Although many people might still associate barcoding with the grocery store, this innovative method of product identification and tracking has become a mainstay across nearly every industry. It’s equally valuable for any size company.
Barcoding is a simple process. Product data in code format is printed directly onto the product or onto an adhesive sticker. It’s scanned with a photodiode which records the light patterns and reformats the image into an electronic signal, uploading it to a computer for decoding and storage. With a rugged tablet PC in hand, employees can handle these tasks anytime, anywhere.
Different customers or industries require different types of uniform barcoding patterns, or “symbologies,” each with varying levels of capability:
Retail codes are simplest, using 12 numeric digits.
General purpose codes can use up to 30 alphanumeric characters.
Data matrix codes use two-dimensional matrices instead of bars to apply up to 50 characters in a tiny space.
To fully exploit barcoding, all system components must be equally capable. You’ll find three types of printers -- laser, direct thermal or thermal transfer – and three types of readers -- fixed, portable batch or portable radio frequency (RF). A rugged tablet PC equipped with RFID is far more efficient than a barcode reader because it’s not only portable, it enhances your entire process, not just barcoding.
The software you choose must be robust and flexible. To get the most from your barcoding system you should seriously consider a comprehensive, fully integrated SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution.
A rugged tablet PC puts it all in the hands of the people who need to make the system come alive, on the floor or in the store. It’s essentially an electronic liaison that allows people to work faster, eliminating manual data entry and also time needed to correct mistakes. You get higher quality products and accurate, real-time information for better decision-making and forecasting, all with lower cost. Instant tracking of inventory and work in progress enables quick detection of quality, warranty or safety problems, resulting in lower production costs and nearly non-existent product recalls.
Suppliers now have to meet specific coding requirements for certain regulatory agencies and large private enterprises. Barcoding supports application and capture of appropriately coded data for guaranteed compliance.
Leading-edge organizations report actual barcoding results like these:
Streamlined shipping and receiving. Incoming materials and outbound products are scanned, resulting in faster, more accurate operations and greater customer and supplier satisfaction.
Enhanced production-floor tracking. Barcodes allow quick cross-checking with bills of lading and make it easy to locate parts and track assembly progress. You always know exactly where parts are, physically and on the production line.
Faster, cheaper inventory audits. One manufacturer cut in half the time needed to conduct physical inventory, using fewer people and lift-trucks.
Better traceability. Especially in the food and beverage industry, traceability has become a critical issue throughout the supply chain. Barcoding enables continuous oversight of every product, from the field until it reaches the consumer. At one food processor employees scan barcodes on each work order to pull up the right recipe and pre-measured, barcoded raw materials, resulting in faster and more accurate production.
Customized barcoding. Encrypted coding information such as unique serial numbers can be applied to parts, proving legitimacy and protecting the manufacturer from product failure liability in case of counterfeiting.
Improved cost tracking. Barcodes can be used to track employee hours and create warehouse and shipping pick lists. With a central database and processing, accounting can be continuous, too, allowing for real-time cost calculations.