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How Barcoding Your Warehouse Increases Efficiency and Accuracy

by Ashley Mahler on June 7, 2018

 What to Expect from a Barcoded Warehouse Image 1

Barcodes and barcode scanners have been around for a few decades, and they have become the most widely accepted way for distribution, wholesale, and manufacturing businesses to reduce flaws when it comes to inventory management in their warehouse.

In a study conducted by IT company Ivanti, 56 percent of warehousing and supply chain organizations plan to upgrade their warehouse mobile devices as their current devices approach the end of their lives. With mobile barcode scanners being the go-to tracking device for most warehouses, many businesses see positive changes in their warehouse’s efficiency after implementing barcoding.

However, a common objection to barcoding is that, while the process improves accuracy, it does not increase efficiency. This may be an especially common reaction from companies with warehouses that have barcode scanners and one or multiple centralized printers. Thus, the inability to move along the floor (as one would with a mobile printer) reduces the efficiency of workers by requiring them to walk back and forth between stock counts and the printing station.

Organizations can combat this time-consuming practice by investing in barcode scanners that come equipped with a printer, allowing for instant label making, but they will have to make room in the budget for the extra cost.

When deploying barcoding technology, the best way to increase both accuracy and efficiency is by starting off strong and making sure the organization is ready for the implementation.

A note on barcoding for success

When barcoding a warehouse, it’s crucial for companies to start off with a solid foundation and prioritize accurate and complete information. Here are a few suggestions to ensure a strong start when you switch over to a barcoded warehouse:

  • Include your label manufacturer on your planning team. Doing so will allow them to manage all aspects of the installation and allow you to focus on other components of the project.
  • Include your vendors as well; if they have the technology available to pre-label products before they arrive at the warehouse, it will make the entire changeover process significantly easier.
  • Determine the correct barcode symbology for you: either a 1D or 2D barcode (you can read up on more types of barcodes here).
    • 1D barcodes, also known as linear barcodes, use a series of variable-width lines and spaces to encode data. They hold just a few dozen characters and generally get physically longer as you add more data.
    • 2D barcodes, like Data Matrix and QR codes, use patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and other shapes to encode data. Compared to 1D codes, 2D codes can be physically much smaller while holding hundreds of characters. Since the data is encoded based on the arrangement of the pattern, it is read two ways — horizontally and vertically.

What to Expect from a Barcoded Warehouse Image 2

  • Be sure to order the right barcode labels and signs for your warehouse environment and technology. It is important to find out what scanning technology will be used, from what distance your labels will be scanned, and to what kinds of surfaces the labels will be adhered. For example, will the labels be in cold (freezer) or hot environments? Will they be in an area with high foot traffic and have to withstand extra wear and tear? These are a few things to consider when planning where to put your labels and what kinds of labels to use.
  • Make sure your barcoding hardware is compatible with your current software. Ask, "Does my operational ERP software work with this scanner? Does this scanner link to my computer? Does it link to this printer? Can I print labels from this scanner?" All of these are great questions to ask when determining which hardware works best for your warehouse.
  • Make sure your facility is ready for labeling. Racks and beams should be free of dust, dirt, and debris and have a surface that can clearly show the barcode to ensure problem-free scanning.

Though the setup of a barcoding system has its associated costs — time, labor, and supplies — the overall benefits to your warehouse after implementation are well worth the initial bother. 

(Not sure if barcoding is the right decision for your business? Here are key three questions to ask yourself before implementing a barcode system in your warehouse.)

After you've properly prepared for and established barcode scanning in your warehouse, here are a few ways barcoding increases both accuracy and efficiency.

Reduces human errors

The number of errors that a warehouse worker can make while entering data is large, and each mistake has the potential to snowball in a warehouse environment. Frequent mistakes could result in items being improperly labeled, misplaced, or lost. An item could even be mistakenly shipped out to the wrong customer. Not only will these situations drain your warehouse of its time and energy, but the negative impact on your company’s reputation and customers can cause the loss of a sale, or worse: the loss of a client. This can also result in losing the ability to sell on digital marketplaces, such as Amazon. If a merchant were to ship an item late or ship the wrong order, Amazon might penalize them in order to maintain the website’s reputation.

Barcoding reduces the possibility of forgetting or skipping a number during entry, running into illegible handwriting, or typing in the wrong number accidentally, and it will help your warehouse maintain accuracy in its data entries. This saves you time, energy, money, and customers. We all make mistakes, which is why barcoding gets you one step ahead in the game by avoiding human errors altogether.

Increases mobility

In a world where every process seems to be streamlined to save as much time as possible, it shouldn't surprise you that warehouse management is no different. People and businesses are becoming increasingly more mobile, and wireless, handheld barcode scanners make it easy for an employee grab a scanner and start using it immediately.

Periodic auditing can be made simpler with barcoding since it’s virtually foolproof. Does the physical count match the data in my warehouse management software? It’s simple and effective to grab a scanner and check, rather than make time to individually type in or write out each SKU.

Expedites processes

Barcoding expedites training time for new employees since it’s much easier (and faster) to train someone on how to properly use a single tool than to train them to flawlessly complete a multi-step process. When scanning a barcode, information is instantly transported from scanner to centralized ERP system, which makes it easier for management to keep track of a product’s location and shelf-life, as well as each warehouse’s stock count.

Accurate can be efficient

From factory to warehouse to truck, barcoding simplifies tracking the lifecycle of a product as it moves through the supply chain. Barcode scanning also has the ability to track key performance indicators such as:

  • Inventory turnover
  • On-time shipment and on-time ready-to-ship
  • Order filling accuracy
  • Carrying costs
  • Inventory accuracy
  • Order cycle time
  • Employee performance
  • Backorder rate
  • Dead stock/write-offs

These indicators can also reveal where improvements may be needed in your company and give you the opportunity to set benchmarks for employees, maximize profits, and increase efficiency.

Looking for a way to accurately manage your stock counts? Reach out to us! We would love to help.

Inventory management and operational ERP terms

Topics: SalesPad insights, Warehouse management, Best practices, Industry trends, Process control