The modern era of business management is exciting and fast-paced. To ensure your business remains a contender in the global arena, the adoption of technology and automation is paramount. A revolutionary aspect to technology and automation was the development of the barcode, which pictorially displays data relating to the item, be it price, location or anything else. However, as with any technology, it pays to keep best practice in mind. We will take a look at some industry-derived best practices for doing barcodes the right way.
When implementing barcoding as part of your inventory system, we cannot say it enough, go slow and take your time. A common issue faced by companies when implementing new and improved technology is a significant staff resistance. This is natural and perfectly understandable, however it must still be overcome for the future improvement of company processes. Having appropriate change management plans in place and slowly instigating changes with appropriate training and ongoing support is essential to overcoming resistance-to-change.
Part of setting up the system correctly is also selecting the best barcode for your needs. This comes down to both the barcode symbology (eg UPC or EAN) as well as practical measures such as the size, shape, contrast of the colouring and quality of the printing. Ensure suppliers are properly researched so that the best option within the given budget is available.
Adapt warehousing and production lines for barcodes
Barcoding is a very modern and advanced method of inventory management, however, it means very little if the same storage and production processes are used without adaptation. Essentially this would create a tension between new and old without getting the best of either. When implementing barcoding, identify ways to support its use with the system in which items are stored and retrieved and the process that items follow through manufacture. When both the physical implementation and the optimisation of processes are performed in conjunction, the full benefits of barcoding can be obtained.
Understand the power of data
Barcoding is a tool that you can use to work for you and encode many types of data. Be creative, barcodes do not have to simply code for one piece of data with a new barcode being affixed for each new data entry. Identify all the pieces of data which would be beneficial to your inventory system and managing production and then consider including these in your barcodes. This may inform your choice of barcode symbology.
Barcodes can also be used for internal processes such as ensuring items are returned to their location by barcoding their ‘home’; or for tracking equipment through the production site so that less time is used tracking it down or physically asking after it.
Optimise placement for easy recognition
Something as simple as the specific placement of a barcode on product can have a dramatic effect on its effectiveness and ease of use. Incorrect or inappropriate placement could even result in errors in inventory counts or sales figures if it prevents the barcode from being read properly. Ascertain an ideal placement spot for your company’s products and then train your staff in ensuring this practice is maintained.
Automation is a wonderful thing and is designed to facilitate growth and efficiency. However, these objectives will never be achieved if management or staff develop complacency and simply rely on the system to do everything without error. Rather staff must look out for errors or shortcomings that may need attention and resolution.
Conduct random audits of the barcoding process regularly. These should ensure that, barcodes are up-to-date, contain accurate information and are correctly affixed and linked to each product.
As with any development involving automation and a decreased need for human intervention, it is easy to ‘let go of the reins’ and cease micromanaging every part of the process. This is to be encouraged; however, it is important to ensure that your barcoding system is well thought out and that processes are in place to support it with best practice in mind.
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.