Printing Unicode SAP Output
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
by Al Nichols
One of the more popular manufacturers of label printers, certainly for use with SAP applications, is Zebra Technologies. Ruggedly built to stand up to warehouse conditions, these workhorses churn out labels for your production processes day after day. Because label printers are generally on the critical path of logistic processes, it pays to keep a special eye on them, as disruption (delays or missing output) on such devices can lead to critical business processes being delayed or breaking completely.
LRS already has unique methods of printing to Zebra printers in our VPSX Enterprise Output Management (EOM) solution. Our software uses Zebra commands to check the printer status and will only deliver print data when the printer is able to process it. This enhanced flow control has been shown to greatly reduce the number of “hangs” that label printers suffer in a high use environment. If there is a problem with the device, print data can easily be diverted to another printer without an expensive and time-consuming support call to the SAP Basis group.
That’s not the end of the story. In today’s global business environment, labeling also has its challenges. You may be required to print labels from SAP in complicated languages. Chinese is a good example, and depending on where it is printed, you may need to check that the correct variant is used (traditional or simplified). Until recently, printing Chinese labels from Zebra devices has required you to buy a Unicode font memory card for the device and ensure that it has been installed in the printer and properly configured.
LRS now has a better solution that offers SAP customers the full flexibility of the SAP SAPGOFU or PDFU device types (barcodes and languages without restrictions). Non-SAP customers can also use PDF format; something especially useful in healthcare applications. In the future, you can simply produce labels for ZPL printers in PDF format, and we will convert it to the ZPL data stream using the integrated transforms in our EOM solution. This is a “just in time” transformation, meaning the conversion is done just before the print data is sent to a printer. As a result, the software can account for the properties of an individual printer —including the resolution of the printer — so the same output can be sent to printers of different resolutions.
Looking at the bigger picture for large SAP customers, it means that instead of having many different device types associated with the many printers defined to a SAP system, you can have just one type: SAPGOFU. LRS transforms will then convert this SAP internal data type to a language that any vendor’s printers can understand, thus ensuring that the print looks the same on any device. That is something we’ve done in the past for PCL and PS printers, but it is new for ZPL devices. Such functionality enables further reductions in SAP administration effort.
This will also generally eliminate the requirement to use special external programs to design and create ZPL labels, as existing SAP design tools can be used without worrying about the device characteristics. Regardless of whether your printer has a barcode module (in the case of a PCL printer), or a font memory card (in the case of ZPL printer), you will be able to print all output on any (PCL, PDF, PS, or ZPL) printer and it will look the same. If the job specifies attributes that are not possible on a given printer (for example, color print on a monochrome device or A3 print on an A4 device), LRS transform software will dynamically adapt the output to achieve readable results.
If you have highly specialized requirements, LRS can also enhance print data streams to produce elements that are not supported by the originating software systems. Likewise, the software can automatically add watermarks or even merge other documents into the output based on the data or metadata content. This helps you better support your business processes, reduce the time taken to manually assemble documentation for shipping from days to hours, and increase process reliability.
Improved label printing is just one of the many benefits of our EOM system. You can contact our output specialists at any time to discuss your needs, set up a free trial, or just ask a question.