E-INK + SAP® - Digital Labels in Logistics

Würzburger Flexus AG makes it possible to use digital labels (E-Ink displays) in logistics by connecting them directly and controlling them via the SAP system.

To many people, ESL (Electronic Shelf Labeling) is probably not a familiar term at first. But the technology is better known than it seems at first glance: it is already widely used as a method for price labelling in supermarkets - now it is also making its way into logistics.


How to imagine the use of the ESL? Electronic labels are used instead of paper inscriptions: If a label needs to be changed or a new label is needed, ESL no longer has to be sent to the printer and laboriously affixed to the trolleys or containers. Instead, the displays can be controlled digitally from SAP and supplied with content. The displays are operated using E-Ink technology. As long as no new data is available for a display and the display remains unchanged, they consume almost no power.

The electronic labels can display different elements such as images, text, numbers or barcodes. The design shown on the display is then composed from these components. There are fixed elements that do not change, as well as placeholder modules. The placeholders are filled with concrete data as soon as the display goes into operation. The displays are available in different sizes.

At this point the connection with SAP® is established thanks to Flexus: The data required for the display (e.g. an order number, a barcode, ...) can be transferred directly from SAP to the displays. Via a radio signal, the information can be displayed directly on the corresponding label in real time. The management of the labels and the content to be updated can be easily integrated into SAP via customizing at relevant process points.



The technology offers a wide range of applications, especially in intralogistics:

  • Use as container identification: In circulating containers, the electronic displays can show the corresponding container ID, e.g. as a barcode. By scanning the unique container ID, it is always possible to ensure that the correct container has been picked up - the identification thus guarantees the tracking of a container. In addition to the display of the container ID, further elements such as the current status of the container, its next destination or a list of contents can be displayed. The information is updated in the respective process from SAP.
  • Use as identification of picking trolleys and their contents: With ESL, the current picking order can always be displayed directly on the picking trolley. The employee can immediately see which material is to be picked next, where it is and in what quantity it has to be picked. It is also possible to display a picture of the corresponding material so that the order picker can carry out an additional visual check.As soon as all materials are loaded, the ESL acts as a digital labeling of the trolley including contents. The destination station including additional information (e.g. SAP WM transfer order or SAP EWM warehouse task) is displayed.
  • Use for Pick by Light: If the display (in the smaller size) is attached to the shelf, there is also the option for Pick by Light. The displays indicate how much of this material must be withdrawn for the current picking order. Blinking the display or integrated lamps can be used to enhance this display. Employees can thus pick the required material in the correct quantity as quickly as possible.



A great advantage of using ESL is that it is no longer necessary to use paper for identification. Classic label handling is no longer needed, which means no more printing, gluing or attaching paper labels. In contrast to electronic labels, paper labels are quickly lost and cannot, of course, react to changes. Thanks to electronic labeling, the labels are always up to date.

The labeling is changed directly - and thanks to the integration in SAP®, the changes made there are quickly and dynamically visible on the label. This saves a lot of time and resources can now be used elsewhere through the use of the technology.
Scannable bar/QR codes can be shown directly on the display and used for validation and identification. Thus, mobile handhelds can also be integrated. An interaction of SAP®, mobile end devices with Flexus SAP-Fiori Apps and the electronic labels is created.
Images of the materials can be visualized on the labels - the visual inspection by the employee is thus quickly possible and the suitable product can be found as quickly as possible.
In contrast to infrared systems, for example, the ESL can also be used without visual contact with the station thanks to radio technology. The labels are outstanding with a battery life of several years.
The use of electronic shelf labelling is an important step towards dynamic and flexible logistics processes.

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