3 DOs and DONTs for Implementing Barcode Scanning for Inventory Management

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by | Jan 19, 2023

by | Jan 19, 2023

Inaccurate inventory balances can be a profit killer.

Poor inventory management can be a business killer.

This is why many manufacturers in Rhode Island and across the United States have turned to barcode scanning systems. These systems improve the accuracy and ease of inventory management.

Barcodes can simplify tracking and eliminate errors caused by time-pressed or distracted humans – an especially smart way to save time during the current labor shortage.

There are some very important items that must be addressed when implementing an accurate barcode scanning system to manage your inventory.

Setting up your barcode system poorly can cause the same results as manual stocktaking, including part shortages and under- or over-producing or purchasing of inventory.

Polaris MEP’s Project Managers work with smaller manufacturers to realize big gains from barcode inventory management. Based on these experiences, here are three “DOs” and three “DON’Ts” for implementation of your system.

Tips for Manufacturers Setting Up Barcode Scanning Systems

1. Do look at what data will be in the barcode before you implement the system.

Most companies will put the item part number as the only data in the scannable field. If you decide to use a 2D QR code to mark your inventory, look at other data that may be useful to be in the scanned symbol.

For instance, in the automotive industry a QR code often contains data such as the part number, manufacture date, lot number, and part revision.  Think of what data you may need to capture during the scan.


2. Do implement barcode scanning in a way that scanning errors are kept to a minimum.

When implementing a barcode system one of the major errors that happens is missing scans. Cartons go through a scanning process and the operator doesn’t scan some of the cartons by mistake. By not scanning all the cartons, your system’s transactions will be in error.

To prevent inaccurate inventory balances, you must look at all the scanning points in your system and design them to catch missing scans. Polaris MEP project managers recommend Value Stream Mapping as a way to look at the whole process and identify the correct / critical points.


3. Do implement scanning only at critical process points.

Unnecessary scan points add work to the operation and create more places where errors can take place.


Proceeding With Caution to Improve Inventory Management

1. Do not use a symbology that is hard to read accurately.

For barcodes which are 1D, each type of symbology encodes the data into bars and spaces that require stop and start markers and different size quit zones. Due to this there are certain codes that are easier to read than others. For 1D barcodes, Code 128 is the easiest barcode symbology to read and is 20-30% smaller than code 39.

QR codes which are 2D are often easier to read than all barcodes.  They can be scanned in any direction unlike 1D codes which are scanned in only 1 direction. 2D QR codes can contain much more information, as well — 2509 numeric characters vs. the 20 to 25 characters of 1D barcodes.


2. Do not use your supplier part numbers as your own.

This creates future problems. For instance, if you were to have two different suppliers provide you with identical parts you would not want to have them separated in inventory as different part numbers. This causes confusion to your system. You must have all parts in inventory that are identical marked with your own part number.


3. Do not implement a scanning system without fully training your employees.

Pick a team of employees who will be fully trained on your new scanning system.

This group of workers must be trained not only on how to do the standardized scanning process, but also on why they are doing it. They must be shown the reason each scan takes place and what effect it has on the overall system. Also, they must understand what happens if the process is not done properly.

I’ve found success using the Job Instruction method for training team members. It’s a four-step approach that gets people using their new skills faster and with fewer errors.


Get Started on Barcode Scanning With a Free Consultation

There are obviously many other tips and tricks for implementing barcodes and turning your inventory from profit-killer to profit-driver.

Polaris MEP can help implement an accurate barcode scanning system to control your inventory. Call me at 401-270-8896, ext 410 or email me at tkennedy@polarismep.org to arrange a free consultation.

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