Kent Gigger
October 10 2023

If your small business has inventory to manage (and what business, big or small, does not?), a barcode inventory management system can help you dramatically increase your efficiency in surprisingly simple yet important ways, and it can also save you a great deal of time and money in all sorts of areas of your business. A typical barcode inventory system includes hardware, such as barcode printers and scanners and software that runs on computers and mobile devices that allow for barcode scanning and other operations.


An important part of any barcode inventory system is the hardware. Having the right barcode scanners can make a big difference. If you want to print your own barcodes so you can create custom labels to put on every part and product in your warehouse, you will need a barcode printer. Also, some hardware and software combinations work better together than others, so you will want to make sure that your hardware and software are fully compatible with each other so there is no miscommunication between them.


Some barcode scanners read barcodes from a longer distance and some can read 2D barcodes in addition to just 1D barcodes. The difference between 2D barcodes and 1D barcodes is quite big. It is much bigger than what you might think because it looks like a simple one-digit difference.

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 of other identifying marker to allow it to search through a digital inventory system and find the product that corresponds to that number contained in the 1D barcode. These barcodes are quite useful to companies looking to keep track of their inventory items, mail, and more.

There are many types of barcodes that fall under the category of 1D barcodes. These include:

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


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 a barcode scanner in order to go out and find the information locked away in a barcode inventory system, 2D barcodes are often square shaped and they include a lot of pixelated dots and geometric shapes that actually contain the codified data. A 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 still offer much more information.

They 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. The possibilities of 2D barcodes have, frankly, not been tested to their fullest potential at this point in time.

Examples of 2D barcodes include:

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


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 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
  • Handle order management
  • Track parts across multiple locations
  • Integrate with your accounting system

Each of these five bullet points deserves to be discussed in greater detail to show how much goes into it. So let’s do that right here:

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, product, or other thing that will allow you to quickly identify, reorder, and receive items in your inventory 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 quantity 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.

Handle order management – Order management is much easier with the aid of a barcode system for small business. 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 it becomes necessary to order more products to avoid shortages.

Track parts across multiple locations – When you scan a product’s barcode in one location, you do not have to be limited to just the location it is in. You can also check the quantities of that item in other warehouses and stores to see if you need to transfer some 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 to make sure they are recorded properly on the general ledger and the appropriate invoices and other documents get generated.


If you are interested in learning more how a barcode inventory system can help your small business, sign up for a free trial of Fishbowl Manufacturing or Fishbowl Warehouse today!


A barcode system for small businesses is designed to help them automate many aspects of their inventory management. It does this with the aid of a number of tools:

  • Barcodes scanners and printers to facilitate the barcoding process.
  • Many types of barcodes, such as 2D barcodes (e.g., QR Code), which contain more codified data than 1D barcodes (e.g., UPC).
  • Barcode software to receive, store, and access important inventory data, such as quantities, vendors, and locations.
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