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How US Logistics Solutions Improved Inbound Operations with Hands-Free Scanning

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US Logistics Solutions, a Texas-based 3PL company, offers integrated transportation, distribution, and last mile services for retailers. To ensure they can provide customer deliveries within precise timeframes, the company has made continued automation integration a top priority.

The company was already using six Cognex vision tunnels in their warehouse for another operation. The question became how they could build off the automation successes of that installation in other areas of the facility. The focus soon became identifying a solution for inbound package processing that would offer high performance and accuracy. Up to that point, the team had been using handheld scanning solutions, such as mobile terminals and ring scanners. These devices presented several challenges: they were labor intensive to operate, not efficient for scanning large volumes of packages, required manual operation, and were not reliable for capturing every barcode given the variation. In addition, the cost of ownership was also a concern as broken or lost units were commonplace.

The team evaluated Cognex hands-free barcode reading solutions and soon realized that with minimal manual intervention – just an operator placing packages with the label up – they’d be able to reduce labor and potentially improve scanning compliance. In addition, they saw that the readers could pick up scans from eight or more feet away, allowing for large area scanning and no risk of equipment damage, which would help bolster the business case for the technology.

Since these benefits piqued their interest, US Logistics began several trials with DataMan 375 fixed-mount barcode readers with High-Speed Liquid Lens and Torch Light. The trials proved the team could achieve its desired frame rate, refresh rate, and gain insights into read rates.

From there, the team began the installation process and set up stations near the dock doors. Cognex Edge Intelligence (EI) helped to facilitate wireless access for the readers and provided data access to the warehouse management system through REST API.

Today, US Logistics Solutions currently has two hands-free barcode reading stations deployed in its facility with plans to install several more at other locations in the coming months. Further use cases are also being considered, including pallet build scanning solutions.

With the DataMan 375 hands-free readers, operators simply unload the packages from the truck and place them with the label facing up on the conveyor. From there, operators view results via Edge Intelligence to see a daily report of total scans, read rates, and causes of no reads by reviewing stored FTP images. Since deployment at US Logistics Solutions, the team has been able to improve read rates by 0.5%. In addition, readers have scanned thousands of barcodes and are capturing multiple unique cartons per day versus the previous process. This has led to additional revenue capture and a quick payback period on investment.

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