Barcode & scanning inventory system

Kent Gigger
December 3 2022

If your small business has inventory to manage, a barcode inventory management system can help you dramatically increase your efficiency in surprisingly simple, yet important, ways, saving you a great deal of time and money. A typical barcode inventory system includes hardware, such as barcode printers and scanners, coupled with an inventory management software that runs on computers and mobile devices.

Barcode hardware

An important part of any barcode inventory system is the hardware. Having the right inventory barcode scanners and printers can make a big difference. Many companies opt to customize and print their own barcodes, which allows them to create the most efficient processes in their warehouse. Choosing hardware and software that are compatible is a crucial step in building your hardware setup. 

1D barcodes

Some inventory barcode scanners read barcodes from a longer distance, and some can read multiple types of barcodes, such as 1D and 2D. The difference between 1D and 2D barcodes is quite significant

1D, which stands for one-dimensional,barcodes are what people typically picture when they think of generic barcodes. These are made of a bunch of vertical black lines that are stretched out horizontally. The spaces between them allow a barcode scanner to identify a specific product number, or other identifying markers, in a digital inventory system, which then pulls up information related to the product. These barcodes are quite useful to companies looking to keep track inventoried items, tools, parts, equipment, and kits or bundled products.

There are many types of barcodes that fall under the category of 1D barcodes, including:

  • UPC-A
  • UPC-E
  • EAN-13
  • RSS-14
  • Code 39
  • Code 93
  • EAN-128
  • Interleaved 2 of 5

2D barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes are much more in depth than 1D barcodes. This is because they are not simple binaries of vertical lines. Instead of only offering a sequence of numbers that can be read by an inventory barcode scanner, 2D barcodes are often square shaped and they include a lot of pixelated dots and geometric shapes that contain the codified data. An inventory barcode scanner that can read a 2D barcode obtains the necessary inventory information from this type of barcode simply by scanning it. These barcodes can be even smaller than 1D barcodes and offer much more information.

2D barcodes can be used to allow customers to quickly visit a website and to allow carriers to scan parcels and see where they are going and where they came from.

Examples of 2D barcodes include:

  • QR Code
  • PDF 417
  • Data Matrix
  • Aztec
  • MaxiCode

Barcode software

Some small businesses use barcode software that just lets them create and print barcode labels, but it does not have advanced inventory management capabilities. If you need additional inventory and order management capabilities, you may want to consider a more robust barcode inventory scanning system for your small business.

A good barcode inventory system should offer you the ability to:

  • Print and scan barcodes
  • Ship, receive, and count inventory
  • Process and manage orders
  • Track parts across multiple locations
  • Integrate with your accounting system

Print and scan barcodes – With the proper equipment, you can print dozens of barcodes at once onto sticky labels that you can attach to virtually any shelf unit, bin, or product that will allow you to quickly identify, reorder, and receive items in your inventory simply by scanning them.

Ship, receive, and count inventory – Cycle counts are much easier when you do not have to use a pen and paper to conduct them. It is much easier and more accurate to scan an item’s barcode to check its current inventory levels and update it, if necessary. You can also speedily ship items by scanning a barcode during the picking process. When you receive items, you can check them against the purchase order on file and ensure you received the right number. If not, or if some of the received items are damaged or are not the right type of product you ordered, you can begin the reconciliation procedure to make sure you do not overpay and that you eventually get what you ordered.

Process and manage orders – Order management is much easier with the aid of a barcode system. You can instantly check the status of orders, and place new orders, with the scan of a barcode. In addition, you can go through your warehouse and set up automatic reorder points on virtually everything in it, so that you will be instantly informed via text and/or email when a product reaches a pre-identified low-quantity threshold, thereby avoiding product shortages.

Track parts across multiple locations – When you scan a product’s barcode in one location, you can simultaneously check inventory levels for that product on job sites, in other locations, warehouses, and stores. With this level of visibility, you can decide whether to transfer inventory between locations.

Integrate with your accounting system – When you make changes to your barcode inventory system and it is integrated with QuickBooks or Xero, it will schedule those changes to be sent directly to the accounting software. Integration between your inventory management software and your accounting platform allows you to make sure inventoried items are recorded properly on the general ledger and the appropriate invoices and other documents get generated.

Barcode inventory system

If you are interested in learning more how a barcode inventory system can help your small business, request a demo of Fishbowl today!

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