

If you want a cart, you have to deposit a quarter to borrow  it (you get the quarter back when you return the cart). Want a bag?  It will cost you $0.15.

With all this attention to cost cutting, you would think they would also skimp on customer service. That is not case. I recently communicated with Aldi about a change in their Bran Flakes recipe, and I have been amazed at the level of service I have received.

The Bran Flakes I used to buy from Aldi were outstanding. And at $1.59 a box, you couldn’t find a better deal, even if your life depended on it.  However, the manufacturer of the cereal recently changed the recipe they use to produce the product, and I was not impressed with the change.  I still eat the Bran Flakes, but I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to.

I thought I would express my dissatisfaction with the recipe change to Aldi via their website.

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Your Business Process Should Make Sense

June 3, 2010 1 comment

The other day I was at CostCo and realized they were scanning a barcode, that was affixed to the cash register, during each and every transaction.  I inquired into what the purpose was.  The cashier told me the barcode was scanned to verify they checked the bottom of the cart to make sure all products was scanned.

It turns out CostCo has a major problem; items in the bottom of the cart are frequently not scanned before  customers leave the store. The cashier told me that they repeatedly discuss this problem in team meetings.  I would agree that this problem could be very costly, and that it would be a significantly larger problem at CostCo compared to most other stores since there are so many large heavy items for sale at CostCo.

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Online Shipping; The Pain it Shouldn’t Be!

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Last Saturday I was trying to print a simple postage label for a package I wanted to ship.  All I wanted was a shipping label.  I thought it would take me five minutes at USPS.com, but it turns out a pot-roast cooks in less time that it takes to print a shipping label!  After using their sites, I have come to the conclusion that the United States Postal Service (USPS) and United Parcel Service (UPS) go through very little, if any, user acceptance testing.  FedEx isn’t much better; I did get a label in 10 minutes, but their rates are significantly higher than I was willing to pay.  Here are the pains I felt while navigating though the websites of the three major United States shippers.

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