Thursday, November 18, 2010

80/20 Rule

Ran into a great example of the 80/20 rule today. My customer and I finally got to install the replacement server I mentioned a while ago. It was the second attempt. The first attempt last Monday was stymied by Windows driver problems for an HP printer. Yeah, that still happens on Windows, but that's another story.

We got everything set up and the tests at the first workstation were perfect. The tests at the second were less than stellar. It was a printer driver again, except this time it had nothing to do with Windows. The system uses LabelView to print the shipping labels on a Zebra thermal printer. LabelView is a nice label design tool but it feels a bit dated and clunky. I don't know about newer versions but version 6 still required a dongle!

The LabelView drivers for the Zebra printer are much faster than the Windows drivers which allow for ridiculous things on the labels, like True Type fonts. Not something one cares about in an industrial setting.

Label view runs on the server and prints to the workstation printers over the network. If it works on one station, there's no logical reason it should not work on the other. And yet, that's exactly what happens.

As a work around, we configured the system to print the second station's labels to the first station's printer. It's a crappy solution as the operators have to "sneaker net" the labels to the second station, so it's a lot of extra work. But with 80% of the system working, reverting to the old server was a big step backwards.

So it's a classic 80/20 problem. After the upgrade about 80% of the system works and the remaining 20% will probably take 80% of the total time to figure out. I know very little about LabelView so the best I can do is offer advice. According to my customer, hacking is the only way to solve the problem. No thanks. Hacking on Windows software is not my idea of fun.

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