Barcode technology has become so widespread that many consumers take it for granted, but the technology continues to offer numerous benefits in a wide array of businesses. With only some basic printing equipment and a readily available barcode scanner, businesses can use barcode technology to improve accuracy, speed and efficiency without significant expense.
In the days before barcode technology, many businesses relied on clerks to manually enter information about packages that came across their desks. In the transportation industry, where packages change hands several times, the likelihood of human error increased considerably. Because barcodes offer a reliable way to accurately read encoded information, the technology all but eliminates the possibility of human error. Workers can instantly identify packages and products with a high rate of accuracy.
To keep manual data entry errors at a minimum, clerks often spend a considerable amount of time examining packages, reading identification information and correcting data they did not key properly. Barcodes significantly speed the process of registering packages by reducing the act of reading and keying identification numbers to little more than pointing a scanner at the barcode. In a retail environment, for example, clerks can use barcode technology to ring up dozens or even hundreds of products within minutes. In the transportation industry, sophisticated barcode scanners can instantly read package information from hundreds of coded packages as the boxes make their way down conveyor belts.
Because nearly every package features some sort of barcode, businesses can use the technology to maintain tight and accurate control over inventory. Warehouses, for example, can scan barcodes on packages as they enter and exit the facility to maintain a record of every package housed at the warehouse. When these packages arrive at retailers, store staff can scan the products as they go on shelves and compare those records with records of barcodes scanned at the register to maintain inventory data. Similarly, transportation companies can scan package barcodes when accepting cargo, then scan the packages again when delivering it. Companies that link their inventory control to online portals can instantly update package status and notify customers when packages arrive, depart or get delivered.
Though barcode technology once carried a high price tag, the proliferation of barcodes and availability of inexpensive equipment have made barcodes affordable for almost any organization. Even small businesses can download barcode fonts from the Internet, often for free, and begin labeling packages and inventory. Many smartphones now include apps that scan and interpret barcodes, and users can download barcode applications for free from a number of sources. In a large organization, barcode technology can be significantly cheaper to deploy than other inventory control methods.