In the past 2 years there have been significant moves to consolidate manufacturers in the mature barcode industry. The resulting landscape is settling out to be 2 major players in the business and a few smaller manufacturers on the periphery. There were some minor acquisitions made earlier, but 2013-2014 was the year of the “big moves”.
Honeywell, who had entered the barcode industry through acquisitions of Handheld Products and Metrologic in 2012, was the first company to make a move by purchasing the best-known and arguably the longest-standing company in the industry: Intermec. Honeywell has stated their plan to become the “largest company in the barcode industry”, and this acquisition was a bold move to achieve that goal. It grew the Honeywell AIDC division to over $1billion and expanded Honeywell’s product line to include printers and wireless infrastructure. And in a surprise move, Honeywell announced its acquisition of printer manufacturer Datamax, to be completed as of March 2015.
Then in 2014, Zebra Technologies announced its acquisition of Motorola Solutions, who had acquired Psion in 2007. This move consolidated one of the largest scanning and mobility companies with the largest independent manufacturer of barcode printers, rivaling Honeywell in sales and product breadth.
So who is still independent of these two giants? Surprisingly many of them are not owned by US companies. Mobility and scanner companies include Datalogic, based in Eugene, Oregon but owned by an Italian company, and Unitech, headquartered in Taiwan. As for independent barcode printer companies the largest are Japan’s Citizen and Sato.
What does this mean to you, the customer?
THE GOOD NEWS is that you have two companies who can offer the full solution for barcode projects: printer/mobility/scanning/wireless infrastructure. There are advantages to dealing with the same company for a full barcode-based solution.
- No finger-pointing: working with a single point of contact will eliminate the question as to who is responsible when things go wrong.
- Guaranteed compatibility: you know all your hardware and utilities will work together.
- Wireless Mobility Expertise: we’ve found that tablets and laptops, while they are “mobile” are not actively roaming, and the same wireless configuration that works for them does not work well for mobile barcode devices. It takes a different design with the expertise to set up a responsive wireless network for mobile barcode scanners that are continually roaming. The two largest barcode manufacturers are able to install and configure a wireless network for roaming mobility devices.
Also, you may find that the smaller companies in the industry may become much more price-competitive in an attempt to grow rapidly. And if history repeats itself, there will be new, smaller companies that arrive on the horizon, who are more flexible and agile. This all bodes well for the end user.
THE BAD NEWS is that in the interim:
- There are two primary drivers of the barcode industry very involved learning how to integrate already large companies into one larger company.
- Some of the smaller companies may not be able to compete and will disappear. There will probably be more mergers and consolidations to come as they struggle to compete.
- And technology innovations may stall for a while as all of these companies strive to get grounded in this new landscape.
This is the time to rely on your Reseller community. We are plugged into “behind the scenes” . We’ll be able to give you advice as to which company will respond best to your immediate and future needs. As in all things, this cycle will end – we wonder what will happen next!