Portable Printers Take Pricing Efficiencies to New Heights

— April 12, 2011

For the Supermercado Planeta grocery store chain in Uruguay, the price is not only always right; it’s in the right place.
However, this wasn’t always the case. Until recently, the chain used laser printers to print sheets of price labels, which were then affixed to stores’ shelves. The system was problematic in more ways than one. Inventory-taking inefficiencies topped the list: Because the labels were not barcoded, employees were forced to pick up each item and scan its barcode when performing merchandise counts. Additionally, printing labels in sheet form, rather than individually, resulted in a significant waste of paper; empty spaces always remained on each sheet after the appropriate labels had been created. 
Supermercado Planeta turned to HYC, a VAR/POS/ISV for help. The company put together a solution comprising SM-T300 three-inch portable printers from Star Micronics, whose rugged construction, light weight and compact size made them perfect for generating barcode labels on the fly; as well as Dolphin 6500 or 7600 hand-held mobile computers from Honeywell Scanning & Mobility. The SM-T300s run a proprietary software application, written by HYC, to print the barcode labels.
An initial test included the deployment of 60 portable printers across seven stores. The transition from the old system to the new one took about one month; training, which spanned two to three days per store and focused on how to properly set the printer paper in the “home” position, was accomplished via on-site visits to stores by HYC personnel. 
As expected, the solution has significantly streamlined the pricing and inventory counting processes. Before putting products on the shelves, employees simply scan the items’ bar codes with the Dolphin mobile computers. Data captured from the bar codes is wirelessly transmitted to the printers, which support Bluetooth 2.1 as well as serial connections. Operating at a speed of 48 mm per second—far faster than their laser printer counterparts—the SM-T300s generate barcode labels that are affixed to the shelves and re-scanned whenever inventory counts are initiated. Scanning the barcode labels on the shelves, rather than removing merchandise from its place to read the barcodes on individual items, also saves employees considerable time. Additionally, the printers generate only desired, user-defined quantities of labels, eliminating wasted paper and reducing label printing expenditures.
The owner has a total of 2,000 stores in Uruguay, including supermarkets, restaurants, cafeterias, and other establishments; of these, 800 to 900 stores are HYC customers. “The owner likes the solution, and we are currently seeking additional opportunities to roll it out” within the organization, said Gabriel Atrat, HYC’s Director. “Leveraging the cost- and time-savings potential of mobile printing using the SM-T300s should bode very well for this chain in the future.”

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