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Label Printing Strategies

An Oracle White Paper December 2006

Label Printing Strategies

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY............................................................................................ 1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................ 1 PRINT SERVER SOLUTIONS ................................................................................... 2 XML DIRECT PRINTER............................................................................................. 4 XML PUBLISHER......................................................................................................... 5 PARTNERS..................................................................................................................... 5 CONCLUSION .............................................................................................................. 6 APPENDIX A LIST OF LABEL PRINTING PARTNERS ................................ 7 Loftware....................................................................................................................... 7 Optio............................................................................................................................ 7 NiceLabel..................................................................................................................... 7 Unibar .......................................................................................................................... 7 Zebra............................................................................................................................ 7 Intermec....................................................................................................................... 8 Cognitive Solutions..................................................................................................... 8 Datamax....................................................................................................................... 8 Printronix..................................................................................................................... 8 SATO........................................................................................................................... 8 Toshiba TEC............................................................................................................... 8 Figure 1 Asynchronous label printing ........................................................................ 3 Figure 2 Synchronous label printing........................................................................... 4

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Label Printing Strategies

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Oracle WMS and MSCA have robust label printing capabilities built into the product to easily produce compliance labels at any point in the business process and with any data. Oracle works with two types of label printing partners directto-printer, and print server to provide the full end-to-end solution, and each of these partners have different strengths. This white paper discusses the advantages of each of the partners, as well as the inherent pros and cons of each of the two overarching architectures.
INTRODUCTION

Oracle WMS produces label XML files as part of a transaction or event, such as a purchase order receipt, pick confirmation, work order completion, or license plate generation. To print the Oracle generated label XML, you will always need the actual label printers, as well as a label design application (LDA) to define the graphical layout of the variable and boilerplate data. These solutions differ, however, on whether the marriage of the XML to that format occurs within the printer firmware with no other middleware, or in a separate print server application. Direct-to-print label printers that natively understand Oracles XML allow you to directly print the Oracle generated label XML without any middleware or print server. The print servers, on other hand, add an intermediary layer between Oracle Applications and actual label printer. Although the print servers introduce an additional partner and added implementation cost, they also provides significant value in the areas of print management, label configuration and manipulation, error management and Internet printing. Oracle supports two types of label printing configurations: 1. 2. Printing using a third party label software and a print server Printing using XML enabled Direct Label Printers.

The printing strategy selection depends on several factors ROI, real time latency, need for compliance labeling, printer models in current use, volume of labels to be printed, network infrastructure et al. To reiterate, each additional layer between Oracle WMS and the printer gives you additional flexibility, while also generally also meaning additional complexity and cost.

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It is worthwhile to note that with each subsequent release of Oracle, as well with continuous improvements made by our partners, the lines between these two approaches blur in their current capabilities, while the print server partners typically add additional advanced capabilities. For instance, a subsequent release of Oracle may include customizable label fields or standardized printer support, while a subsequent release of firmware from an XML Direct partner may include capabilities of the printer to directly make an ODBC call to pull in additional data. As the footprint of the solution and the partners capabilities as well as your requirements evolve, be sure to evaluate the latest offering from each partner.
PRINT SERVER SOLUTIONS

This strategy requires you to have a configuration of Oracle WMS, third party label printing software, print server and a network of printers. The LDA allows you to define the different label formats that need to be printed, as well as manage the library of formats for an enterprise printing solution. The print server manages the print queue, comes with necessary printer drivers and the printer parameters associated with them. Finally, the label printer actually prints the label. The label printer can be from any vendor supported by the print server. Typically, the LDA and print server come same the vendor. This strategy is recommended when you have a high volume of labels to print from each printer, and also is often simpler to maintain when the label formats change frequently. The LDA or related application sometimes enables you to configure the label with the content being derived from many sources, where the Oracle XML forms just one such source. A print server partner is usually recommended when the Oracle XML needs to be manipulated beyond the capabilities of standard Oracle functionality prior to printing, such as to pull in additional data elements, split an individual label request into multiple labels, or control the destination printer beyond Oracles basic rules. Many of the third party label software will allow you to custom program a label in these and other ways. Third party label print software will use Oracle XML as the primary data sources for the label fields, executing additional logic or ODBC calls as required. Another use of these extended capabilities from the print server partners is to compensate for the fact that Oracle MSCA lacks an inbuilt rules engine like Oracle WMS to determine the label to be printed. However, some label printing software help you to configure rules to determine the label to be printed and manipulation of the label. This strategy is also recommended when you have printers from multiple manufacturers in a single site that all need to print a single format, as only some of the printers in your facility may be able to support XML directly, and furthermore, each of the Direct-to-Printer partners uses different LDAs that produce different pre-compiled output that may need to be loaded to the printers in different ways and using different tools. Additionally, the advanced queuing / print job management capabilities make this a preferred option when more than two or three

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users need to concurrently print large batches of labels from a single printer. While the print server partners may require an additional investment in software licenses and implementation costs, when you have characteristics such as those above that require the features of these partners, your total cost of ownership will actually be lower than trying to use the simpler architecture of the Direct-to-XML printers With third party software you have two choices of integration with Oracle WMS asynchronous mode and synchronous mode. If supported by the partner, you can leverage one of two synchronous printing modes. Asynchronous mode of architecture is simplest to set up and debug, as there is a clear external record of the label request. In asynchronous mode, Oracle WMS generate a label XML and drops it in a specified directory. Third party label software monitors this directory for new XML files and processes them.
Oracle WMS places the XML file in a specified Directory.

Print Server / Other tool monitors the specified directory and picks up the XML

Print server / Other tool modifies the XML

Print server maps the XML to the label format and generates print stream in printers proprietary language
Optional

Printer prints the label.

Figure 1 Asynchronous label printing Disadvantages of asynchronous printing include latency, possible security issues to FTP files across servers if print server running on different platform, and no possibility for response. To set this up, you need to set the profiles - WMS Label Print Mode to Asynchronous and define WMS Label output directory and WMS Label File Prefix. In Synchronous mode of integration, Oracle WMS generates a label XML and sends it directly to the partner via one of two synchronous methods. In the first method, the integration is via an API implemented by the third party application that replaces an empty stub provided by Oracle. Third party software processes this XML and prints the XML. You need to set the profiles - WMS Label Print Mode to Synchronous Generic.

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Oracle WMS calls Synchronous API and pushes the XML to print server / other tool

Print server / Other tool modifies the XML

Print server maps the XML to the label format and generates print stream in printers proprietary language
Optional

Print Server prints the label at the specified printer

Figure 2 Synchronous label printing Optionally, you can set WMS Label Print Mode to Synchronous TCP/IP and define the IP address and port on which the print server is listening. Synchronous TCP/IP is easier to implement than Synchronous Generic as there are no packages to load to the database, but it does not yet provide a mechanism for a print server response, as supported by Synchronous Generic.
XML DIRECT PRINTER

In this strategy Oracle WMS sends the XML directly to the printer. The label printer is capable of receiving XML that meets Oracles label specification and merges with pre-defined label formats to print a label. This strategy can be easily deployed when the Oracle XML does not need any manipulation to produce the label desired. The volume of printing and the number of users that would need to print concurrently to a single printer is also a factor. For instance, when more than three or four users may trigger simultaneous requests to print to a single printer, the number of available connections on some of the printers may be exceeded, or for large jobs, the buffers may overflow. While Oracle provides multiple mechanisms for reprinting so that the jobs are not lost, these volume and concurrency considerations should be included in evaluating the XML Direct printers against each other, and against a print server partner. With some XML Direct partners, XML-enabled printers are only supported on their flagship printer models, so that you may pay a premium for this capability. On the other hand, all XML Direct printers to date are capable of running both modes, whereby they can parse both XML from Oracle and the print stream in their proprietary language, typically without any change in configuration, and typically, also simultaneously, so the same printer can be used in multiple ways, and you can easily change to a print server as your requirements grow. The XML Direct strategy calls for pre-loading the printers with label formats. Since there is no centralized print server, every time you add a printer to the network, you need to load the required label formats, and every time you add a format, you need

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to add it to all the printers. Some partners have printer management software to aid in this decentralized approach.
Oracle WMS passes XML request through a TCP / IP socket connection to Printer

Printer merges the data in the XML into pre-defined label format and prints the label

Figure 3 XML Direct Printer XML direct printers work with both Synchronous TCP/IP and Synchronous Generic mode of printing. To enable to print in TCP/IP mode, you need to set WMS Label Print Mode to Synchronous TCP/IP and define the TCP/IP IP address and port number for each printer in the network.
XML PUBLISHER

Using XML publisher, you can configure your label layout in MS Word and map the data content to Oracle XML. You can print these labels on normal printers. However, you cannot deploy Oracle XML publisher as a printing solution because it does not have printer drivers for industrial label printers like Zebra, Intermec etc.,
PARTNERS

Note: Please verify content presented in this section with the partner before you
start your implementation. Note that as Oracle has moved to a self-certification approach for new label printing partners, it is possible for additional solutions to work with Oracle without necessarily being listed here; please confirm with the partner that they have completed the self-certification process. Following table lists the possible integration modes possible for each vendor:
Asynchronous
Synchronous Generic TCP / IP Yes Yes No No No Yes

Loftware Optio Print Server NiceLabel

Yes Yes Yes

Partners

Unibar Zebra Intermec XML Cognitive Solutions Direct Datamax Printers Toshiba TEC Printronix Sato

Yes No No No No No Yes No

No Yes No No No No No No

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

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Following is the list of label printing partners and their offerings. The list of printer models in the following table may not be up-to-date. Please check with vendor for recent information.
Configurations Printer (not a complete list of all printer models. Check with vendor for more information) Various printer manufacturers & models

Print Server

Loftware
Print Server

Loftware Print Server Optio Print Manager NiceLabel Pro BARCODE 2000 XML None None None None

Optio NiceLabel Unibar Zebra Intermec

Various printer manufacturers & models Various printer manufacturers & models Various printer manufacturers & models Zebra Xi III EasyCoder (3400 D, 4420e) Advantage LX I-4308, I-4208, DMX ST-3210, I-4212, I4406, W-6208 ThermaLine Printers (T5206 / T5306..)

Vendors

Cognitive Solutions
XML Direct Printers

DataMax

Other Tools ( e.g.,Label Design Application, Label Loaders etc., ) Loftware Connector, Loftware Design 32 Optio e.ComIntegrate NiceLabel Pro BARZ_OUT PRO ZebraNet Bridge, BAR-ONE LabelShop Pro, Label Loader utility NiceLabel, Cognitive In Control Loftware Connector, Loftware Design 32, BARZ_OUT PRO

Printronix

None

NiceLabel Pro, Loftware Connector, Loftware Design 32

Toshiba TEC
Sato

None
None

Toshiba TEC Printers B-SX4T, B-SX5T


PrintSystem for XML Sato Thermal Printers (CL412e, CL612e) Label Gallery Plus, WPC Plus

See Appendix A for the capabilities of each partner.


CONCLUSION

You need to carefully evaluate your label printing needs before zeroing in a configuration. Many customers opt to use a print server partner if you have to customize the label or if you prefer to centrally manage your entire label formats, while customers that have no need for XML manipulation prior to printing typically opt for XML Direct printers. However, with each release from Oracle, and with each update from our printing partners, the lines between these two approaches are blurring, and should spend the time evaluating which approach is best for your requirements.

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APPENDIX A LIST OF LABEL PRINTING PARTNERS Loftware

Loftware Connector is a Java based tool that provides direct connectivity between Oracle WMS and the Loftware Print Server. With Loftware Connector, you can add new data elements to their labels and connect to the Loftware Print Server, as well as manipulate the label request from Oracle in a variety of complex ways. The improved connectivity centralizes label printing operations across the enterprise, regardless of the number or type of printers being used, or their geographical location around the world.
Optio

Optio e.ComIntegrate product captures Oracle information such as documents and reports, enhances it into formats needed by various recipients, and delivers it electronically and via print. You can configure a label like any other document in your enterprise in Optio e.ComIntegrate. Optio is a good candidate if you want to lower the total cost of handling and printing both documents and labels from Oracle e-Business Suite. Currently, note that Optio only supports the asynchronous integration mode.
NiceLabel

NiceLabel Pro is a full-featured labeling software designed for professional label design and printing in a low cost package. With NiceLabel Pro you can directly connect to Oracle WMS in Synchronous TCP/IP mode to print labels in real time. You can print the labels only on those printers which use Windows printer drivers, though typically all label printer manufacturers have Windows printer drivers available.
Unibar

Unibars BARCODE 2000 XML offers streamlined system architecture of Oracle WMS label XML printing in a very low cost package. BARCODE 2000 XML can optionally reside on the same machine that hosts Oracle e-Business Suite and can print a label on any printer that communicates with the host. It can be viewed as a print server without any queue management and error handling mechanism. BARCODE 2000 XML comes with a native XML interface that can be used for to design bar code labels.
Zebra

You can deploy Zebra thermal printers for printing all your labels. However, Zebra Technologies has embedded an XML parser in its XML-enabled XiIIIPlus printers, so that the printer without additional middleware or server hardware natively understands the output from Oracle WMS and MSCA. ZebraNet Bridge simplifies

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managing a distributed network of printers by allowing you to easily publish a new format to all or some printers at once.
Intermec

You can deploy Intermec printers for printing labels with any of the configurations suggested in this paper. At the time of publishing this paper, Intermec has yet to come out with a XML enabled direct print printer. Intermec has a Label Loader Utility, an easy-to-use wizard that guides you through loading the formats to the printers and then testing the format with a generic XML file.
Cognitive Solutions

You can print labels directly with Advantage LX range of printers. However, you need to have knowledge of Cognitive Programming language (CPL) to filter the incoming data and map it the label file stored in the memory of the printer. You can use Nicelabel for designing your label formats.
Datamax

You can print labels directly with I-Class and W-Class printers from DataMax. However, you need to have knowledge of Macro Command Language (MCL) to process the incoming label XML and map it to the label formats stored in the printer memory. For label design and print server, DataMax partners with Loftware.
Printronix

Printronix offers direct thermal industrial label printer with its T5000r range of printers. It has a pre-installed interpreter either from Zebra, TEC, Intermec or SATO. You can optionally install Online Data Validation (ODV) to validate your compliance labels. For example, a label field is compulsory and the label XML has a NULL value, then ODV will prevent the printer from printing the label and returns an error.
SATO

You can directly print your labels using CL408e, CL412E, CL608e and CL612e range of printers. You can optionally install Web Based Printer Control Server (WPC Server) to control your printers and load labels into the network of SATO printers. You can also optionally install Label Gallery Plus to design labels.
Toshiba TEC

You can deploy Toshiba TEC printers for printing all your labels. However Toshiba TEC printers are XML-Direct printers so that no additional middleware or server hardware is needed for labe printing from Oracle WMS and MSCA.

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Label Printing Strategies: An Oracle White Paper December 2006 Author: Aditya Agarkar Note number: 414368.1 Oracle Corporation World Headquarters 500 Oracle Parkway Redwood Shores, CA 94065 U.S.A. Worldwide Inquiries: Phone: +1.650.506.7000 Fax: +1.650.506.7200 www.oracle.com Oracle Corporation provides the software that powers the Internet. Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation. Various product and service names referenced herein may be trademarks of Oracle Corporation. All other product and service names mentioned may be trademarks of their respective owners. Copyright 2006 Oracle Corporation All rights reserved.

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