Zebra Technologies ZQ521 mobile printer printing labels in a warehouse

Buying Portable Printers? Form Factor and Ergonomics Should Play a Crucial Role in Your Procurement Decisions

Portable printers can increase efficiency and accuracy at work. Pair them wirelessly with a mobile device and your team can swiftly print the correct labels, receipts or invoices when and where they need them.

But will your people use them as intended – and enjoy these efficiencies? If the printer is comfortable, easy to work with and speeds up the job, the answer will be yes. If not, you’re likely to have a struggle on your hands.

So how do you ensure you are providing fit-for-purpose portable printers?

First, have a clear understanding of your employees’ duties and environment. Then, match this with the printer, considering form factors (printer size, weight and specs) and ergonomics (efficiency and comfort).

In this post, we’ll look at two types of portable printer – wearable and vehicle-mounted – and some use cases, to help you narrow down which set-ups will be right for you. We’ll also look at another important element – accessories. While add-ons are often far less costly than the printer, don’t overlook them in your procurement process. The right choices can ensure a mobile printer delivers the hoped-for efficiencies.

Wearable portable printers

Employees who move around frequently can carry their portable printer with them. Incorporating accessories can really help expand the range of options, so you find the right solution for a job role. For instance, a belt strap is a good hands-free option. Or, if an employee already carries devices on a belt, avoid overload or confusion by using a shoulder strap or even a printer carry handle. Many of these add-ons are available as part of an external protective case (see further below). Wearable portable printers are ideal for warehouse employees, direct store delivery, field service, sales operations, e-citations and many more roles.

Use case example:

Scenario: labelling incoming goods. Your business labels incoming goods, for stock-taking purposes. Your warehouse team needs to make frequent, time-intensive trips to and from the office to pick up labels for specific deliveries; or must request labels and wait for them to be printed.

Solution: You equip your people with lightweight, durable portable printers with excellent battery life guaranteed for long shifts. They carry the machine on their shoulder using a shoulder strap. This way, it is always available for printing RFID tags and labels when and where required.

Warehouse worker using a Zebra Technologies ZQ630 mobile printer with a shoulder strap to print labels
Zebra Technologies’ ZQ630 mobile printer weighs just 1.1kg, including battery, and can be used with either a hand strap or shoulder strap.

Vehicle-mounted portable printers

Team members travelling larger distances can use vehicle-mounted printers to generate labels and documents wherever they are. They can easily remove the printers from their mounts and use them during point-of-sale or delivery interactions. The mount is typically sold separately from the printer and can be permanently attached to a vehicle; the printer can be powered either by its internal battery or by connecting it to a vehicle power adapter with a compatible charger. This solution is suitable for a variety of vehicles, including emergency response vehicles, police cars, delivery trucks and forklifts.

Use case example:

Scenario: Delivery driver collection and pick up. Your drivers deliver and collect packages from customer doorsteps and need to quickly generate delivery and return receipts.

Solution: Rugged portable printers are the perfect solution for this scenario. They withstand the vibration and shocks of moving vehicles and are equipped with a high IP (ingress protection) rating, making them resistant to rain and other outdoor elements. This ensures that drivers can easily take the printer in and out of their vehicles as they make deliveries and pickups. Additionally, pair the device with an intuitive push-button cradle. This makes it easy for drivers to remove and replace the printer as they make a rapid turnover of deliveries. The device is safely stored in the vehicle when not in use, but easily accessible when needed.

A Zebra Technologies ZQ500 series mobile printer docked in a vehicle, printing a receipt.
Zebra Technologies’ exceptionally durable ZQ500 series mobile printers can be mounted and charged in a vehicle/ or on a forklift.

Protecting your devices from the elements

As the examples above illustrate, marrying the right portable printers with the right peripherals – from shoulder straps to vehicle mounts – is crucial if you want to ensure your employees can use a device with ease.

A protective case is another important accessory. For instance, soft cases or extra-sturdy exoskeleton cases ensure your machine is protected and fit for purpose whatever the environment or circumstances.

As we repeat in most of our articles about rugged hardware and add-ons, ensure your provider has a strong commitment to backwards and forwards compatibility. You should be able to buy new machines and peripherals such as cases, cradles and adaptors with the confidence that they will continue to work together. The alternative – an unthinkable one for procurers – is spending large sums of money replacing perfectly good equipment because it isn’t compatible with a new device or peripheral.

Nuffield Technologies can help you choose the right portable printers and accessories for your organisation, to ensure a maximum return on investment. We work with partners across many industries from logistics and healthcare to retail and defence and understand the unique requirements of each. To talk to a rugged technology expert now, get in touch.

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