Product traceability, process automation, and visual inspections are more important than ever in manufacturing and logistics.
But it’s a big challenge to actually achieve these things, especially at a time when product customization is on the rise, and so many manufacturing and logistics processes vary by product, customer, and distribution channel.
This is why our team at Van Meter/Werner Electric is so excited about Zebra’s new Fixed Industrial Scanning and Machine Vision technologies, which provide a complete and easy-to-deploy solution for traceability, process automation, and visual inspections—even with there’s high variance in the products, processes, and quality requirements you need to manage.
In this article, we take a look at Zebra’s new Fixed Industrial Scanning (FIS) and Machine Vision (MV) hardware and software in detail, including how it works, how you can use it to your operations, and why we recommend these solutions as the simplest and absolute best way to automate track-and-trace, production and logistics processes, quality assurance, and process validation.
A Quick Overview of Zebra’s FIS and MV Solutions
Zebra’s Fixed Industrial Scanning (FIS) and Machine Vision (MV) solutions are designed to automatically capture the data and conduct the automated visual inspections you need to streamline processes, eliminate errors, and advance high-quality output.
Instead of relying on manual scanning processes with handheld devices or relying on visual inspections and process validation with the human eye, Zebra provides fixed scanning and vision-sensing devices that do the job for you, with the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of machine automation.
But these technologies are also amazingly simple and easy to deploy, with a single software platform that allows you to set up, configure, and manage your devices and start getting outstanding results on day one.
For example, you can install a fixed scanner on a production line to scan component barcodes or digital part marks as parts move through a key production process. This way, you can track which parts are used for each product and validate the correct parts are being used for that stage of your manufacturing process.
You can also install a machine vision device that uses imaging and visual sensors at the end of that same process to verify the correct parts have been installed or assembled correctly in a finished product.
The potential use cases and applications are virtually limitless, but however you use Zebra’s solutions, it’s all about making automation and automated visual inspections as accessible and as easy to achieve as possible for companies of all sizes. And it’s about achieving two key objectives:
- Proven Track-and-Trace
Zebra’s fixed scanners allow you to start tracking, tracing, sorting, and routing items with trusted decode performance on day one. Zebra’s software makes setting up and configuring your scanners remarkably fast and simple, and its intelligent algorithms ensure reliable traceability with first-time, automated, and accurate capture of a wide range of data formats including the following:
- 1D/2D barcodes
- Direct part marks (DPM)
- OCR text
- Improved Quality
Zebra’s FIS devices can be upgraded to add machine vision and sensor toolsets so you can automate visual quality inspection, process validation, part counts, and more. A simple software license unlocks a world of added features, including the following:
- Automated inspections
- Product and part verification
- Process step confirmation
- Part and product counting
Zebra’s imaging and vision technology intelligently inspects, examines, and captures images of individual parts or components, assemblies, and even finished products. While Zebra’s unified software allows you to quickly “train” your devices to automatically inspect, count, or verify these items against standards, specs, and correct samples that you choose.
But let’s take a look at how this actually works in practice. Here are a few sample use cases of the transformative benefit of fixed industrial scanning and machine vision.
USE CASE #1: Component Traceability
With product customization becoming widespread and commonplace, manufacturers have more SKUs and more components to track than ever before. However, with Zebra’s FIS technologies, they can set up fixed and automated scanning of component, part, and product barcodes; digital part marks (DPMs); or even OCR text to uniquely identify and track everything that moves through their production processes.
USE CASE #2: Robotic Palletization
One of our customers had multiple product boxes coming through on the same conveyor, and they needed to route each type of box to a specific diverter line so a robot could package it. With Zebra’s FIS technology, a fixed scanner now reads box barcodes as they travel on the conveyor, identifying each box type and sending it to the appropriate downstream line for robotic packaging.
USE CASE #3: Automated Visual Inspection
When it comes to Zebra’s MV capabilities, the potential applications for visual inspections and process validation are almost limitless. You can easily configure Zebra’s devices to use their built-in imaging capabilities and advanced sensor toolset to achieve the following:
- Visually check parts or products against specifications
- Confirm that correct parts have been used or installed
- Validate that key production processes have been completed for work in process
- Automate component or product counts
- Automate many other visual inspection processes
Adopting machine vision is a great way to minimize the time, labor, and potential errors involved in conducting visual inspections manually and with the human eye. And what’s particularly great about Zebra’s MV solutions is that they’re so easy to set up and get running, even on day one.
One Software Platform for Easy Setup and Integration
With a single software platform for both fixed industrial scanning and machine vision, Zebra’s devices are incredibly easy and hassle-free to set up, deploy, and run. One easy-to-learn software app delivers a common toolset, diagnostics, and an ultra-simple interface to easily integrate fixed scanners and machine vision devices into your processes and your networked environment.
This makes Zebra FIS and MV solutions a great fit for companies that need to deploy fixed industrial scanning or machine vision for the first time. Likewise, they’re also a life saver for companies that already use these technologies in their operations and are looking for a much simpler and easier way to get the results they need.
A Simpler Way to Deploy Fixed Scanning and Machine Vision
Many manufacturing plants and logistics operations have looked into fixed industrial scanning and machine vision as ways to boost traceability, efficiency, quality, and accuracy.
But historically there have been two big problems with fixed scanning and machine vision technologies:
- Many companies have tried fixed industrial scanning or machine vision in the past and have been burned by complicated or unsupported solutions.
- Other companies have hesitated to deploy fixed scanning or add machine vision because they’re afraid they’ll get in over their heads and won’t get the results they need.
Thankfully, Zebra has changed everything by developing FIS and MV solutions with a clear understanding of the real demands and needs of the manufacturing and logistics industries. Zebra’s new and incredibly simplified approach makes fixed scanning and machine vision accessible as well as easy to use, deploy, and manage.
Now, companies can actually get the game-changing benefits of fixed scanning and machine vision without the complexity and headaches of previous technologies. Zebra’s solutions have been proven through extensive application testing in the field, and they’re designed to be as easy and hassle-free as possible to set up, deploy, and run.
It’s all based on three characteristics that customers told Zebra they really wanted when it comes to fixed scanning and machine vision:
- Easy to Set Up
With Zebra’s FIS and MV solutions, it doesn’t take days or weeks to get fixed scanning or machine vision up and running. One common software platform with a user-friendly interface provides a fast and simple process, plus agnostic tools to help you resolve any setup issues quickly.
- Easy to Deploy
Zebra’s FIS and MV solutions combine out-of-the-box simplicity with powerful data capture and vision technology, so you can get trusted decoding performance and inspection routines right away. There’s no fuss because you can simply install your devices where you need them, configure them in Zebra’s software, and start scanning or visually inspecting right away.
- Easy to Run
With Zebra’s hardware and software, there’s no more juggling different devices or applications to get the results you need. Zebra’s devices can be used as both fixed scanners and machine vision devices, so you can get everything you need from one hardware provider, and you can configure and manage all your devices with one common, easy-to-learn, and powerful platform.
You can even start automating your processes by using Zebra’s devices for fixed industrial scanning and then convert them to machine vision solutions with a simple software license.
See Zebra’s Fixed Scanning and Machine Vision in Action
To learn more about Zebra’s exciting new FIS and MV solutions, watch our intro video, download our quick introductory ebook, and contact Van Meter /Werner Electric to schedule a walkthrough. We’ll show you how easily you can set up these technologies to automate and error-proof your production, logistics, and visual inspection processes.