A barcode scanner is a highly useful addition to any company within warehousing, manufacturing, retail, logistics, and other industries. But implementing the technology in practice involves so many steps, it can prove overwhelming to most business owners. You must choose a scanning device and software, understand barcode types and how to generate them – and that’s only a fraction of it. We’re here to make the steps clear.
In this guide, we’ll explain why you need barcode scanning, what barcode types exist, and how to generate them. Additionally, we’ll recommend the best barcode scanning devices and software on the market, and answer the most common questions related to the topic.
Why Use a Barcode Scanner for the Warehouse?
Barcode scanners improve the workflow of any manufacturing, distribution, or retail warehouse. Keeping products organized and managing inventory manually is impossible unless your warehouse is small. Here are only some of the barcode scanner uses that will leave no doubt as to whether you need one:
1. Order receiving. A barcode scanner enables you to identify and verify incoming orders in real-time, ensuring you receive the right product in the right quantities. This enhances inventory accuracy and communication between your warehouse workers, suppliers, and retail outlets. A scanner can also indicate the right location of new stock on your warehouse shelves for better organization.
2. Product replenishment. When retail outlet shelves become empty, a barcode scanner helps to quickly locate the necessary product for replenishment. You can also instantly find out the stock level.
3. Inventory management. A barcode scanner connected to your inventory tracking system is of great help in stock takes and daily inventory management. With modern scanning solutions, you can efficiently count all your assets and update their status in real-time. A scanner can also indicate the correct location of specific products in your warehouse.
4. Packing. Modern barcode scanning apps help in product packing, ensuring the orders are labeled and shipped correctly, and allowing you to track packages.
5. Shipping. A barcode scanner eliminates the need for manual shipment verification. At every stage of the logistics chain, workers can quickly find out the shipment contents, quantities, receiver, and other information included in the code. A scanner provides the utmost accuracy and speed by optimizing the shipping processes.
6. Retail. You see barcode scanners at every checkout in stores around the globe. Barcode scanning software edits inventory levels in real-time while you’re paying for your groceries.
Step by Step Process to Setting Up a Barcode Scanner
The barcode scanner setup process may vary depending on the scanner type. However, most of them don’t require professional installation and feature similar instructions.
- Shut off your computer.
- Connect the scanner’s cord into a dedicated port.
- Start your computer.
- Follow on-screen installation instructions or read the user manual for the next steps.
- Install compatible with your scanner software on your computer.
- Enable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or another connectivity means on your computer and scanner.
- Pair the devices.
- Depending on the scanner manufacturer, you may have to register the scanner in your POS software.
- Follow instructions in the user manual or on the screen for further configuration.
Mobile/Tablet Scanners vs. Corded Scanners
Back in the day, this section wouldn’t exist as all scanners were corded. But today, you have a choice of wireless solutions. The question is, are they better? Let’s look at the pros and cons of corded and mobile scanners to determine which are best for your industry.
Corded scanners are still widely used in retail, office, and warehouse environments. The reason for this, however, isn’t solely the slow implementation of new technology. Corded scanners are generally cheaper than mobile solutions and don’t require recharging. They’re also easier to implement and set up, connecting directly to a computer. Most corded scanners are capable of high-speed scanning.
Now, to the drawbacks of corded solutions. The most apparent one is limited portability. Such scanners are suitable for stations where your workers don’t need to move – store checkouts, for instance. However, in a warehouse environment or logistics, corded scanners reduce work efficiency drastically, limiting the working area to the cord’s length. Furthermore, cords are typically less durable than scanners themselves and often cause equipment to fail. Such simple scanners also don’t provide you real-time access to inventory data.
Wireless scanners are implemented in a wide range of industries due to their versatility and convenience. The only place where corded solutions are still preferred is busy store checkouts where workers don’t have time for recharging the equipment. Wireless scanners can be connected to a base station via internet or Bluetooth connection or via cable, just like in the good old days. Such devices sometimes feature batch memory for scanned data storage and can be paired with other scanners for data sharing.
Wireless solutions are portable, improving workflow efficiency by saving time. They also aren’t the most expensive scanner type, though are typically pricier than corded options. Wireless scanners are easy to set up and can show you basic product information in real-time.
But wireless barcode scanners aren’t the most advanced solution on the market today. They still need to be connected to a computer to access detailed inventory and shipment information. Plus, such scanners require constant recharging or battery replacement. They also don’t connect wirelessly to a base station when out of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth range.
Modern problems require modern solutions, such as handheld computers with built-in barcode scanners. Such devices combine the functionality of a regular computer and a wireless scanner in a compact body. The only drawback of such devices is the high cost, if it is a wise investment.
Mobile computers eliminate the need for connecting a scanner to the base station since they’re integrated into the same device. Modern handheld computer manufacturers offer a range of advanced software dedicated to inventory management, delivery, manufacturing, and other processes. Such a scanner updates data in real-time and provides you with instant access to any data contained in your company’s system.
They also improve communication efficiency. Your workers don’t need to carry a phone or walkie-talkie around – it’s always in their hands. Many mobile computers feature mics with noise cancelation, enhanced speakers, and push-to-talk functionality. Lastly, they’re typically placed in rugged bodies to withstand the harshest environments, protecting your assets in the long-term.
Which Mobile Scanning Devices Are Best for Warehouses
Now that you know which barcode scanner type is the most functional, you may be interested to learn about specific device models. Below, we’ll list the best handheld computers with built-in barcode scanners available on the market.
Sonim is an industry-leading brand specializing in rugged handheld devices and dedicated business software. The Sonim RS60 is a fully rugged mobile computer packed in a compact body. Don’t be deceived by its smartphone-like look, as the RS60 is a proper working station replacement. Running on Android 10 and Qualcomm MSM853 Pro, this device enables multitasking and is compatible with a wide range of software.
The warehouse environment involves a high degree of risk. The Sonim RS60 features MIL-STD-810 military-grade protection, so it withstands drops from 6.5 feet to concrete, extreme temperatures, and shocks. You can submerge the device in liquids including chemicals without causing it any harm.
Thanks to versatile connectivity options including LTE bandwidth, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, you can easily communicate and share data with colleagues. Two cameras, rear 13-megapixel and front-facing five-megapixel enable you to capture high-quality photos. An 8000mAh battery ensures the device won’t let you down during a whole shift without the need for a recharge. If you want to further extend the device’s life, you have the option to replace the battery.
Most importantly, the computer features a built-in barcode scanner and utilizes native Sonim Ware scanning software, which we’ll review in detail below. The device supports both 1D and 2D barcodes and provides high-speed scanning. Programmable shortcut buttons and a dedicated scanner button improve workflow efficiency.
The Sonim RS80 is a twin brother of the RS60 but in tablet form. Like the RS60, it features fully rugged construction, programmable buttons, a high-resolution camera, an advanced scanner, and a powerful system. The main difference is an eight-inch screen protected with Gorilla Glass 5 and readable under direct sunlight. Furthermore, the display is responsive to gloves and wet fingers which aren’t are in warehousing and logistics. The RS80 is also equipped with a better battery of 8300mAh.
The Sonim XP8 is a rugged smartphone with a built-in scanner that’s available for an appealing price, nearly twice lower than that of RS60. However, it retains all the essential warehousing functions of more advanced Sonim devices. The XP8 features programmable buttons, push-to-talk functionality, noise-canceling mic and ultra-loud speaker, powerful battery, and glove- and wet finger responsive display. Most importantly, the XP8 is compatible with Sonim Ware scanning software.
Top Barcode Scanning Apps and Programs for Warehouse Use
The workflow optimization depends not only on the scanning device but also on the scanning and inventory management software. Read on for the two best software solutions in the industry.
Sonim Ware scanning software is compatible with all Sonim devices. The software supports 1D and 2D barcodes, providing high-speed, wide-range scanning. It provides a range of tools for data storage, inventory management, shipment tracking, and hardware management. You can control and configure the settings of all your Sonim devices remotely via the cloud. Sonim Setup Wizard eases the software setup process, eliminating the need for professional help. All your product and shipment data are updated in real-time and can be instantly accessed via any of your Sonim devices.
Zebra Scanning Software
Zebra is another popular rugged handheld computer brand. If you opt for Zebra scanning devices, the company’s native software is the way to go. Zebra Scanner Software lets you configure scanners remotely and supports both 1D and 2D barcodes. Unlike Sonim Ware that provides a prescribed set of tools, with Zebra, you can select only the apps you need. Zebra’s inventory management system provides real-time visibility. Zebra SmartLens software for cameras automatically senses merchandize location and movement to help you instantly find the necessary stock. Naturally, the brand also has warehousing and logistics solutions for shipment tracking and order management.
Different Types of Barcodes
To determine which barcode scanner is best for your business, you must first understand different barcode types and choose which ones to use.
One-dimensional barcodes are the most used type. They’re also called linear barcodes, containing parallel lines of varying spacing and widths along with digits or letters. The informational capacity of a linear barcode is closely tied to its length. Typically, 1D barcodes feature up to 15 symbols. They’re generally used in operational processes including warehousing, logistics, and retail, to improve workflow efficiency and track inventory.
Two-dimensional barcodes are a more advanced barcode type that represents data via symbols and shapes. The main benefit of such barcodes is higher data capacity, though old-fashioned corded and even some wireless scanners may not support them. You’re likely familiar with 2D barcodes from QR codes, but they aren’t the only 2D code version. These barcodes ensure zero error in scanning and can be read even when a part of the barcode is damaged. They offer fast readability and are flexible in size, thus suitable for the smallest packages.
How to Create Labels
Now that you know which barcode you need, you may be wondering – where do I get the labels? Labels typically contain a barcode and basic product information, such as its name and shipping origin/destination. While the product information is contained within the barcode and therefore optional on the label, a barcode is essential. There are multiple ways of creating barcodes:
1. Use an online barcode generator. There are plenty of sites online that let you generate custom barcodes. However, this option is only possible if you sell or track your products solely via your own channels. Other companies require you to have G1, UPC, or EAN codes to track the product origin.
2. Barcode resellers. Instead of obtaining your own GS1 or UPC certification, you can use code resellers. The trick is to find a reliable reseller. While this method is convenient and relatively cheap, you don’t get the flexibility of setting custom code organization and product naming.
3. By obtaining a GS1, UPC, or EAN prefix and barcode generating application. This method is for business owners who wish to get the freedom of naming and organizing product codes. Obtaining your own prefix also ensures other partnering companies can track your business as product origin.
4. Manually in Excel or similar software. If your company isn’t involved in external operations and the product list isn’t too large, you can create barcodes manually in Excel or Word. That’s the cheapest yet the most time-consuming method. One way is to create barcodes following a prescribed order, and another way is to generate them randomly using the RANDBETWEEN function.
What Are “Barcode Actions”, and Do They Save Time?
Barcode action is an automated barcode generating tool that can significantly save you time. When you need to create hundreds of barcodes at once, doing so manually isn’t the best option. Advanced scanning software lets you configure custom barcode actions that follow prescribed rules. For instance, when generating a QR code, you can make it transfer the person scanning it to a chosen web page.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions related to barcodes and scanning devices.
Do I Need a UPC/GS1 Prefix?
A UPC/GS1 prefix is the identification number of your company. Logically, there’s no need for company identification in internal processes. If you manufacture and sell products independently, you can create barcodes without a prefix. However, most third-party companies will request a prefix, especially international partners. A prefix helps to track product origin and manage inventory correctly.
You can obtain your own prefix or purchase barcodes with a prefix from a reseller. But in this case, your products will be identified under the reseller company’s name. A personal prefix adds to company professionalism and gives you freedom of barcode organization.
Should I Choose a Laser, CCD, or 2D Imager Barcode Scanner?
There are three types of barcode scanning technology. Most corded barcode scanners utilize laser scanning. Its advantage is a high speed and low error, but laser scanners can’t read 2D barcodes.
CCD scanners, or charged coupling devices, capture a barcode as an image and then decode it. Such devices are durable, economical, and work well in direct sunlight or on device screens. However, CCD scanners have a small scanning range and can’t read barcodes wider than the imager line.
Finally, 2D area imagers work the same way as CCD scanners but have a wider copying area. This enables 2D area imagers to read 1D and 2D barcodes of nearly any size even from a distance. That’s the type of scanners used in modern handheld computers. The only drawback of such scanners is a higher price.
Advance Your Business With EE – Contact Us
Implementing barcode scanning technology into your business processes is a wise yet large investment. If you wish to purchase best-in-class barcode scanning devices, contact Energy Electronics directly for consultation or quote. We’re a certified reseller of Sonim, Zebra, CAT, Kyocera, and other rugged handheld computers and strive to provide the best offers on bulk orders.