Barcodes Can Increase Traceability In Your Warehouse

Barcodes are everywhere

From the food you buy in a store, to the books you check out from a library, to patient’s ID bracelets. Although we’re accustomed to seeing barcodes daily, most of us don’t give much thought to how these black lines work, or how they can help our businesses run more efficiently.

There are still many businesses that have yet to adopt a traceability solution despite all the advances made in track and trace technology in recent years and supply chain business knowing that traceability is essential — for ensuring visibility, meeting compliance, and, if necessary, performing an effective recall.

Companies can become set in their ways.

A warehouse manager may be aware of how new technology can aid operations, but workers are reliant on strategies that have proven effective in the past and fell comfortable with systems they know. While some companies still insist on using inefficient and inaccurate manual methods of collecting information, automatic data capture systems can not only collect information quickly and accurately but can also store it automatically in a digital database for easy access from any location at any time.

Across many industries, the most common and affordable method of traceability is barcoding. Barcodes offer automatic product identification, extremely fast recognition and implementation of data. Although application complexity varies, it costs just a few pence per barcode label. It will also help to lower the costs of capital for carrying excess inventory since knowing exactly what is in stock will help avoid ordering an abundance of anything.

You can lower your overhead and cut down on training time and labour, improving productivity.

And while a barcoding system makes inventory tracking and asset visibility much easier, implementing the system can be a tall task. Transitioning from manual methods to barcodes forces a business to overhaul its entire data collection process and requires experts to perform new technology integration. However, the benefits of a barcoding system far outweigh any headaches that may occur during research and installation. You will not only improve your day-to-day operations, but will also boost your bottom line in the long run.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind before you implement a new barcoding system:

Know your industry’s barcode standards.

Before you determine the size of your barcodes, or where you’ll put them on your products, make sure to familiarise yourself with the standards of your industry. There are often regulations in place that businesses must follow, and you need to make sure you’re in compliance with these regulations before you begin designing a label. GS1 is a good place to start. Your industry may also determine if 1D or 2D barcodes are best for your application.

Know the environment in which your barcodes will be scanned.

Depending on the application or industry, barcodes can be scanned in a variety of environments — from warehouses and distribution centres to retail stores and point-of-sale applications. Some sizes, types, and colours work better in certain environments. Knowing where your barcodes will be scanned allows you to design the best possible barcode.

Barcode placement really does matter.

A barcode should never be obscured or damaged — this defeats the entire purpose of the barcode system. Folds, flaps, and edges are natural enemies to the barcode. Speed is one of the main advantages of a barcode system, so you want to put the barcode labels in an obvious and unobstructed location. If employees need to search for a barcode or smooth a crease to get an accurate scan, the entire traceability system slows down, reducing efficiency.

Size and colour affect readability.

The size and colour of your barcodes is dictated by your industry’s regulations, but sometimes there is wiggle room for customisation. Size is extremely important because barcodes need to be scanned easily. A barcode that is so small that it becomes hard to scan is going to be a be a massive time-waster. On the other hand, an unnecessarily large barcode is a waste of valuable space.

It all depends on your industry, and where and how your barcodes will be scanned.

A black barcode printed on a white label is the default colour combination for barcoding, mainly because it is easy for scanners to read. If your industry’s regulations allow it, there are some other potential colour combinations that you can take advantage of. However, readability is the most important factor, so don’t compromise on readability just to have more unique or colourful labels.

Integrate the barcode system with any other technologies.

Most businesses use multiple types of software and technologies. When you’re implementing a barcoding system, you need to make sure it’s compatible with the business’s current structure and systems. Installing a barcode system will probably require you to tinker with existing software such as your WMS, so during implementation you need to anticipate and prevent any possible issues that may arise. An experienced barcode solution provider can integrate an automatic data capture system with minimal hitches to ensure a seamless installation.

Know which kind of barcode printer will provide the best ROI for your business application.

Thermal: There are two kinds of thermal printers — direct thermal and thermal transfer. Both use heat to transfer ink to paper. They’re known for producing high-quality images and being extremely durable. Direct thermal labels have a shorter shelf life than thermal transfer labels; this may influence which kind of thermal printer you choose.

Inkjet: These printers can produce readable barcodes at a very fast pace, and are perfect for high-speed production lines. Installation prices are generally quite high though, and inkjet printers need more upkeep than thermal printers.

Dot matrix: Dot matrix printers produce barcodes by printing hundreds and hundreds of tiny arranged dots. They’re usually inexpensive and can print barcodes on a variety of surfaces. However, dot matrix printers only print low- to medium-quality labels.

Make sure you research the total cost of ownership for each type of printer.

Based on your industry standards, environment, and output, you may find that the printer you originally thought was a good fit for your needs will actually increase costs and/or downtime.

Even though every business is unique, the earlier your business adopts a barcoded solution that works in conjunction with your WMS, the better. Being proactive and implementing best practices will save time and money in the long run.  Too many businesses wait until they are faced with missing, lost or damaged inventory before making the choice to start taking inventory management serious.  By then it has cost them thousands of pounds.

The initial installation will require research, coordination, and work — but if you put time and energy into the initial planning, the transition from manual to automatic data collection will go much more smoothly and produce visible ROI such as saving your company time and money but will ultimately improve customer satisfaction as well.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.