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Case Studies

Belden Communications Division Drags and Drops its Way to Label Design

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Belden Communications DivisionEasyCoder 3400s and ERPLabel Running Directly from SAP Simplifies Label Production. Imagine manufacturing enough wire to reach from the earth to the moon and halfway back in a week. That’s exactly what Belden Communications Division (BCD) does. In fact, they use approximately 1.7 million pounds of copper per week and each year they purchase more than $100 million of Arizona-mined copper rod.

BCD manufactures state-of-the-art communications products that support outside plant, customer premises, and broadband networks. Their plant, located on 120 acres of land in Phoenix has more than 1.3 million square feet under roof – an area equal to about 25 football fields.

Belden’s major customers include regional Bell operating companies, Lucent Technologies, independent and international telephone companies, government/federal systems, original equipment manufacturers, and distributors.

Challenge

Shipments of BCD’s cable products are loaded on open flat bed trucks year round and shipped all over the country, with many shipments often heading to the East Coast. These shipping conditions require a packaging label on durable stock in order for them to survive the treacherous trip.

They had been printing all their labels on several HP desktop laser printers using special paper. To make the labels strong enough to withstand the trip, they would have to be double laminated to reinforce them. Then adhesive was applied. This was a very costly process in time and money.

BCD knew they had to find a cost effective, one-step way to print labels that was flexible, decreased printing time, and produced labels that were durable enough to withstand their shipping conditions.

Solution

The HP printers were removed and four Intermec EasyCoder™ 3400 printers were installed. One printer is in production control. It is used to print out the cable reel number stickers that are attached to exchange cable product reels. It is also used to print reel batch number stickers for inventory control for reels that are brought from the yard, cut to specific lengths, and shipped to their customers. They also create and print reel identification stickers that track their reel locations.

There are two printers in shipping. One is used to print reel batch number stickers and cable reel stickers; the other is used to print shipping labels. Each uses a different type of label material. The fourth is located in final test and is used for reel stickers and reel batch stickers.

After evaluating several different materials for label stock, Belden chose Intermec labels. These labels are made from a very durable material that can withstand the constant abuse associated with cross-country shipping. The new shipping labels have been designed, formatted, and approved by their customers.

ERP Label for SAP R/3

Belden also installed ERPLabel software so they could print directly to the Intermec printers from their SAP R/3 system. Instead of spooling print jobs to a local PC and using middleware to translate the information, BCD redirects the spool to a UNIX server, which sends the job directly to the printer. This alleviates the need for dedicated PCs to run the label printers.

Using Intermec’s ERPLabel made designing the labels much easier than their previous system, which required IT programming for virtually any format change. Using ERPLabel changed label design from a laborious, very technical process to a simple, drag-and-drop process that non-technical people could perform.

For instance, if you’ve already got the label into production you can go in and do a quick fix and it immediately takes effect on the label. And because ERPLabel is able to generate a format that the Intermec printer understands it makes the conversion process seamless.

Results

Label production at Belden is a much more efficient and easy process. The new printers are very precise and extremely quick; labels are ready to apply as soon as they’re printed.

“The new shipping label printers eliminated the need to double laminate the packing labels,” said Pam Shim, system services manager of Belden. “The shipping group used to spend an average of 60 hours a month double laminating the old shipping labels, time that can now be utilized for other duties. The cost of materials for packing labels was $1,400 per month, but after implementing the Intermec label material, costs have been reduced to $600 per month.

“We used about the same number of HP printers but with only half of the capacity,” said Shim. “Overall, we save $7,500 a month by using the Intermec printers.”

And label design is now something virtually anyone can do. ERPLabel’s ease of use means you don’t need to be a programmer or an expert to configure the layout. Once the SAP script has been set up, just about any one can produce the layout with a little training.

“The biggest benefit is that I can see what I’m designing a lot more clearly than using SAP script,” said Tim Mitchell, programmer, Belden Communications Division. “SAP script is very cumbersome to use. But Intermec’s ERPLabel is really nice because it’s literally drag and drop. You tell it what you want and that’s exactly what you get. It’s very flexible.”