1D [Linear] and 2D [Two Dimensional] Barcode Scanning and Barcode Printing Questions for use with SAP ECC® and S/4HANA®, plus General Barcoding FAQ.

SupportLine Case:
Can my existing Zebra printers support 2D barcode pallet label printing?
And, how can I enable 2D barcode scanning with my mobile device using SAP Fiori mobile inventory transactions? 

QUESTION: How do I scan a QR barcode with my Zebra scanner?

ANSWER: To start, a QR barcode is a two-dimensional, or 2D barcode symbology, with fast readability and greater storage capacity (often containing data for a material identifier, batch, LOT, locator, or website or application URL) compared to standard UPC/linear barcode that contains limited data.  In order to scan/read a 2D barcodes, such as a QR code, you will need an “imager” scan engine.  Imager meaning a Zebra barcode scanner, for example, with a scan engine that is a camera-based imaging technology, not a raster/sweeping laser.  While powerful in its own right and very fast, a laser scan engine is limited to linear (1D) scanning.  Barcode scanner models with purpose-built omnidirectional imaging engines, such as Zebra (Motorola, Symbol), Honeywell (Intermec, LXE), and Datalogic, have the ability to scan/read/capture both 1D and 2D barcode symbologies… from distances of 3 inches away, to about 70 feet away (that’s scanner to the barcode).  This includes many 2D barcodes symbologies- QR code, Data Matrix, PDF417, MaxiCode, and many more.  Additionally, many rugged RF devices and tablets leverage imaging technology from their built-in device cameras to scan/read 2D barcodes.  Note that all cameras/imagers are not built equal.  The successful ability to scan a QR barcode, or any barcode, fast and consistently is strictly dependent on the barcode scanning device, the barcode design, AND the data collection software.

QUESTION: Can my existing Zebra printer support printing 2D barcodes for pallet labels?

ANSWER: Short answer- yes.  Zebra thermal barcode label printers, as well as Honeywell and Intermec printers, Datamax-O’Neil printers, and Sato barcode label printers all have the ability to print 2D barcodes.  The limitations of what a printer can do or print, originates from how the printer code (such as Zebra Programming Language or ZPL for Zebras, IPL for Intermec, SPL for Sato, etc.) is generated and sent to the printer.  If a user has WSYIWIG label design and printing software (What You See Is What You Get) such as BarTender, or other barcode software programs such as Zebra Designer, NiceLabel, TekLynx (Label View and Codesoft), Easy Label, Loftware, and so on.  BCCD’s solution called QuickPrint, enables SAP-integrated support for printing 1D and 2D barcodes, as well as support for graphics handling, variable data entry, revision control, and more that may be required for centralized or decentralized barcode label printing directly with SAP ERP software

QUESTION: How do I scan/read barcodes in the warehouse that need to be on the top (4th) rack- about 30 feet off the floor, and from a forklift?

ANSWER: In order to perform what’s called “long range” barcode scanning, or “extended range” barcode scanning, you will need both a barcode scanner, a barcode symbology, and label materials that supports reading the barcode data from far away – measured by the distance from the end of your arm and the barcode itself.  For the device, Zebra barcode scan engines have specific configurations with proven support for long-range scanning for both mobile RF terminals, as well as Bluetooth/tethered barcode scanners connected to a vehicle terminal.  The barcode symbology will need to be a size or ratio that’s 20 mils or larger.  Lastly, the label material itself will factor into scanning performance.  Ultimately, your warehouse location label will need a good contrast between the dark/black barcode and the light (white, silver, etc.) empty space on the label.  Labels materials have special options to support ultimate (scanner) light refraction… adding to improved scanning performance.

QUESTION: Is there a best barcode label to use for Pallet tagging with Handling Unit (HU) Management?

ANSWER: First- HU labels, sometimes referred to as Handling Unit labels (HU), Storage Unit labels (SU), License Plate Numbers (LPN), etc., have commonly used the barcode symbology that best suits the application.  However, regulatory or compliance requirements may dictate using specific barcodes such as GS1-compliant barcodes, SSCC (Serial Shipping Container Code), GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number), and so on.  Next, there are versions of compliant labels that include use of both linear (1D) and 2D barcodes.  Use of 2D barcodes has additional support for use of more data, as well as support for special control characters.  For reference, the scanner will also play a part when it comes to parsing and/or extracting data from the barcode.  E.g. if the barcode actually reads “123456-1”, the scanner can support reading and entering only “123456” and parsing/removing the “-1” automatically.

QUESTION: Can I setup my Zebra RF scanner to scan one barcode to enter multiple fields, vs scanning multiple barcodes?

ANSWER: Short answer- yes.  There are multiple ways to enable to scan a 1D or 2D barcode and enter data into multiple fields automatically.  The 2D barcode may be configured with multiple fields, separated by control characters.  The label can have multiple barcodes, and an applicable Zebra RF scanner may be setup to read multiple barcodes (e.g. SimulScan).  The mobilized SAP software transaction may also be designed to include barcode automation.  This may also be accomplished using multiple mobile SAP software barcoding transactions, including SAP Fiori (UI5) mobile transactions, SAP ITSmobile (web browser) transactions, SAP Console (telnet connectivity), and also via SAP .NET integration.

QUESTION: What printers are supported for printing 2D barcodes from SAP software?

ANSWER: The SAP software architecture for generating and printing output, for human readable text or 1D or 2D barcode labels, will dictate what printer is support for that process.  Example- if the SAP system is built using SAPscript and ZPL code for a specific Zebra model and configuration printer, the limitation of printing a 2D barcode may be limited to only the barcodes supported by that printer model.  Use of any additional model will result in different barcode label results… distorted, shifted position, barcodes that are not readable, and so on.  In this scenario, swapping to a Honeywell or Sato barcode label printer will also require use of the printer’s ZPL emulator (or vice versa).  Emulators are not ideal and require significant testing and code modification.  In our experience, best practices for barcode label printing is to leverage the power of a dedicated enterprise (WYSIWYG) label design and printing software program.  Properly architected and simplistically integrated with the SAP software, the BarTender printing solution enables printing to any printer that has a Windows printer driver, including thermal printers, mobile printers, laser, inkjet, print and apply, etc.  This approach supports over 3000 models, from over 100 printer companies.  This best practice approach also simplifies barcode label format design, compliance and regulation, graphics handling for logos and images, consolidation of template use, and enables workflow revision as needed.

QUESTION: Can I enable support for 2D barcode scanning with my mobile device using SAP Fiori mobile inventory transactions?

ANSWER: There are multiple considerations for 2D barcode scanning using mobilized SAP inventory transactions.  Again, the short answer is yes, making some assumptions.  The assumptions include: (a) using a mobile barcode scanning device supports reading 2D barcodes, (b) designing and testing a 2D barcode that matches the data needed by the SAP software to be entered into mobile inventory transaction data field, and (c) utilizing mobilized SAP inventory transactions built with the ability to process data scanned and read by the barcode reader.  BCCD’s TranASAP solution does exactly this- provide customizable barcode automation support for SAP mobile inventory transactions using SAP Console, SAP ITSmobile, and/or SAP Fiori mobile architectures.

Barcode scanning described, either Linear or 2D barcodes, is purpose-built for SAP ECC 6.0® and SAP S/4HANA® end users looking to remove manual processes and automate data collection for accuracy and efficiency.  Leveraging mobility built on platforms such as SAP Console, SAP ITSmobile, or SAP Fiori / UI5 platform connectivity, combined with 802.11 wireless (WLAN), as well as certified mobile devices such as Zebra and Honeywell RF scanners, rugged tablets, vehicle terminals and/or wearable RF devices.  Images shown are for illustration.  Each application may vary from end-user to end-user based upon software blueprinting, application requirements, potential regulatory compliance, and final recommendations.

Best practice standards are vital to create consistent and easy-to-use barcode scanning, barcode printing, and optimized SAP RF screens for mobile users, as well as to meet corporate requirements for standardization.  BCCD designs each IM, WM, or EWM mobile inventory transaction for mobile RF scanners (handheld barcode scanners, rugged tablets, vehicle terminals, and more) with minimal words and maximum simplicity, optimized specifically to make the mobile SAP RF scanning and barcode printing system extremely easy to use for the operator.  BCCD’s TranASAP solution is developed for real-time, directly-integrated architecture, using the above SAP-certified software development platforms and connectivity tools.

Contact BCC Distribution to illustrate how RF scanning and barcode printing automation can optimize SAP ECC 6.0® and SAP S/4HANA® Inventory Management, Warehouse Management, and Extended Warehouse Management specific to your Inventory Movement process for manufacturing, warehousing, and/or distribution operations.