Case Study

Labeling System Failure

Labeling System Failure
When your label printing depends on a workstation, if it goes down, the entire system goes down. You need to plan and prepare for that possibility. This can include short-, mid- and long-term plans or some combination of them.

Short Term

There are two ways to prepare in case your computer failed tomorrow:

  1. Set Up a Physical Backup Workstation
    • If computers and printers are networked, one or more of those workstations can be set up as the backup. Any printers directly connected to a computer using a USB should be moved to an Ethernet network connection. The labeling software should have its PC-based printer driver updated to point to a network printer.
    • Each workstation should have printer drivers for all printers on the production floor. This saves you from having to tweak driver settings to “dial-in” a printer during a failure.
    • Move stored labels and label data on a local server or a cloud backup rather than on a single PC’s hard drive. The saves you the time and expense of having to recreate labels that would be lost when the drive fails.
  2. Upgrade Your System to Allow Printing with Browsers or Thin Clients
    • A browser or thin client allows any computer to become your print workstation in mere minutes by simply entering the correct URL and/or with a quick download from a URL with a thin client.
    • This may require a software upgrade and some minor system reengineering to make this viable.
    • Make sure to set up each potential backup workstation with the correct permissions, required software (Chrome or other browser, thin client app, etc.) Also make sure that the printer drivers for all printers as well as their driver settings are setup correctly.

EBI helps our clients with planning for both of these options. We can help you safely move your data, secure label designs and label data sources. We also know how to configure your labeling software to meet these new configurations.

Midterm

Even with the backups described above in place, it’s likely that you’ll want to replace the workstation when it goes down. This can be broadly summed up in three steps:

STEP 1 – Acquire the Replacement PC

  • You’ll need to make sure that the new workstation meets the software requirements. EBI recommends getting one that supports the latest software version even if you’re not planning to upgrade now, as it’ll keep you getting stuck later when you do need upgrade.
  • The computer should be able to physically connect to the network using Ethernet. WiFi is not a good option for label printing as interference can knock it off the network at the worst time.

STEP 2 – Reload the Labeling Software

    • Keep a copy of the current software install file in your network. Unless you are ready to upgrade, you will want to install the same software version installed on other workstations to avoid licensing issues.
    • Speaking of which, know what restrictions – if any – your license has regarding adding a computer. Check with your software vendor. If your license is based on printers or concurrent users, this should not be a problem. However, a single user version with a software key activation can present problems – especially when you cannot “de-register” a dead computer. Most software single user licenses will only allow a limited number of activations. If your workstation required a USB dongle for activation, make sure you retrieve it before scrapping the dead workstation.
    • Keep your software updated. This means both on the active workstation and the backup install. If you fail to update the stored copy, it may not work with the current OS when you try to install it on the replacement machine. This could result in you being forced to upgrade your labeling software while trying to rebuild your system. And that could mean having to repurchase your labeling software too!
    • Re-establish connections to your label design files and data. Make sure you keep note of these locations BEFOREHAND. This includes:
      • Server name
      • Folder locations
      • Permissions for folder locations
      • Database name (and maybe location)
      • Database credentials

STEP 3 – Reload the Driver Printer Settings

You should keep a backup of your printer drivers and settings, or embed them in the system itself. Check out our article on using Windows to back up driver and driver settings.  Further, some software allows these settings to be embedded in the label design or stored within the cloud.

EBI can help you utilize your software’s features to set up and use your software’s features which often include the ability to set up label and data archives or libraries. Additionally, a maintenance and support plan with EBI can help you avoid letting your software get too old and out-of-date.

Long Term – Engineer the Workstation Out of the System

You can remove the single point of failure from your system and avoid the headaches altogether:

  • Set up your system to trigger print jobs from a mobile device
  • Link label printing from another system such as ERP, MES, or WMS
  • Link label printing to machine or factory automation, such as a conveyor with print-&-apply devices

If you have questions about all this, or if you want to take steps now to avoid unexpected shutdowns, contact EBI to set up a consultation.

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