Manufacturers and distributors use barcoding to track production, parts, shipping, and warehousing. A variety of labels and scanning systems are available to accommodate both warehouse and manufacturing environments. Many national chains now require manufacturers to ship their products already tagged and barcoded to their specifications.
Retailers utilize barcoding for the inventory control, which is crucial to the success of their businesses. Inventory cycle counts, point-of-sale checkout, purchasing, and sales analysis are just a few of the benefits of a retail barcode system.
In today's business environment, staying competitive is critical to your success. Barcode data-collection technology is an effective way to improve the bottom line and meet the competitive challenges your organization faces every day.
This guide is designed to give you and your company information about barcode data-capture technology.
Combined with data-collection technology, bar codes provide a rapid, accurate, and efficient means to collect, process, transmit, record and manage data in a variety of industries. Retail, package delivery, warehousing and distribution, manufacturing, health care, and point-of-service applications can all benefit from the use of barcodes. Whatever the application, whatever the environment, KCSI puts all its efforts into making our barcode-based data collection products perform in the real world. Please call us today at 604-504-7936 for more information about how we can work with you as you plan your barcode-based solution.
About Barcodes: A barcode can be described as an "optical Morse code". Series of black bars and white space of varying widths are printed on labels to uniquely identify items. The barcode labels are read with a scanner, which measures reflected light and interprets the code into numbers and letters that are passed on to a computer.
Automatic Identification: Automatic identification or
"Auto ID” encompasses the automatic recognition, decoding, processing, transmission and recording of data, most commonly through the printing and reading of information encoded in barcodes. Barcodes allow for rapid, simple and accurate reading and transmission of data for items that need to be tracked or managed. Barcodes can be printed directly on mailing tubes, envelopes, boxes, cans, bottles, packages, books, files and other paperwork, furniture, cards and many other items for identification.
The emergence of Auto ID systems, including barcodes and the related printers, scanners, decoders and software, has significantly increased the speed, efficiency and accuracy of data collection and entry. Early application of barcode scanning, which included retail point-of-sale, item tracking and inventory control, have been expanded to include more advanced application such as time and attendance, work-in-process, quality control, sorting, order entry, document tracking, shipping and receiving and controlling access to secure areas. These expanded systems have measurably increased productivity by linking production, warehousing, distribution, sales and service to management information systems on a batch or real-time basis. Consequently, opportunities to improve operational efficiencies and customer responsiveness have developed for retailers, transportation and package delivery companies, manufacturers, wholesale distributors and service providers.
Benefits of Barcoding: Barcode data collection systems provide enormous benefits for just about any business. With a barcode data collection solution, capturing data is faster and more accurate, costs are lower, mistakes are minimized, and managing inventory is much easier.
The following are some of the benefits of barcode data entry:
Fast and Reliable Data Collection: Faster
Data Entry: A barcode scanner typically can record data five to seven time as fast as a skilled typist.
10,000 Times better Accuracy: Keyboard data entry creates an average of one error in 300 keystrokes. Barcode data entry has an error rate of about 1 in 3 million.
Reduced Labor Costs: This is the most obvious benefit of barcode data collection. In many cases, this cost savings pays for the entire data-collection system. Do not put all of your attention on this benefit, however. Even though this is the most apparent benefit, it is often overshadowed by even greater savings from other areas.
Reduced Revenue Losses Resulting from Data Collection Errors:
This benefit often surpasses the savings in labor costs. You know that if you make a significant error on an invoice in the customer's favor, you will never hear about it again. However, if the error is in your favor, you will hear about it immediately. In most companies, it does not take many errors to amount to a great deal of lost revenue.
Necessary Inventory Levels: Using barcodes are one of the best ways to reduce inventory levels and save on capital costs. Keeping a tight handle on inventory can save significant amounts of money.
Improved Management and Better Decision Making: Although hard to measure, this is an important benefit. In many cases, improved management due to automated data collection technology could be the best benefit of a barcode system. A barcode system can easily gather information that would be difficult or impossible to gather in other ways. This allows managers to make fully informed decisions that can affect the direction of a department or company.
Faster Access to Information: This benefit goes hand in hand with better decision-making. With better information, you can gain opportunities and get the jump on the competition.
The following are just a few of the many ways barcodes are being used to improve the profitability and efficiency of a variety of company types:
Point of Sale: Point of sale is one of the most common segments of the barcode market. Everyone is familiar with the scanners in grocery and department stores. Benefits of barcoding in point-of-sale systems include:
Cost Savings: This is the most obvious benefit. A medium-to-large store can save enough checker time to significantly reduce payroll. You also save direct labor costs through less time spent taking inventories and ordering product.
Customer Satisfaction: A proper barcode system will speed customer checkout. This will improve customer satisfaction enough to directly increase revenue over time.
Reduced Inventory Costs: Immediate access to inventory information on a real-time basis can be used to reduce inventory levels. This will reduce costs for a company in a number of ways, including interest, labor for handling excess inventory, and facility overhead.
Automated Reordering: Accurate stock levels allow for automated replenishment of low inventory.
Better Decision Making: With barcode data collection you can tell not only what the customers are buying, but also when they are buying it and in what combinations. This can improve business management by suggesting better locations for goods in the store and identifying advertising targets.
Point-of-Sale systems can be used in any retail setting. The grocery industry is the best organized setting, but most vendors in that area are concentrating on high-end scanner/mainframe systems. There are abundant opportunities for PC-based systems in small to large-sized businesses, such as video stores, convenience markets, and clothing stores.
Work In Progress: Many manufacturing and other industries have work that must go through several steps to completion. Barcode systems can track material through each step of the work and keep detailed records on each piece or batch. When a problem occurs in the output, supervisors and managers can track the work back and quickly resolve the issue. This is one of the best ways to improve both quality and yield in virtually any multi-step process.
Inventory Control: Tracking inventory manually is a laborious process. With barcodes applied to each item in inventory, portable scanners can be used to track shipping and receiving and quickly take physical inventory. The data from portable scanners can be uploaded to a central computer system at regular intervals or portables can update inventory in real-time, depending on the system you choose. Barcode inventory control provides accurate, real-time inventory updates. This allows a company the opportunity to reduce stock levels and thereby reduce carrying costs. It also reduces the time taken to collect data for purposes such as annual inventories. With improved efficiency, operating costs are lower.
Secured Access: A secured access system provides door and gate security by controlling access using encoded employee identification badges. Barcode badge scanners or magnetic stripe readers are mounted at doors and gate entrances, and authorization is provided from a central computer.
Time and Attendance: A time and attendance system uses encoded employee identification badges that are scanned when employees start and stop work. This allows automatic tracking for payroll and eliminates paper time sheets and time clocks.
Quality Control: Barcode systems in quality control can be used to tell a person which test to perform for a given part and where to send it if it fails. Barcode systems can also create permanent records for tracking component and subassembly failures.
Packaging: For packaging, a barcode printer is used to generate a label to identify part numbers, serial numbers, and shipping information. This labeling can be used to automatically sort packages for shipment, automate receiving and greatly enhance package tracking.
Collection of Data from Forms: Businesses such as medical and dental practices rely on complex patient forms. Using barcodes, detailed information can be quickly entered in the computer. Barcodes printed by check boxes on a form allow fast, accurate data entry by simply scanning the codes by the check boxes. This makes and easy task of gathering large amounts of information for a client. Reduced data collection costs and better service are the results.
Productivity Measurement Systems: Productivity measurement is a practice that can drastically reduce labor costs in manufacturing, warehousing and most other types of business. A well-managed system will allow supervisors to isolate the problems that may come up so that they can take steps to solve them. Within an organization, departments may have different types of activities, making it difficult for supervisors to keep track of what everyone is doing. Productivity-measurement systems automatically track what work is being done and compare the work to expected output. When the results do not measure up, supervisors can take corrective action. This type of informed supervision and management can typically cut department costs by 15 to 20 percent.
Summary: These are just a few examples to get you started thinking about what you can do with bar codes. Barcode systems routinely save companies money while improving quality, on-time performance, and other key business factors.
Types of Data-Collection
Barcode data-collection systems fall into three basic types: interactive, batch, and hybrid.
An interactive system consists of one or more portables connected in real time to a computer. In these systems, the central computer manages data collection and verification as the user enters data.
A batch system uses one or more portables to gather data that is stored for later input to a computer. This is the most common and most economical portable system. Batch systems can do only limited validity checking.
A hybrid system is a combination of the two.
Interactive Systems: Interactive systems have several advantages over batch systems. Almost all systems where barcode hardware is in a fixed location are interactive systems.
Data Verification: As the user enters data, the computer can check its validity and give the user variable responses depending on that validity.
Sophisticated Data Verification: An interactive system can check many more variables when performing data verification. For example, a batch system can check the status of a part number only against the last part numbers that were sent to the portable. An interactive system can check the status of a part number against the entire inventory at any time.
User Interaction: Interactive systems can give the user better feedback when an error occurs. Since the system can check more variables, you can tailor the responses given to the user to solve problems.
Error Reduction: All of the above advantages tend to reduce errors in an interactive system. This reduces the labor cost to correct the errors, as well as the consequences of acting on incorrect data.
Easy Setup: Interactive systems use standard programming techniques and error checking, much like programming for PCs. You can process each transaction and verify data in real time. Batch processing requires a way to process data in batches and a mechanism for correcting errors after the fact.
Batch Systems: Batch systems are generally used with portable readers. They are also used in some fixed-mount systems where the reader must continue to collect data if the computer system goes down. While interactive systems are superior in the ways listed above, batch systems do have some advantages:
Economical for Standard Portables: Portables can be used for batch or real-time applications. Real-time applications require a costly radio frequency (RF) network. On average, setup costs for batch systems are less than half the costs of RF systems.
Reliable in Mission-Critical Applications: Since batch processing distributes data collection to stand-alone units, operation is not dependent on the central computer. If a particular unit fails, it can be replaced. If the central computer fails, data collection can continue.
Hybrid Systems: Several systems combine attributes of both interactive and batch modes. The most common are radio frequency systems and batch/interactive hybrids.
Radio frequency systems use RF signals to connect portable readers to a central computer in an interactive manner. This gives the advantages of an interactive system combined with portability. There are different types of RF:
The simplest RF barcode device is a portable scanner that communicates with a single receiver connected to a computer or terminal.
Another type of RF system connects a portable to a typical computer network through an RF access point. This has many advantages, such as the ability to "roam" from one access point to another. The range could be virtually unlimited, depending on the number of access points.
Batch/Interactive hybrids use local batch processing combined with an interactive link to a central computer. These work primarily as interactive systems, but the can function independently for a period of time if the central computer fails. These systems are best used for mission-critical applications where data collection is essential.
While most batch systems simply upload data to a central computer, dual mode batch systems can also download data from the computer to the batch system and use it for data verification and other uses. These are note quite so good as real-time interactive systems, but they are better than straight batch systems.
Multiple interactive systems connect more than one interactive system to a network. This way, if one computer fails, another can still manage critical parts of the system.
Barcode systems require three elements:
Origin: You must have a source of barcodes. These can be preprinted or printed on demand.
Reader: You must have a reader to read the barcodes into the computer. The reader includes and input device to scan the barcode, a decoder to convert the symbology to ASCII text, and a cable to connect the device to your computer.
Computer system: You must have a system to process the barcode input. These can be single-user, multi-user, or network systems.