For years, manufacturers, warehouses, and other enterprises in the mid-market have understood the value of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The gains in efficiency by being able to manage all aspects of an organization from one system are indisputable and game-changing for many businesses, whether they choose an ERP system such as SAP, Oracle, or Plex. We have noticed a trend among mid-market businesses to move to the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP solution or the Dynamics 365 cloud version. Our clients seem to be drawn to the flexibility and scalability of the Microsoft suite. We want to make sure that these businesses do not overlook the increased efficiency that they can achieve in their operations when they print labels directly from Dynamics AX.
Advantages When You Print Labels from Dynamics AX
There are several compelling reasons to integrate label printing with AX, especially when labels used in your process must meet standards or comply with regulations:
- Visibility: When you print labels from Dynamics AX, you have complete visibility into the labeling process, with the ability to see exactly what was printed and when.
- Accuracy: By using the configurable workflows within AX to eliminate or reduce manual processes and data entry, errors will be minimized.
- Control: Label templates and content can be protected, and access to labeling operations can be limited using the native users and groups within AX.
- Consistency: Labels on all products across your organization can be consistent and appropriately reflect your brand image.
- Cost: Centralized, integrated label printing is more cost-effective than manual, labor-intensive processes, and there is less waste from label printing or content errors.
- Agility: When a label design change is necessary, it can be made consistently across your entire organization.
How to Print Labels from Dynamics AX
Many mid-market manufacturing or warehousing businesses need to print license plates (for tracking raw materials/finished goods inventory) or shipping labels (for outbound product shipments or cross-docking). Dynamics AX provides configurable workflows which can be executed in web browsers on mobile computers to print license plates and shipping labels on demand. There are several methods to execute these label printing tasks within Dynamics AX:
- Use the Native Printer Language
The first approach is to create a label format in the native printer language, such as using ZPL for printing to a Zebra Xi Series printer. To make it easier to generate the printer language, you could use Seagull’s BarTender software to easily design the label in a WYSIWYG editor and then export the label to a text file containing the ZPL equivalent of the graphical representation.
The next step is to create a Document Routing Layout (in AX 2012 under Warehouse Management>Setup>Document Routing>Document Routing Layouts) by pasting the ZPL from the previously-exported text file into the layout definition. At this point, you will need to replace the data following the ^FD commands in the ZPL code with the $Variable$ field names from the AX classes.
- This method is free — no additional software is required when using Dynamics AX (the on-premises software), and only the freely-available Document Routing Agent is needed to enable printing with hosted Dynamics 365 instances.
- You have to maintain ZPL code for each label template, which can be a tedious task if you make frequent design changes.
- You are limited to the variable data fields that are available in the WMS module by default.
- It is a more technical solution; if the person that initially performed the setup leaves your organization, you may lose this tribal knowledge.
- Since you are using the native printer language, changing to another printer manufacturer could result in having to redesign all document routing layout definitions in a different language.
- File Drop to a Text File Printer
In this method, you would use Seagull’s BarTender Designer to design label templates with variables for each dynamic data field and Seagull’s Integration Builder (part of the Automation edition) to map variable data from AX to those fields on the label templates. Then under AX’s Warehouse Management>Setup>Document Routing>Document Routing Layouts, add only the $Variable$ field names in the layout definition with a delimiting character between each variable. Finally, create and specify a text printer which will generate a text file with the variable data every time a document route is executed within AX. BarTender Automation parses those drop files, populates the label templates, and spools the print jobs to physical industrial label printers.
- This is the only solution that allows you to easily leverage BarTender to its fullest extent with a hosted instance of AX.
- It provides flexibility to add and update label templates with BarTender’s user-friendly design interface, without having to understand native printer language code.
- You can leverage any free or commercial text printer driver or native text driver within Windows.
- This method requires knowledge of how to write regular expressions.
- It is limited to the variable data fields that are exposed in AX by default.
- If the single bottleneck of the text printer fails, then all physical printers set up for file drop will be unavailable until the text printer is brought back online.
- Use a Third-Party Printing Integration Utility
Another option you can use to print labels from Dynamics AX is to use a third-party integration product such as To-Increase’s Bartender Integration (BTI), which you install as a module within AX (again, for on-premises instances only). This method gives you access to a number of pre-built classes that expose commonly-used information for including on labels. Additionally, it presents an easy interface for joining multiple AX tables to display more information on a single label. Finally, it generates a command script file and writes it to a designated shared network folder where BarTender Automation can pick it up and execute the script to initiate label printing.
- This method provides flexibility to source label data from multiple AX tables.
- Native BarTender command script output results in a simpler integration.
- It enables you to leverage different output builders for printing labels using the same templates.
- After the initial install, this is the fastest way to deploy new labeling processes.
- There is a cost for the third-party software in addition to BarTender licensing.
- This method does not work for Dynamics 365 instances.
- As with other methods, tribal knowledge to set up and self-maintain might present challenges to the organization if there is employee turnover.
- Custom X++ Programming
Using the X++ programming language is another option. In this method, you would program a new class within AX containing a system I/O function which specifies how to write out a file to a local or network directory. You then configure Bartender Automation to watch the designated AX output directory for a file drop and then process it accordingly.
- This method provides the most flexibility in terms of what you can accomplish within AX; the only limit is your programming skills.
- As with third-party printing integrations, you may pull data from multiple AX tables or classes.
- You must have X++ programming experience and preferably a development instance of AX in which to test these customizations.
- When the time comes to upgrade AX to a later version, the upgrade process is more complex because the custom code must be preserved during the upgrade and validated for functionality thereafter.
- Coordinated downtime of an environment is required to compile the new code for the customizations to take effect.
As our customers migrate to Dynamics AX and we help them integrate label printing into their workflows for increased efficiencies, each of the four methods outlined above is a viable option. If you require additional assistance for implementing the above mentioned systems, we can help you get in touch with a Dynamics AX Expert.
As you consider integrating label printing into your ERP, Peak Technologies is ready to help you find the best method for your organization and a logical path for more efficient, automated label printing for your warehouse. Contact Peak Technologies today to schedule a consultation with our team of experts!