For cloud solutions we work exclusively with our partner Loftware and their NiceLabel Cloud products. This belongs to the various cloud subscriptions and also the local Label Management Software products.
To move a complete solution for labeling requirements to the cloud, a powerful document management system is required. It must ensure secure, high-availability data storage and enable printing on a wide variety of local printers. Access must be user-controlled and accessible from anywhere using the latest Internet browser.
The core element is of course the data storage of all documents in the cloud. These are layouts created by the designer, printing solutions generated with PowerForms, used images and other documents. Data from the ERP software and third-party systems are made available via integration and automation modules. The printout is then carried out on a local printer using the web printing module.
Printing labels from the cloud has higher requirements than local printing. The print job from the cloud should be passed on to the local printer at the highest possible speed. In addition, monitoring of print jobs and global management of printer settings are necessary due to the central administration and logging features.
In order to implement these requirements, the most important element is the used printer driver, as this is the only way to monitor and manage the printer settings. The more than 4000+ printer drivers from NiceLabel in version 10 offer exactly these required functions and should preferably be used with the cloud and LMS solutions. The secure and encrypted data transfer of the print job from the cloud is then processed via the web printing module. This also has the advantage of using print forms or complete printing solutions that the user can use for printing. With newer printers from SATO or ZEBRA, IoT printing is also supported where the printers connect themselves to the cloud.
The Control Center is the central entry point to get an overview and easy access to all functions of administration. Document management is available there, including created printing solutions and integration modules. In addition to users and printers management, the administrative settings are available in the control center. History data and analysis diagrams help with the analysis of the print volume.
The current downloads for the designer and web printing are also available in the start screen of the Control Center in the dashboard. Managed printers can be added and printing can also be started via web printing. All functions for versioning and approving layouts including an optical version comparison can be found in the document management. New printing solutions can be added to applications and integration modules can be viewed or started. Workflows, warning messages, global variables, synchronization and account data are available in the administration area.
The document management of the cloud solution offers all functions that are necessary for the tested and secure application in production printing. The version management is implemented by checking in- and out documents and only the latest revision is available in production printing. For evidence in controlled environments, there is a history of all changes and printouts in the life cycle of a document plus access to older versions. All functions are regulated by the access rights of users and user groups.
Of course, with the appropriate rights, documents can be printed, edited, copied and downloaded locally. The preview, the label report, the comparison function and the revision history are available for an overview of existing versions. The document management can also integrate any other documents such as Word, Excel or PDF files.
Correct selection of data and layouts is extremely important in production printing. Therefore, a simple printout is often not enough and data may have to be preselected plus dynamic layout definition. Such scenarios can be created via PowerForms and released for the cloud. Matching authorizations and restrictions for users and user groups can then be set in the Control Center.
Applications can be created as a single solution or as a group of approved solutions and layouts. A major advantage of such applications is the possibility of access by external partners such as suppliers or service providers. Via authorizations and printer restrictions, you can define exactly what the partner is allowed to use and you can revoke access at any time.
If you only want to save data that is actually printed in the cloud, this can be done quite easily by uploading file databases such as Access or exporting to the Azure Cloud SQL database. In order to automate this and also with data such as weights from scales or data from test equipment, the area of integration comes into play. The integration tasks are handled by Windows services that work in the background or directly as cloud integration with access via the NiceLabel Cloud API from the Developer Portal.
Automation is implemented via the Automation Manager and a wide variety of types are possible: monitored directories for reading data files, receiving data via serial interface, receiving data telegrams via LAN interface, connection via TCP/IP or HTTP as a server and data queries from web services. There are also predefined data filters for the incoming data: structured text such as CSV files or unstructured such as report pages and printer outputs. Of course, standards such as JSON or XML are also included in the program.
In addition to printing labels, printers in the cloud solution have another meaning, as the software is licensed based on the number of used printers. A printer is defined by the printer driver and the connection type, so that a printer at one IP address only occupies one license slot and can be used by several users. In addition, the control center also offers access to the current print jobs that are being processed, so that a user with appropriate rights can manage those print jobs.
Since the web printing module lists all locally available printers, it should be specified via the control center for layouts and printing solutions which printers may be used. The management of print jobs is also possible for external Windows printer drivers, but the extended possibilities of the cloud solution are only possible via the NiceLabel Windows driver version 10.
Consistent logging is essential for the verification of printouts, troubleshooting in the event of printer malfunctions and other activities such as system warnings or logins. Especially for proof of printing a reprint function is available working with the same printing system and data used at original print time.
The topic of serialization has also been taken into account, so that specific labels can be selected for reprint from a larger print job. The layout revision used at print job time is always used for reprint. There is a separate list in the logging section for printer errors, system information and warning messages.
Due to licensing according the number of printers, it is of course very important which printers are used where and how often. But another component is also interesting: which label materials are actually used in which quantities. An important piece of information for purchasing to optimize the requirements for label material and printer ribbons.
Both pieces of information are available directly in the analysis section. Printed labels are analyzed, which printers and printer groups are used, how active are users or workstations used and which of the printing solutions are started and how often. Of course, the information on how often certain label dimensions are printed, including the warehouse number for different preprints, must definitely mentioned. A number of filters are available for data to strip down interesting data and the result can be viewed as a diagram or in list form.
In the simplest case there is someone who creates the layouts and users who are only allowed to print in production. But very often this is not enough and a precise approval workflow is required, especially in controlled environments. Three standard workflows are already integrated in the Control Center and build on the corresponding access roles.
The access roles required for workflows can be assigned to match the usage and consist in the simplest case of layout designer (author) and the person responsible for the approval (approver). The role of the administrator is on top level and the role of the user (operator) is assigned to operators to carry out production printing. For special requirements, the roles for installation and support (service provider) and cloud integrators were created.
In the administrative section the three standard workflows can be edited, which cover most of the required approval processes. For special cases you can also create your own workflow and if not required at all, version control and approval processes can also be deactivated. Warning messages, global variables, synchronization and account data are available for editing.
Important informations for activities are displayed in the dashboard and additional forwarded by mail. When configuring the workflow steps, the mail addresses for the respective access roles can be added. In the workflow, you can also specify which people to notify when the status changes and which access role is allowed to perform this step.