You Need an Indestructible Barcode Scanner to Manage Inventory (and Customer Expectations) in Today’s Fast-Paced World. But You Also Need a Keypad and Color Display. Here’s Why

What a barcode scanner can (and can’t) do directly impacts your business capabilities. Fortunately, the new Zebra DS3600-KD Ultra-Rugged Scanner can do – and tolerate – more than any other scanner in its class.

A warehouse worker uses the Zebra DS3600-KD to scan palleted food.
by Matt Petito
August 03, 2021

Many of the manufacturers, warehouse operators and retailers we’ve spoken with lately feel like they’ve hit a wall, at least when it comes to inventory management. That’s because many are limited in their barcode scanning capabilities both inside and outside the four walls – and limited exclusively to trigger-pull data capture with the scanners they have now.

Some are using legacy devices that can only scan a single barcode at a time. Others are trying to make do with devices that weren’t built for all day use in retail or industrial environments. And some don’t have the ability to read damaged, faded, wrinkled or otherwise imperfect barcodes from any distance…with any device.

On top of that, it’s challenging to find an indestructible handheld barcode scanner that features a simple-to-use keypad and display. Workers need to be able to scan a barcode, input quantity and/or location data, and move on to the next scan in seconds – without having to take days to learn how to use the device.

And though mobile computers with built-in barcode scanners, keypads and color displays technically fit the bill by allowing workers to input all data in one place, at one time, not everyone is going to have the resources or interest to write new applications for each workflow – something required with a mobile computing solution. Many would prefer an out-of-the-box software kit that can get workers up and running quickly. Plus, there’s typically less of a learning curve for workers with barcode scanners, as the functions are simplified compared to a more fully featured handheld mobile computer or tablet.

That’s why I suspect the new Zebra DS3600-KD Ultra-Rugged Scanner is going to be so well received by supply chain organizations worldwide.

Just released today, it relieves many of the pain points our customers have reported when trying to fulfill orders and optimize the customer experience in today’s high-pressure omnichannel world.    

The Value of an Unstoppable Scanner – Especially One That Has a Keypad and Color Display

One of the new capabilities of the DS3600-KD scanner that your workers will appreciate is the ability to input item quantity and location data on the same device they’re using to capture barcode data. They no longer have to walk to the nearest host device to add that additional information or scan an item multiple times to indicate the correct quantity – both of which unnecessarily extend the time it takes to complete each task. They should be able to scan, key in data, and move on within seconds – and now they can. The DS3600-KD comes with five pre-built applications that enable them to use the built-in keypad and color display to:

  • scan and add the quantity data via the keypad without multiple trigger pulls. (Finger fatigue is real, and there really isn’t a need for a worker to have to stand there and repeatedly scan an item 10 – or 100 – times over.)
  • scan and add location data to any scanned barcode, such as the aisle and shelf number.
  • confirm the contents inside a container match the outer label.
  • verify a captured image before sending it to the host.
  • add location data during inventory counts while roaming away from the host.

Better yet, they’ll be able to do all these things quite comfortably. The ergonomic keypad is designed for easy one-handed operation, even with gloves, and the accompanying color display provides the modern and intuitive experience today’s workers expect.

Just as importantly, they’ll be able to find their rhythm knowing their devices will work reliably no matter how much they’re used or where they’re used.

Workers’ devices get dropped all the time. (We’re only human.) And depending on the environment in which they’re being used, they’re probably subjected to constant contact with dirt, dust, grease, grime, water and other things that don’t mesh well with electronics. Even high humidity and extreme temperatures can be harmful to many devices. That’s why Zebra takes great care to design barcode scanners (and other business-critical devices) that can withstand rough handling and harsh conditions – and why we specifically built the new DS3600-KD scanner to have the most indestructible design in its class.

You are most likely going to give your workers the DS3600-KD for picking, work in process, point of sale (POS) or inventory management tasks. They are going to be moving fast, and they’re going to be moving around a lot. There is also going to be a lot of movement around them – colleagues, cobots, carts and forklifts – and an accidental bump or two of the scanner is bound to happen. If they’re working near a loading dock, the climate is going to vary seasonally. And if they’re going in and out of refrigerated or frozen areas within your facility, the climate conditions are going to change fast.

So, we made sure the DS3600-KD – like all 3600 Series scanners – is ready for anything it may encounter. In fact, we’ve now reinforced all 3600 Series scanners to new ultra-rugged standards. For example, they have always been able to survive sub-zero temperatures, blazing heat, some serious 8 ft./2.4 m drops and up to 5,000 tumbles. But now they can endure multiple 10 ft/3 m drops onto concrete and up to 7,500 tumbles, too, in addition to those extreme temperature variances. They are also 100% dustproof, a bonus in any type of environment. And not that we expect anyone to go swimming with these scanners, but they can be fully submerged and handle the force of jetting water thanks to they’re enhanced IP65/IP68 rating*. Yes, even the DS3600-KD will come out swimmingly, with its built-in keypad and color display! (No pun intended.)

We didn’t stop at the device, either. The cradles are IP65-sealed, and the cables – which support IP65/IP68 sealing – are freezer ready! Nothing will stop these scanners, or your workers, from getting the job done. In fact, they’ll probably be able to get through tasks faster than ever, and far more comfortably than they would if they didn’t have the keypad and color display.

The Need for Speed Grows Every Day – and Now You’ll Be Able to Keep Up

Customers want frictionless shopping experiences and fast fulfillment, and the success of your business depends on your ability to deliver both. But when you think about what it takes to increase the speed of picking, POS, work in process or inventory management actions, it all comes back to faster, more accurate data capture which, in many cases, boils down to faster barcode scans.

So, we’ve engineered all 3600 Series scanners, including the DS3600-KD, with DataCapture DNA, Zebra’s exclusive software ecosystem, and other important features to help speed up multiple business processes and minimize the risk of missteps that could slow things down. Together, these software and hardware elements simplify literally every stage of the scanning experience over the life of your scanner by…

  • reducing the number of trigger pulls required to capture data even at increasing scan distances, thus speeding up task completion without compromising accuracy. When picking or ringing up multiple quantities, workers simply need to scan the item once, then key in the quantity on the keypad. Thanks to Zebra’s exclusive PRZM Intelligent Imaging Technology, the DS3600-KD will quickly capture data from up to 7 ft/2.1 m away, no matter the condition of the barcodes. Yes, even dirty, torn, smudged, shrink wrapped and poor-quality barcodes will be read the first time, every time.
  • providing more feedback: Between the (haptic) vibrations, wraparound LEDs, Direct Decode Indicator and loud beep tones, workers will know with certainty that a scan or other action was successful. They’ll also know when a scanner is about to go out of range. The built-in Virtual Tether feature will literally sound the alarms and set off the lights on the scanner and cradle when a device approaches or leaves the predefined perimeter. (You can learn more about how it works in this blog post from my colleague Greg Carras.)
  • allowing for an instant transition between tasks. The AutoConfig cradle now offered with the 3600 Series Ultra-Rugged Scanners lets you automatically switch workflows without having to manually change scanner settings. So, you can take the cordless scanner from the forklift and use it for shipping, or seamlessly transition from online order picking to checking out shoppers when the line at the register starts getting too long.
  • giving workers more power. The PowerPrecision+ battery enables DS3600-KD users to capture over 60,000 barcodes before needing to stop and recharge the scanner. (Other 3600 Series scanners can go 100,000+ scans before they run out of power.) It also features smart technology that generates comprehensive health information so end users can more easily spot and replace aging batteries – something IT teams really appreciate.
  • giving you the option to diversify – and specify – your data sets with every scan. With the Preferred Symbol tool, you can single out one barcode from many without having to physically cover nearby barcodes before scanning. And the Multi-Code Data Formatting (MDF) feature enables you to transmit only the barcodes you need, in the order your application expects, no matter how many barcodes are captured in that one scan. And, as I mentioned before, you can capture all the inventory information you need from GS1 labels with just one press of the scan trigger thanks to our exclusive Label Parse+ software. (If you’re responsible for transporting, storing or administering blood bags or medical devices, our 3600 Series scanners also work with Blood Bag Parse+ and UDI Scan+ software so you can easily capture all the data required at every stop of the supply chain. And some scanners also offer Intelligent Document Capture, which you can learn more about here.)
  • empowering you to customize your scanning applications however and whenever is best for you. Zebra’s Scanner Software Development Kit (SDK) includes the documentation, drivers, test utilities and sample source code you and your team need to easily develop new apps for the DS3600-KD.
  • enabling IT to stage, deploy, upgrade, monitor, manage and troubleshoot devices easier and faster than ever before. The 123Scan and Scanner Management Service make it easy to configure and manage your scanners, whether you have a handful of devices in one location or a fleet of scanners around the world. The 3600 Series Scanners also come with Remote Diagnostics tools that provide up-to-the-minute insight into every aspect of your scanners. And our exclusive ScanSpeed Analytics give you the ability to monitor decode speeds to spot barcode issues before they impact productivity, while battery metrics help you easily identify aging batteries before they can no longer last a full shift. All of this combined makes it simple to understand how scanners are being used across different locations so you can improve utilization and flag issues that could lead to downtime if left unaddressed too long.
  • making simple, secure network connections. The Network Connect for Automation delivers a seamless connection between the DS3600-KD and your Industrial Ethernet network without the need for third-party conversion equipment. This helps eliminate a point of failure and create a more secure data environment.

In other words, several of the scanning-related problems you were facing yesterday are finally solvable! (And with a single indestructible scanner, no less.)

Is the DS3600-KD the Scanner That Will Help You Overcome Your Current Data Capture Challenges?

The Zebra DS3600-KD is the only ultra-rugged cordless scanner on the market that comes with a built-in keypad and color display. And the DataCapture DNA tools are exclusive to Zebra. So, it is truly a one-of-a-kind solution, and the best solution for your most scan-intense workflows in your most work extreme environments – especially if workers do need to be able to add location data or view images on the display before submitting.

Circling back to something I said earlier: there are mobile computers that have built-in barcode scanners, keypads, and color displays that might look like a comparable, or even better, option on paper. And perhaps they will ultimately be the right way to go. However, the only way to know for certain whether it’s better to give your workers handheld barcode scanners or mobile computers is to consult with a technology solution provider who can assess your individual needs within the context of current and planned applications, environmental conditions and more. If you have a Zebra representative, I encourage you to reach out to learn more about the DS3600-KD and our other ultra-rugged scanners. Or you can contact your local team here.

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Matt Petito
Matthew Petito is currently a Product Manager at Zebra Technologies where he is responsible for Zebra’s 3600 Series Ultra-Rugged Scanners. Matthew has more than five years of experience within the Industrial Data Capture industry and has launched several products while at Zebra.
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