Surf's Up!

VARs and integrators can ride a new wave of opportunity in bar code printer sales.

VARs and integrators selling bar code printers have a lot to be happy about. [I just love it when I can be the bearer of good news, ed.] New technology in printer products will definitely bring increased sales. Although RFID (radio frequency identification) and bar code products are still in the "engagement period," AIDC vendors are trying desperately to marry the two technologies as quickly as possible. Vendors are also making great strides in the development of network management systems. New trends in Internet shopping will create new markets for bar code printer resellers, as well.

Slow Ramp-Up For Smart Labels
Intermec Technologies Corp.'s (Everett, WA) new President, Bob O'Malley, recently visited Corry Publishing, Inc. While he was here, I had the pleasure of chatting with the new leader. [For the record, he is one sharp guy, ed.] O'Malley told me that he believes smart labels will provide incredible sales opportunities for resellers. However, he cautioned that the ramp-up in sales may take some time.

"As an industry, we must identify applications for the combination bar code and RFID labels," said O'Malley. "To do so, VARs and integrators may have to move out of their comfort zones. It is easy to become entrenched in several niche markets and to stay in those markets until declining sales numbers force you to look for new ones. We all need to look for new markets and new technologies on a continuing basis. The supply chain alone will provide huge sales opportunities. But, we must know the supply chain and how it functions in order to capitalize on its opportunities."

Intermec will publish a series of five white papers on RFID. The papers will include case studies and economic justification. "We must educate our buyers," said O'Malley. "To do so, we must first educate ourselves. Bar code and RFID products will co-exist in the market for a long time, as the transition/migration process from one technology to another takes place. And, bar codes are not likely to disappear completely."

We Still Need Software To Make Systems Work
Steven Jessup, products and marketing manager for CIE America, agrees that sales opportunities for bar code printers have never been better. However, he still thinks our industry lacks the necessary software to support the needs of the supply chain. "Manufacturers may require three separate printing technologies on their shipping and receiving docks," Jessup told me. "They may need an impact printer to generate a bill of lading, a laser printer for the shipping document, and a thermal printer for the compliance label. Much of the information on the three documents is the same. It just may be in a different order.

"Because there is no software available to sort and send the appropriate information to each document, the same information is manually entered in most cases," Jessup continued. "This is very time consuming. The VAR channel could give these customers what they need, but we, as manufacturers of the hardware, must provide VARs with the appropriate tools."

What Does All This Mean?
The way I read the market, this means great news for bar code printer resellers. There are new and exciting products. There are new and exciting markets. And, there is a strong need for value adding in terms of customized, application-specific software. What more could you ask for?

Rick Morgan