Magazine Article | March 1, 1998

Printing For Just-In-Time Distribution

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Xerox Corporation's distribution centers adopt line matrix printers with the ability to print five-part forms and bar codes to keep up with its one-day order fulfillment process.

Integrated Solutions, March-April 1998
A 24-hour just-in-time approach to distribution leaves little margin for error, as Xerox Corporation discovered when its existing printers in 10 key distribution centers across the country began to fail and parts could not be located for their repair. Several printer manufacturers vied for the new business and GENICOM Corporation won the contract, meeting Xerox's specifications for the job, including the ability to print on five-part forms, bar-coding capabilities, and the ability to tweak existing software for an inexpensive transition to the new printers.

Printers Run 24 Hours A Day
With 29 GENICOM model 4842e line matrix printers installed throughout the country, the Xerox distribution centers can supply as many as 435,000 parts to wholesalers, retailers and company field service technicians daily. The GENICOM printers operate 24 hours a day, and they are enabling the center to fulfill orders from all over the country within 24 hours of placement. The printers generate packing lists and bills of lading for sending Xerox spare parts to customers and service representatives. The GENICOM printers are capable of supporting the printing of five-part forms necessary for tracking shipments and inventory.

"GENICOM met Xerox's requirement to print on a 2x4 stencil in the top corner of each form - without ripping the stencil or jamming - where the customer's name and address appear," says Gail Webber Smith, manager of Supplies and Logistics in Xerox's Corporate Strategic Services Division (Rochester, NY). These are used in non-UPS shipments. Xerox often prints as many as 400 forms at a time, so jams in the process can have a significant impact on production.

Bar Code Printing Required To Embed Information
The bar coding capabilities of the GENICOM printers accelerate production, embedding large amounts of data in compact spaces on the labels. More than 80% of the orders handled by the Xerox distribution centers are sent in small UPS packages. Bar codes help keep all the packages in order. Each distribution center is linked to the Xerox head office, which in turn, is linked to a UPS database. The distribution center printer creates a bar-code label that is immediately entered in the Xerox home-office inventory database, as well as in the UPS shipping and tracking database, before the package ever enters a courier truck.

Integrating Into Existing Systems
Having the hardware for the job only solved part of the Xerox problem, however. GENICOM worked with EDS to make some changes to the existing software used to print the forms in the QMS protocol. Xerox is evaluating GENICOM 3842 serial matrix printers for use in 25 of its smaller distribution centers with smaller printing requirements. These printers may occasionally be used in larger distribution centers as backups when additional printing capacity is required. They use the same QMS hardware and software emulation as the 4842e line matrix models, so the transition would be a smooth one.

Future Plans For Additional Printers
"One advantage the 3842 printers would bring to the smaller distribution centers is the ease of selecting either five- or two-part form options since the 3842 can hold two forms at once and switch between them without reloading or changing settings," Smith said. "These dual paper paths give the functionality of two printers in one, and will help save both time and expenses at our smaller distribution centers," Smith added.

These printers would also have the ability of connecting to the UPS distribution system, as the 4842e printers are currently being used.