Barcode technology surrounds us in everything we do today. From the grocery store, to the pharmacy, to tickets into the Detroit Tigers game, barcodes are used to manage tons of data. The Consumer Goods and Automotive industries have pushed the use of barcode technology to improve the accuracy of inventory, develop product demand information and essentially make things easier. If it’s important, it usually has a barcode on it. What I find difficult to understand is why a majority of the companies in various industries don’t use barcode technology to its fullest extent.
Barcode technology has been around for a long time, with the original patent being issued back in 1952. The first application was in the railroad industry back in 1961 to track railcar locations. Kal Kan Pet Food was the first consumer goods company to utilize barcode technology for inventory control. The first automotive use of barcodes was in 1971 at a General Motors / Buick factory in Flint, Michigan to track transmissions. (source: Wikipedia)
The advantages to the barcode labeling of products are huge. The first is accuracy. When information is input into a Warehouse Management System using keystrokes, it is prone to human error. It’s said that there is an average of 10 errors for every 1,000 keystrokes. But the error rate for barcode technology is one error in every 10,000 scans! We had a hazmat chemical customer in one of our warehouses not long ago that implemented a program where each item on a product label had a corresponding barcode area. These labels included: Item Code, Batch Number, Gallons and Customer Codes. The use of scanning along with the new label system resulted in physical inventories that took far less time and needed very few product adjustments. During past inventories an average of 90 adjustments were necessary, but after implementation of the labels there were only 10 adjustments needed, a 90% improvement.
The second advantage to barcode labeling is cost. Scanning is quicker then keying product, and when time is money the savings can be great. Scanning coupled with wireless networks also removes a significant amount of clerical costs. Scan it once and it’s in the inventory, real time. Add real time information with web access and that’s invaluable to a business. The average cost of a barcode label is less than $0.005.
The last advantage to barcode technology is its ease of use. Most label programs available for purchase contain a barcode application that is very simple to use.
The time invested in implementing barcode scanning always results in cost savings in labor and inventory management. So, if the information is important to you then match it with a barcode. The payoff will definitely make your work easier.