Barcoding is the new way of doing inventory management, and it is no surprise that companies who make the switch rave about it to no end. There are so many bonuses to barcoding including saving time, money, reducing wasted resources and removing the painful feeling of having an out-of-control warehouse that desperately needs a systems spring-clean.
Barcodes are a pictorial way of portraying strings of numbers, which encode all the information for a product. It is an extremely efficient way of recording data and assigning new data to a product without having to actually go and label the physical product again. Now, all of this does not having to come with an obscene price tag. In fact, to set up barcoding in your business can be very reasonable indeed. Here is a ‘how-to’ in getting up and running in the barcode world.
Tools of the barcoding trade
As you can imagine, the first bit of equipment you might need to generate a barcode is a barcode generator. It is not necessary to buy them from a universal database (such as UPC) particularly if you are just starting out and testing the waters. There are online web services with either barcode fonts or barcode generators where you can create barcodes. A popular type of barcode created in this way for small to medium sized business is Code 3 of 9 and is printable with a standard laser printer on standard labels.
You can choose between multiple types with various costs however all you really need, particularly if your needs are only small at this stage, is a simple laser printer to use with Avery standard labels. The laser printer produces very clear and legible barcodes and at a fraction of the cost of others so are a great choice.
The second piece of hardware you will need is a barcode scanner. These do not need to be costly at all with a perfectly adequate one being available for under $100. It is important however to pick one that is going to suit your needs such as being USB accessible with the scanner being portable for difficult to reach inventory items.
Now that you have the data, the printer and a way of reading it, you need a software system to analyse and store it. This is where your inventory management software comes into the picture and will invariably make life so much easier and more organised. Inventory management systems are generally set up to incorporate barcoding if that is what you require. This is will enable the fast and efficient acquisition of incoming product data by one simple scan per different item, and for similar items, they can all be added into stock simultaneously by scanning the barcode once and accounting for the incoming stock number.
The final component to barcoding implementation is to decide how to the staff will use it and then ensure the practice is adhered to for accurate control. If one staff member scans items when they take them out of storage for use in production, and the other scans them once they have been used in production, there are opportunities for ‘double-dipping’ or missed counts.
Setting up a barcoding system in your company does not have to be onerous or painful. Conduct a bit of research about your needs and what is available and then seek the help you will need to set it up. Stock taking day will be a breeze!
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.