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State Liquor Commission Gets Inventory Help

It's replacing older scanning technology with a system that images bar-code information.

In an effort to better manage about 36 million bottles of alcohol in its 74 stores around the state, the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission is updating 16-year-old bar-code technology with mobile computers running imaging technology and Microsoft's Pocket PC.

The commission said Tuesday it will replace bar-code devices with Hand Held Products Inc.'s Adaptus Imaging Technology and Dolphin 9500 mobile computers to improve tracking of in-store inventory. Powered by Hand Held Products' Adaptus Imaging Technology that lets employees take two-dimensional pictures of bar codes on bottles, the mobile computers can be used to collect information on the store floors and as products move through the distribution chain. The Adaptus technology, which costs about $2,000, decodes the bar codes and automatically downloads the information to the mobile computers.

The commission has tested the technology for three months at six stores and has seen positive results, says Howard Roundy, director of IT there. The technology should provide long-term benefits, Roundy says. Already, for example, the commission has considerably cut the time it takes for individual stores to inventory products on the shelves, and Roundy says the Hand Held Products' system ultimately will help cut inventory times by as much as 50%. "Saving half the time on taking in-store inventory is also going to mean cutting half the costs," he says.

The commission adopted Hand Held Products' image-based data-collection system in August after realizing that its legacy bar-code devices were no longer functional. It began using Telxon Corp.'s PTC-630 bar-coding devices in 1988, but because of poor scanning capabilities, store employees often had to key in bar codes manually, which often caused errors, says Roundy. "Being as old as they are, these legacy systems have now become a maintenance nightmare and had to be replaced," he says. "Adaptus Imaging Technology has no moving parts like laser-based systems, but takes pictures of bar codes instead. The fact that it has no moving parts was very attractive to us because the system can last quite a while without breaking." The commission initially adopted the Adaptus platform to simplify and speed up inventory processes, which are typically conducted at stores four times a year, Roundy says. But the commission has discovered that the imaging technology can be used for other purposes as well. For instance, using Adaptus, the commission can take digital images of damaged packages and use them to obtain return approvals during the damage-claim process.

Now that internal testing is complete, Roundy says, the commission has begun rolling out the Adaptus bar-coding devices to all the liquor stores throughout New Hampshire. It will be fully deployed within a week.

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