Here's a question for you: How's your handwriting? As penmanship and legible handwriting lose ground in classrooms to more relevant and widely-used means of communication, such as coding and typing, it stands to reason businesses run by adults would also forego manual processes for more accurate and practical technologies. For tracking inventory, that's where barcoding software comes in.
In this Buyer's Guide, we'll go over all the basics you need to know before you start searching for barcode software to help speed up and improve your inventory management and tracking processes. Here's what we'll cover:
Do you remember QR codes? Those little scannable squares that used to show up on product labels, t-shirts, posters, street signs and pretty much everywhere else? They were basically barcodes that consumers who had downloaded the required iPhone or Android app could scan to access more information about the product, event or business that was advertising.
Barcode software uses the same sort of technology to help warehouses and distribution centers keep track of every inventory item that comes in or goes out their doors.
Barcode systems usually have two components: hardware and software. The hardware covers the physical tools (i.e., scanners, printers, computers) necessary to read the barcodes. The software is a little more involved, though, as it encapsulates technologies that can do things such as create the barcodes (machine-readable codes typically expressed in patterns of parallel lines) and track the items in a designated inventory management system.
Barcoding hardware from Wasp Inventory Control
Barcode software functionality will vary according to the vendor and the user's needs, but here are some of the most common features to look for in barcode systems:
|Barcode generation||Technology that creates unique barcodes that tie to a specific product or products to reduce mistakes with tracking inventory.|
|Barcode scanning||Technology that allows a computer to read barcodes and interpret the information they contain.|
|Custom label creation||Allows users to create labels for products that contain whatever information the user requires, such as colors, sizes, dates etc.|
|Label templates||Precreated labels that users can default to if no specialized information needs to be conveyed in labels.|
|Receiving labels||Can be used to alert warehouses of any pertinent information before workers scan or unpack the product. For example, an easily-breakable product may come with a receiving label that reads “fragile" to ensure it is unpacked with care.|
|Shipping labels||Similar to receiving labels, shipping labels alert transporters and recipients to any special instructions for carrying or unpacking a product.|
|Inventory management||Connection to a system that tracks things such as stock levels, product locations, raw materials etc.|
|Radio-frequency identification (RFID)||Small devices that attach to the product and contain identification information that can be retrieved via scanner.|
|Serial number tracking||Allows users to assign specific serial numbers to products and track them.|
Label design in EZOfficeInventory Software
When weighing the pros and cons of a barcoding system, it might be helpful to consider the following benefits this type of software can offer:
No more human error. By eliminating manual data entry and automating the inventory tracking process, barcode software can create clearer lines of communication and help ensure no mistakes are made due to things such as illegible handwriting or tired workers.
Time saved training employees. People know how to scan things; we've got self-checkout lanes at Walmart and those ubiquitous QR codes, so it's not unreasonable to expect the average person to know 1) what a barcode scanner is, and 2) how to use it. From there, it's just a matter of learning the software.
More data gets conveyed. The difference between a barcode and a label is pretty substantial. You can only fit so much information in a form label, but barcodes are able to represent so much more data without taking up any space. So you don't have to choose between stock levels, pricing information, expiration dates or item attributes—you can include them all in one barcode.
Everything happens faster. When a barcode is scanned, the information gets translated and entered into inventory systems right away, so data is available much more quickly than it would be if done by hand. This saves users valuable time and minimizes confusion over stock levels.
Making decisions gets easier. When it comes to figuring out what to do, nothing is more useful than hard data. With instantaneous, accurate barcoding systems, decision-makers get to access an abundance of data to help determine the best course of action. For instance, exact inventory tracking can help managers calibrate inventory levels and save money on storage or better meet customer demand.
We've already mentioned that barcoding systems typically consist of two elements: hardware and software. When searching for a barcoding solution, you'll want to consider how vendors package their hardware and software and what features you're getting. You can certainly buy the hardware and software separately, but that leaves you with the responsibility of connecting two different products or coding your own software system to match your hardware. A better option for the money would be an integrated system that includes both.
You'll also need to figure out if your business would benefit more from a stand-alone barcoding system or one that is included in a broader enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM) or warehouse management product.
We've already covered the benefits of barcoding software, but there are a few drawbacks that you'll want to keep in mind when researching vendors for your business.
And of course, if you're still not sure where to begin your research, you can always reach out to our team of expert advisors at (844) 687-6771 for a quick consultation on your business needs.
Our service is simple and 100% free to customers like you because software vendors pay us when we connect them with quality leads. You save time and get great advice. Vendors get great referrals. It's a win for everyone!