The Z Series printer, which has a 32-bit processor and can print up to 10 inches per second, often prints large batches of labels after receiving print jobs from the PC. "The Z Series performs great," said Groves. "It accepts some very large files and processes them with no problem and without slowing down." The printer has a durable metal casing and is connected to a PC that holds the county road database and custom label design software.
"Once the printer was set up it started running without any problems, and we even set it up ourselves," said Shea. "barcodes and lettering are clean, there is no wasted label material, and it has been extremely easy to use."
The labels are placed on the back of road signs and on a corner of street signs. Each label has an 11-digit serial number encoded with a Code 128 barcode and printed in text that uniquely identifies each sign and its location. The serial number includes a five-digit road identification code used in several county applications, a four-digit mile code that describes where the sign is located on the road, a digit to indicate which side of the road the sign belongs on, and a sequence number that differentiates each sign if multiples are posted at the same location.
barcodes labels are now being applied to all new signs, and all existing signs will eventually be labelled. There are five road crews who perform sign installation, maintenance, and other duties. One person in each crew has a Symbol Phaser portable data collection terminal with integrated barcode scanner, which runs the field version of SignTrack software.
Workers record all activity performed by scanning the sign label, then following the prompts and menus on the mobile terminal screen. There are 14 common sign activities pre-programmed into the terminals, so users can quickly enter job codes from a menu. Prompts and checks help prevent incorrect information from entering the system.
"With this system, the technician identifies the sign and inputs it once," said Shea. "barcode labels are key to this program. The barcodes increase the accuracy and integrity of data in the system."
Typical entries include the work performed and type of retro-reflective material used on the sign. Activity reports were previously hand written in the field, and then submitted to Shea to read and enter into the database. Shea spent an average of three to four hours per week checking report data and entering it into his Access database. The SignTrack software on the Symbol Phasers also uses Access, so now information from the five mobile terminals is easily downloaded into the host database. "Now we download each Phaser once a week and the process takes two to three minutes per terminal," said Shea. "I am extremely happy with the process. We pull a weekly report to review with the road crews, and we can also tie the data into our inventory and GIS (geographical information system) applications."
The data entry that used to require at least three hours per week now is completed within 15 minutes—a 92 percent time savings. The resulting information is also more accurate and saves additional time in the field. "Not having to look up the numbers will allow the technician to get to more signs in a day," said Shea.
The time-savings and ease-of-use helped the system gain rapid acceptance by Kitsap County road crews. "The system is very easy to use and within a day everyone had pretty much jumped on board with it. The workers like it because it saves them data entry time," said Shea. "We had very few glitches and couldn't have had an easier implementation."
The success may extend beyond the county's borders. Representatives from other counties have visited Kitsap to see demonstrations and to learn more about the system. Several other counties may implement their own versions soon."