L'egent International, a Newburgh, NY-based distributor of handbags, backpacks and belts from overseas.
When product arrives at its distributorships in New York, New Jersey and California, L'egent prepares them for sale in stores like JC Penney, Wal-Mart and Sears.
L’egent stuffs the pocketbooks with paper or balloons, price tags products for the appropriate stores, packages and labels them in six or 12 unit cartons and then ships them to the specific stores.
L'egent faces challenges for turn-around time, print volume and accuracy.
L’egent’s shipping volume is so high, that blank shipping label stock arrives from Cooley Group, Albany, NY, by the truckload. Last year, it also printed 8 million tags. That comes out to roughly 100,000 tags a week.
Typically, L'egent has only 24 to 48 hours to prepare, tag, package and label the products. If it misses a shipping date, the order can be cancelled.
Printing accuracy must be at least 99%, especially on barcoded items, or L'egent is fined.
According to L’egent, it gets crazy after awhile, even with computers. Even though roughly only 40 customers require tags and 90 need shipping labels, they are the large volume users and the remaining customers are daily joining the compliance-labelling crowd.
When L’egent run labels its 300 to 2,000 per customer in one shot, so volume is high.
To keep up with its customer's demands for fast turn around, L'egent sought faster printers and a faster way to get the labels to its distribution centres.
When an order came in, L'egent used to print shipping labels at headquarters using SATO 8400 series printers from SATO and Barcode400 label design software for the IBM AS/400 from T.L. Ashford, to maintain quality control.
Then it shipped them to the distribution centres. It was a tight squeeze when orders had to be out in 24-48 hours. If the distribution centre spotted a mistake in the printing or a change was required, the time factor to get new labels there was a major hurdle.
L'egent is committed to meeting its customer's demands, however, so it worked with Barcode Systems & Supplies of Wappingers Falls, NY to improve its labelling and tagging system and guarantee that products were shipped on time.
It purchased five newer, faster SATO M84PRO thermal transfer printers (with twin-ax cable connector capability) for headquarters and six for its distribution centres.
At headquarters, the printer connects straight to an AS/400, eliminating the middleman, a dumb terminal that was so old that replacement parts were hard to find.
According to L’egent, this makes it so much easier to control spool files and if it runs out of labels, it is easier to replace. L’egent does not have to worry about a work station dieing either. This is much simpler.
The existing 10-year-old SATO printers have been recycled to print temporary labels on shipping packages.
Those old ones are proof of the workhorse reliability of the SATO printers and one of the reasons L'egent chose SATO printers again.
Labelling moved closer to operation:
Alpha-Tech of Marlboro, NY, solved the second concern, getting labels to the distribution centres in a timely manner. Alpha-Tech searched the internet and discovered a Bos e-twinax controller.
SATO printers at remote sites plug into it and it plugs into an internet connection. Flip a switch and the SATO printers in the distribution centres whether in New Jersey, New York or California, receive printing orders from the AS/400 in Newburgh.
Design of the shipping labels is controlled via T.L. Ashford's Barcode400 software there.
Once the user gives the e-twinax internet connection, it finds its way back to the L'egent network and lets any device connected to it become part of the AS/400.
Another plus is L'egent can continue to design labels with the user-friendly Barcode400 label design software. There were no complicated software changes, no bugs to work out and no learning curve to overcome.
According to L’egent, when one has instant print capability, it is like the labels are sitting in the distribution centre.
A different operation creates the price tags. Two different SATO printers are used such as the SATO XL400e, which is specifically designed for printing tags and the SATO M84PRO with the optional, tag cutter module.
The XL400es are used for the large tag orders and the M84PRO for the smaller orders. Each variety runs off a next-link PC from seneca data running LABEL MATRIX, barcode labelling and integration software from Teklynx International.
According to L’egent, that works particularly well with small labels.
According to Barcode Systems & Supplies, the user can set up the PC with three parallel ports and four serial ports for the tag printing station.
It is also connected to the internet to receive tag orders. Whether printing on tags or labels, however, L'egent needed a reliable and sturdy printer.
According to L’egent, rarely does it need anything fixed on the SATO's. Workers clean them with cleaning tape after each roll of ribbon runs out, but that is all.
L’egent has not had any major problems with any of the units. L’egent prints such a high volume of tickets that it goes through cutters quickly, but Barcode Systems & Supplies did some research and found that all were basically the same.
L'egent also purchased a spare cutter module for each type of printer. When the blades need to be replaced in either printer-the whole module is changed, which is a five-minute operation with either printer.
Then Barcode Systems & Supplies rebuilds the cutter module. This way the tag printers are down for a minimum of time.
L’egent tried other printers that are supposed to be high speed and print barcode symbologies over IP.
Maybe they were faster, but when L’egent tested those labels, they were not clear enough to scan accurately.