Warehouses have been using barcode scanning systems for years, but it is only because of recent and continuing advances in technology that they are becoming a viable option for small and medium size businesses. Whether for receiving, put-away, picking or packing, barcode scanning improves accuracy and automates the process of managing inventory. For wholesale and distribution businesses, efficient inventory management can be the difference between success and failure and barcode scanning is a popular choice when searching for advanced warehouse management tools. This article looks at five ways the introduction of inexpensive, sophisticated barcode scanners have changed the small business warehouse landscape.
(1) More Affordable Hardware
Traditional scanners are expensive, ruggedized pieces of hardware mostly used by large companies with full Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Today, many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have expanded to include some WMS functionality, and businesses can utilize the same sophisticated scanning technology on inexpensive hardware such as iPhones or iPods. This hardware is not only less expensive, but often more user-friendly and dynamic, providing users options for mounting on forklifts, carts and other pieces of equipment used within the warehouse.
(2) Paperless Warehouse
Wireless barcode scanners help small businesses achieve a paperless warehouse. Instead of warehouse staff printing pick tickets, sales orders are opened on mobile scanning devices, allowing pickers to scan and pick items at the same time while walking the warehouse floor. Users can also scan product as it is received into the warehouse in order to update the back-end ERP system in real-time. This eliminates traditional methods of gathering inventory information such as printing lengthy reports, handwriting notes, and then manually recording information back into your system.
(3) More Efficient Picking, Packing, and Receiving
To remain competitive as a small business, fast shipping with zero errors is imperative. Barcode scanners help achieve this and eliminate errors associated with manual processes by:
- Itemizing products to be picked based on bin and shelf location to create the most efficient path
- Displaying inventory information at the source, such as pricing, descriptions and additional location information for items on backorder, in overstock etc.
- Identifying pick errors at the source as opposed to when scanning items at a pack station
- Recording received inventory and allocating product to their proper bin and shelf location
(4) Correctly Associating Lot Numbers with Sales Orders
Small businesses who handle lot tracked products know the importance of accurately matching and recording these numbers when picking product. Barcode scanning software easily checks lot numbers and ensures that they are correctly associated with sales orders. This process is much more accurate than manually comparing and tracking lot numbers, and simplifies the process of pulling information in the case of a recall.
(5) Advanced Reporting Capabilities
Barcode scanners enable fast, accurate data capture, and transaction confirmation within seconds of scanning product. Information transfers into an ERP system in real-time or batch updates, increasing the availability of usable data. This reduces manual paperwork, errors, and labor costs, and helps standardize the collection of data for reporting purposes. As a result, more accurate, complete, and timely information transfers between systems and employees.