Bar Code Printing Options for Zebra Printers with

Bar Code Printing Options for
Zebra Printers with Oracle
©2007 ZIH Corp. ZebraDesigner and all product names and numbers are Zebra trademarks and Zebra, and ZPL are registered
trademarks of ZIH Corp. All rights reserved. Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation. All other trademarks are the
property of their respective owners.
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Executive Summary
Bar code output from the Oracle E-Business Suite® environment is traditionally accomplished through
third-party software. However, Oracle’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Mobile Supply Chain
Applications (MSCA) offer a new approach that can simplify bar code label printing. Oracle WMS and MSCA
produce output in XML data streams, instead of a proprietary Oracle format. Zebra Technologies has embedded
an XML parser in its XML-enabled printers, so output from Oracle WMS and MSCA is natively understood by
the printer without additional middleware or server hardware. The graphic below illustrates the system
architectures and components required for bar code output from Oracle WMS and MSCA using the middleware
and Zebra direct connection approaches.
Enterprise System
Enterprise System
Printer Application
Print Server
This white paper describes the middleware and direct-connect bar code printing options for Oracle WMS and
MSCA, explains the system requirements for each, and provides guidance as to when each approach is best
suited to particular environments.
Bar codes are integral to warehouse and inventory control operations and are often used with Oracle WMS and
MSCA. Oracle software includes 10 default pre-seeded label types for shipping, inventory movement and item
identification processes. Additional formats are often required for compliance labeling, report printing and
other applications. These labels are typically created with third-party label design applications that must
integrate with the Oracle system.
Oracle’s WMS and MSCA applications communicate print jobs natively in an XML data stream. To print bar
codes, the XML print job data must be processed and encoded into a bar code format that a printer can
recognize. Traditionally, third-party software has been used to design label formats and manage output to the
bar code label printer. The Oracle applications and system administrator handle all the steps in between,
including management of user profiles and privileges, managing print requests, label format and printer
selection, and generation of the XML data stream.
The print job is then communicated to a bar code printer over a TCP/IP network or other connection using
either synchronous or asynchronous communication.
In asynchronous mode, the Oracle application drops an XML file into a directory. A third-party application is
responsible for monitoring the directory, processing the XML data, merging the data with the label format, and
then routing it to the appropriate printer.
Synchronous mode is a simpler approach. It uses a PL/SQL application program interface (API) to integrate
the Oracle application and the third-party application (or printer) in real time. Oracle WMS and MSCA use the
PL/SQL API to make a call to the printer or third-party application, which then processes the incoming XML
data stream for output. Oracle’s synchronous communications architecture results in no files to transfer,
eliminates cross-platform labeling issues and stores success or failure messages within the Oracle application.
The printing process described above is roughly the same regardless of what form of output is used. Third-party
applications and the Zebra direct-connect method differ by how the Oracle XML stream is processed and how
printer communications are managed. These approaches are described in the following sections.
Middleware, which can take the form of label design software, print server applications, or document
management software, is the most common method for generating bar code output from Oracle applications.
There are many bar code label design software packages, but few offer true, certified Oracle connectivity. In fact,
Oracle has only certified five label printing partners for its WMS and MSCA applications. The select list includes
Zebra Technologies and several of its ISV partners, including Adobe, Loftware, Bartender, and NiceLabel.
Middleware performs the XML conversion that enables Oracle data to be expressed in bar code and text on
the label. Middleware can be used for synchronous and asynchronous printing. In asynchronous mode the
middleware, not the Oracle application, is responsible for monitoring the directory and transferring files to the
appropriate printer for timely output.
One common and popular approach is to use third-party applications in conjunction with a print server to
manage the communications and processing of print jobs. The Oracle applications route the print request and
output destination through middleware that resides on a dedicated print server. The middleware application
processes the XML data streams, generates the bar code, populates the label fields and sends the print job to the
designated printer over a wired or wireless network connection. A single, central middleware application can
manage all enterprise bar code printing requirements within a facility, provided there is network access to
remote locations. The middleware/print server approach may also direct all enterprise bar code printing
operations in a distributed environment by using wide-area network connections, although firewalls can make
this difficult to execute. Separate print servers and software licenses for each facility are often required.
Middleware applications are advantageous because they can support bar code printers from multiple vendors.
Another option is to write code or use middleware to give the Oracle application the ability to generate bar
code output. This method can be used for label printing or to add bar coding to forms and reports. Bar code
labeling operations require the development of printer drivers so the Oracle application can communicate
with the specific models of label printers that are used. The customization required for this approach can be
time consuming and expensive. Maintenance and total cost of ownership expenses may also be high because
software development costs could be incurred every time new label formats, features or printer models are
added to the operation.
Zebra Direct-Connect
Zebra’s direct-connect solution uses firmware on the Zebra bar code label printer and synchronous mode
communication with Oracle WMS and MSCA to process the Oracle XML data stream. Here is how it works.
RFID printers
create a
with Oracle’s
API files are installed on Oracle database or WMS/MSCA application.
Printer is defined within Oracle WMS/MSCA and standard application printer
configuration is completed to enable bar code printing.
XML-enabled ZPL format is stored in printer’s memory.
WMS/MSCA sends XML print job to printer via TCP/IP.
XML print job data stream is parsed for label format name, label quantity and variable
field data.
Printer recalls stored XML-enabled label format and applies variable field data while
encoding the RFID tag.
Label is printed upon detection of “end-of-label” within XML data stream with RFID
data, human readable and bar code data.
An event in the Oracle business process triggers a request for a bar code label. The request may be generated
automatically as part of the business rules, or may be requested by the Oracle user.
Bar code label requests are forwarded to the Oracle application, where rules and profiles verify that the user is
authorized to access the information and produce the desired label. The profile also directs the label output to a
specific Zebra printer associated with the user.
The Oracle application then makes procedure calls in Java code to access the information needed to produce the
label. The label request and required data are formatted into a native XML message for synchronous communication. The print job is transmitted to the Zebra printer via TCP/IP. Wireless, Ethernet and other TCP/IPsupported networking can all be used for communication between the Oracle application and the printer.
Zebra’s XML-enabled printers understand the native XML data streams that Oracle WMS and MSCA produce.
The incoming XML message includes a header that specifies the required label format name and label quantity,
and the rest of the data stream specifies the variable field data. Printer firmware processes the incoming XML
data stream, calls up the label format, and populates it with the variable data from the XML message.
The printer then outputs the bar code label. All the different label formats required to support Oracle business
processes can be stored directly in printer memory.
Application Requirements
The host application, Zebra printer, and label formats must all be enabled to support direct connection and
label printing. The requirements for each component are outlined below.
The solution is currently available for the Oracle Warehouse Management System and Mobile Supply Chain
Applications version 11i9 or higher. A PL/SQL script to process the procedure calls is added to the Oracle application. This small script requires one-time installation and manages the API for synchronous communications.
On the printer side, direct connection requires XML-enabled printers that operate on Zebra Programming
Language (ZPL®). Printer firmware determines which Zebra models can process Oracle data streams. Zebra also
offers XML printing capability on its rugged Z Series® printers as well as on its PAX4™ series print engines.
Additionally, Zebra’s QL Plus™ and RW™ series of mobile printers support XML functionality, enabling users
to add mobile printing from their Oracle applications.
The label format itself must also be XML-enabled. Zebra has already XML-enabled 10 label formats that support
the 10 default label types in Oracle WMS and MSCA. These pre-formatted XML formats have been loaded and are
resident on XML-enabled XiIIIPlus printers. (While XML support is native on Zebra’s QL Plus and RW series of
mobile printers, to get the labels formats and other application content on the mobile printers, users must order
the complimentary companion XML Support Utility CD-ROM.) If additional label formats are needed, users will
need to create them with label design software. One option is to use Zebra’s ZebraDesigner for XML label design
software, a demo version of which is included on the CD that comes with XML-enabled printers. Designing labels
within ZebraDesigner requires no ZPL programming skills to create XML-enabled label formats.
When to Use Each Approach
Neither middleware nor the Zebra direct-connect approach is ideal for all user environments. Each has specific
advantages depending on an enterprise’s legacy printing system and application management preferences.
Zebra recognizes that one approach is not right for all users and will continue to support and promote its
partner solutions when they are a superior alternative to the direct-connect offering.
Most printer manufacturers support ZPL emulation and XML-enabled printing. Check with your manufacturer
for ZPL support if you are in a multi-printer environment or contact Zebra directly. Middleware converts
Oracle XML data streams so they can be recognized by each different printer control language (PCL) present in
the enterprise printing operation.
Middleware also provides centralized management and control features that many users find desirable. These
features are not unique to the Oracle environment and may be available in other networking and connectivity
Zebra’s direct connection approach is appealing to organizations that want to minimize their bar code printing
support requirements and simplify their system architecture. Direct connection eliminates the need for middleware to intervene and process communication between Oracle WMS or MSCA and the printer, which removes a
potential source of failure from the system. It also eliminates related support costs and licensing fees. The directconnect approach is also simpler to set up and maintain because it requires less programming and software
integration than a system including middleware products. Enterprises that use the default label types native to
Oracle WMS and MSCA may not even have to design new labels because Zebra ships XML-enabled versions of
these label formats pre-loaded on its printers. Zebra’s direct-connect solution is the most cost-effective and
simplest option for enterprises that will begin bar code printing from Oracle for the first time, and those who
have an all-Zebra bar code printing environment.
Guidelines for when each approach is advantageous are summarized in the table below.
New application, homogeneous printer environment
Zebra Direct-Connect
Printers from multiple vendors without XML support
Printers from multiple vendors w/XML and ZPL support
Third-party Application
Single application desired for bar code printing on
labels, documents and reports
Lowest total label printing cost
Ease of integration, implementation and support
Direct connection represents an alternative for bar code printing in the Oracle environment, and is the optimal
choice for most Oracle WMS/MSCA implementations. Besides understanding the technical requirements of
each approach, organizations need to analyze their support, software development, and architecture strategies to
understand which approach is best for them. Zebra offers direct connection as one option in a range of
solutions, and will continue to work with its partners to provide solutions for a variety of enterprise bar code
printing activities.
Zebra offers a variety of connectivity, networking and software tools to support its products. With over 35 years
of experience and more than 5 million printers in use, Zebra is the trusted brand for more than 90 percent of
Fortune 500 companies. Visit to learn more about Zebra printers, labeling software,
connectivity and support options and integration partners.
Zebra Technologies Corporation
333 Corporate Woods Parkway
Vernon Hills, IL 60061-3109 U.S.A.
T: +1 847 793 2600 or
+1 800 423 0442
F: +1 847 913 8766
Zebra Technologies Europe, Limited
Zebra House, Unit 14,
The Valley Centre
Gordon Road, High Wycombe
Buckinghamshire HP13 6EQ, UK
T: +44 (0) 494 472872
F: +44 (0) 494 450103
Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, LLC
16 New Industrial Road
#05-03 Hudson TechnoCentre
Singapore 536204
T: +65 6858 0722
F: +65 6885 0838
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Poland, Spain, Sweden
Australia, China, Japan, South Korea
California, Rhode Island, Texas,
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United Arab Emirates
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©2007 ZIH Corp.
13485L Rev. 3 (7/07)