Distributed Barcode Label Printing

The term “distributed printing” is often applied to large corporate environments where the IT department is attempting to balance the large number of documents printing among printers that are located outside of the IT center.  The advantages of this type of printing scheme include balancing the load so that no one printer exceeds its duty cycle, maintaining central management of multiple remote printers, and saving on software costs.

For the organizations that print barcode labels, a distributed printing scheme could also have advantages.  By locating the printers near the “point of application” of the label, gains include:

Accuracy:   The person who needs the label is the one who triggers the printing.  It may be a production worker who needs to label a part, a hospital worker printing vial labels, or a shipper who needs a specific compliance label for the boxes.  In all cases, the label is printed on demand for the specific need.
Efficiency:   When the label is printed at point-of-use, less time is spent acquiring the label from the printer.  No need to ask someone else for the label; no need to walk over to where the printer is housed.  The printer is typically at the workstation where label application occurs.
Reliability:   By nature, a distributed printing environment allows for back-up printing if one workstation goes down.  The flexibility of being able to re-route print jobs provides the organization with guaranteed up-time.
Value:   In a barcode label distributed printing environment, the duty-cycle and speed requirements for each printer are less demanding.  This results in lower cost and smaller printers.  It saves money and table-top space.

Decisions regarding how to manage a distributed printing environment include how remote the printers are from a PC, how large the IT department is, and who will control the on-demand printing.  Barcode printers can be hooked directly to a local PC via standard interfaces, to a network via Ethernet or wireless, or they can be mobile printers that are driven by a handheld computer or wireless network.  In all cases, the accuracy, efficiency, reliability and value benefits are realized.

A future discussion will cover remote printer management.