There are two ways a business can track and manage inventory. There’s the hard way or there’s the easy way. Taking the hard way can be time-consuming, tedious and inefficient while the easier option, automation, will free-up personnel to better utilize their skills and capabilities performing more relevant tasks.
Automation, what is it really?
It is defined as “the use or introduction of automatic equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility”. There are numerous reasons why organizations choose to automate processes and inventory management is a key factor. By automating inventory management, you are better able to forecast, track and replenish inventory stock.
Automation provides a clear view of what is happening in your business, allowing you to see what products are moving and what products are sitting on the shelf taking up valuable space and resources. Having this on-hand information enables more accurate reporting and provides an opportunity to see where improvements can be made.
Using barcode technology is an easy and cost-effective way to facilitate the automation process and to improve operational efficiency across the workplace.
Barcodes help to link the purchasing system to the inventory and accounting systems. In addition, barcode scanning provides the means to accurately record and retrieve information, quickly process orders, assist procurement processes and generally improve inventory control. In addition, it will reduce staff handling costs and limit manual process errors.
If you are not using barcodes for inventory tracking, valuable time and money is being wasted. Here’s why:
- Manual tracking is time-consuming regardless of whether you are maintaining handwritten records or entering information into a computer spreadsheet
- If employees are trying to sort through piles of spreadsheets or decipher hand-written instructions, items are more likely to be lost or misplaced
- Manual processes make it nearly impossible to optimize your warehouse operations
- Barcodes can encode a broad range of alphabetic and numeric symbols using real-time technology that transmits data as transactions occur.
2D barcode scanners and barcode scanning solutions are affordable. The upfront investment into barcode technology and tracking systems is cheaper and more efficient than time-consuming searches for products in the warehouse or retail outlet.
If your clients or suppliers are still using older 1D barcodes, 2D barcode scanners will still work. Likewise, 2D barcode scanners will also read newer 2D barcodes. Meaning your company, your suppliers and your customers can still effectively track stock throughout the supply chain. This is all without the need to continuously update barcode systems.
There are numerous styles of barcode reader. The three main types are the wand (or pen) readers, Charged Coupled Devices (CCD Scanners) and Laser Scanners.
- Portable wand scanners are battery operated and can scan up to A4 size pages, saving data to a microSD card. These scanners are not connected to a computer so are ideal for use while on the move. The wand device can be connected by USB to a computer for document viewing and retrieval.
- Charged Couple Devices or CCD scanners, are generally fixed scanners like those used in supermarkets. They come in a variety of interfaces and scan a complete picture of the barcode, making it easier to read damaged or poorly printed codes. However, this type of scanners has a limited read range.
- Laser scanners are the most common and cost-effective variety, coming in both fixed and mobile styles. Laser scanners are unable to read complex or QR style barcodes, some models however, can read codes from a large distance.
Automating your inventory management can make your business more competitive. By leveraging an automated inventory system, you can save money, save time and increase inventory accuracy. It will improve reporting to help you make smarter, more effective business decisions.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.