How to implement a barcode system for inventory

Jonny Parker
June 27, 2023

A barcode system helps improve inventory control, boosts efficiency, and enhances data visibility for your business. 

But what precisely is a barcode system? And how do you implement one for your inventory? 

What is a barcode inventory system?

A barcode inventory system tracks and manages information around inventory using barcodes, barcode labels, barcode scanners (hardware), and barcoding software. 

Let’s take a look at these elements:

  1. Barcodes: machine-readable codes that contain information about a product, like weight or price. The two most common types of barcodes are 1D and 2D barcodes. One-dimensional barcodes are what people typically picture when they think of barcodes. They’re made of a bunch of vertical black lines stretched out horizontally. Two-dimensional barcodes can encode data vertically and horizontally, storing much more information than 1D barcodes. 
  2. Barcode labels: the labels on which the barcodes are printed. They typically appear on the product or packaging.
  3. Barcode scanners: a piece of hardware used to scan barcodes. 
  4. Barcoding software: software that captures and processes the barcoding data and can assist with scanning and printing barcodes.

Here’s how this all typically works together in your warehouse: You scan the barcode found on the label with a warehouse barcode scanner. This data is then sent to a central database (software) for tracking, monitoring, and analysis.

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Why are barcode inventory systems important?

Implementing a barcode system starts with proper planning upfront. Here are five steps to get going:

   1. Decide what warehouse barcode system you need based on your needs

Do you just want to create and print barcode labels without the need for advanced inventory management functionality? Or do you need additional inventory management capabilities? 

If it’s the former, then a simple system with basic software and a scanner to create and print labels will likely be suitable. If it’s the latter, you may want a more robust barcode system. Either way, a good barcode system should offer 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

   2. Choose your hardware

Invest in a barcode scanner and printer, and consider how it will work with your existing tech stack. A few commonly used scanners include the Zebra barcode reader LI2208 and Honeywell Eclipse 5145.

   3. Select your software

You typically get dedicated barcoding software that integrates with existing inventory management systems (IMS) and IMS systems with strong barcoding functionality built-in, meaning you only need one platform for all your inventory requirements. Make sure the software aligns with your needs (see step one).

   4. Set up the system by choosing barcode types

While the exact setup depends on the choice of hardware and software, all businesses implementing a barcode system will need to create barcodes for their products. 

So, select the type of barcodes you want to use based on your needs and industry standards and print them as needed. UPC codes, a type of 1D code, are among the most common in the United States.

 5. Train staff on how to use the system and monitor performance

Training is crucial for proper implementation, utilization, and adoption. The more complex the system is, the more ongoing training will be needed. Be sure to also monitor system performance and make adjustments as needed.

Implement a warehouse barcode system today

There’s no denying that barcode systems are crucial in helping improve inventory management, boost efficiency, and enhance decision-making.  

Just ensure you’re setting them up correctly by following certain key steps, including considering your needs, choosing the right hardware and software, selecting your barcodes, and bringing it all together with proper training and constant monitoring.

Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to implementing a successful barcode system.