Making the right choice for a barcode scanning system

Making the right choice for a barcode scanning system

August 17, 2015

decision.png As a manager of a logistics department selecting a barcoding system, you are faced with a plethora of issues which you are forced to take into consideration. At the forefront of these, consider your business goals and make sure that the system you choose will help you to reach those long-term goals of the company’s growth.

1. Define your goals.

Once the new system has been merged with your business goals, define the distinctions between both short- and long-term goals, while not forgetting to take into consideration the system’s impact on routine business operations. Analyze holistically the purpose of the bar code system. Are you looking to: increase production speeds, trying to improve your inventory tracking system, or experiencing a necessity to record activities? After analyzing your needs, determine whether it is necessary to install automated equipment or conveyors, for example. Think about how many types of barcodes would need to be supported.

2. Evaluate your logistic issues.

After this, you need to assess the number of issues requiring resolution. Ascertain which operations can be optimized in order to bring cost down. For example: receiving, stocking, movement within the storage facilities, picking, packing or shipping. Above all, examine task-oriented outcomes, such as achieving precision in manual processes. If you don’t possess accurate inventory data, your company’s ability to receive and fill orders can suffer due to underperformance.

3. Choose appropriate materials and types of barcodes.

At this point, it is necessary to identify the materials on which the barcodes will be printed, as well as the types of barcodes that will be scanned: one-dimensional (1D), two-dimensional (2D) or both. The most wide-spread are: 1D barcodes include Code 39 and Code 128, while common 2D codes include Datamatrix, PDF417, Aztec and QR codes.

4. Print in-house or outsource.

Now it’s time to decide whether or not you need to print your own barcodes, including item labels, location labels, packing labels, picking labels, and shipping labels. Specifically, identify the volume of labels in demand and how often (daily, weekly, monthly, annually), the types of printers required (direct thermal, thermal transfer, color), in addition to media types, sizes, materials, adhesive types, and the compliance requirements.

Select a system of printing barcodes by deciding what you are barcoding and the type of barcode according to the information which will be printed: static or dynamic. If your barcode has static information (i.e. GTIN on a cereal box) you will need labels to be printed by a printing company. If your barcode has dynamic information or the volume of labels printed is small, then it is recommended to buy a laser printer for your office or a thermal transfer printer for your warehouse.

5. Choose appropriate scanners.

When you are choosing scanners, look at scanners that support either type of barcodes, even if both are not currently in demand, keeping in mind the possibility of future expansion and demand. Also consider whether the system needs to accommodate any internally generated barcodes, externally generated barcodes, or both – such as vendor UPCs, location labels, and supplier receiving documents.
Where will your barcode be scanned? The specifications for barcode production can be determined after understanding where barcodes will be scanned. If they are primarily scanned at retail point-of-sale, then you will need omni-directional scanning. If they will be scanned both at point-of-sale and the warehouse, you will need to use a symbol that accommodates point-of-sale scanning, but printed in a larger size to accommodate scanning in the distribution process. Barcodes scanned in hospitals and pharmacies do not require omni-directional scanning, unless the items are also scanned at retail point-of-sale.

6. Barcode text.

Next, it is recommended to format the barcode text in order to back-up the barcode in case of damage or poor quality: it has to be proportional to the symbol size, placed underneath the symbol and grouped as neatly as possible maintaining the barcode text legibility and at the minimum barcode height.

7. Plan well.

Lastly, ensure a low total cost of ownership and timely return on investment by planning for long-term maintenance and support. Research whether or not the purchased equipment has comprehensive support and maintenance plans, while having a clear understanding of maintenance turnaround times and on-site versus depot service.

Give attention to the selection and implementation of the barcoding system the same way you would for any other significant enterprise-level purchase. Take the time to conduct all necessary research and form an implementation plan which is custom fit to your particular requirements. A well thought-out plan that takes every detail into consideration will result in a barcoding system that contributes to an organization’s long-term profitability.