MIM labels three times faster with Zebra mobile printers

Posted October 2, 2009

Zebra QL 220Objective:
Improve efficiency by enabling store staff to automatically print product labels when handheld terminals display a change of price.

The roll-out of 300 QL 220 mobile printers for MIM stores

To boost its efficiency, the MIM chain has just equipped its stores with 300 QL 220 mobile printers. Integrated with the stores IT system, the printers have enabled the company to become more reactive, and store personnel can now do price checking and labeling tasks three times faster than before. MIM is extremely satisfied with this rise in productivity.

Time saved: price labeling is three times faster than the previous solution using a manual labeler.

Reduced risk of errors: data used for label printing is sent directly from the central store system. Staff do not need to enter this information, thereby reducing the risk of error.

Improvements in working conditions: ergonomically designed and very simply to maintain, the PDT and printer combination is easy to use.

Less development needed: implementing the QL 220 and interfacing it with the system, required almost no extra development due to Zebra’s open interfaces.

MIM is a chain of mass-market clothes boutiques for young women, with over two hundred outlets in France. “We are specialized in the low-price and markdown sector,” explains Philippe Lafon, the company’s IT manager. “We have to do everything possible to be reactive with our labeling and price updates. Especially since the company uses over 20 million labels annually for its markdown campaigns, or 500,000 per campaign.” Which means that anything that can help reduce time spent on labeling is vital for the company’s business!

Starting in 1998, in collaboration with Zetes France, MIM equipped its stores with Symbol® PDT 3100 scanner-enabled handheld data terminals to check in received goods, input inventory and check prices. Printing labels was at the time done manually. “Once the portable data terminal showed a change of price, the employee had to put down the PDT, adjust the wheel on the manual labeler to the new price and print and apply the label to the article.,” explains Philippe Lafon. “In other words, it was a laborious operation and the manual input of prices incurred a high risk of errors.”

Terminals that communicate straight to printers
“So we tried to make the system more efficient by connecting a mobile printer to the PDT,” adds Philippe Lafon. “We chose Zebra’s QL 220 mobile printers as they were compatible with existing equipment and development tools, but above all because they are very easy to use for the staff, all at a reasonable cost.”

Connected by cable, QL 220 mobile printers communicate directly to the PDTs, which are connected to the POS system. Each time the bar code is read and each time a price changes, the terminal sends a message to the printer that automatically outputs the label.

“This system delivers huge productivity gains,” says Philippe Lafon. “On average we can operate three times faster. In the past, we needed two days per person for a normal operation, but it can now be done in less than a day. This time gain naturally leads to substantial financial savings, and far less risk of error. The user does not have to select the prices, since the data to print the label comes directly from the POS system via the PDT.”

Open products that interface easily with the store systems
The user design of the printer also played a vital role in the choice. Before choosing a solution, MIM tested products in the store, and the sales staff highlighted the little extras that the QL 220 brings to users. “Zebra’s mobile printer is very light, connects easily to the PDT, opens wide when you have to change a label roll and has sufficient battery life to ensure good user autonomy,” says Philippe Lafon. “In other words, unlike other products, the QL 220 really was designed for mobile labelling and that makes it easier to use and delivers good value for money.”

Another advantage of these printers is that they are upgradeable. They are equipped for WIFI or BLUETOOTH connectivity, enabling MIM to upgrade its network to new communication technologies without changing the printer hardware. Lastly, but by no means least for Philippe Lafon, “the QL 220 has standard interfaces that allow users to do their own independent development.”

Zetes France, a VAR specialised in automatic identification and a Zebra partner, has supported this independence by designing a system that makes it easier to integrate new peripherals. “Thanks to our development tools, it took only two days to develop the program for interfacing the PDTs with the printers,” says Alain Priol, Managing Director of Zetes France. “The key advantage of these printers is their user friendliness: small footprint, powerful autonomy, and robustness. They really are good value for money”.

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