Using Barcodes Guide

Barcodes provide virtually error-free data collection. Studies have shown that a proficient data operator will make one error for every 300 characters manually entered. Compare this to 1 in 3 million utilising barcodetechnology.

Historically the early adopters of bar code technology were the industrial sector followed by retail. Nowadays barcode technology has extended to almost every sector of industryand commerce to replace keyboard data input E.G.: Automotive, books, courier services, defence, electronics, food, government, health, insurance, mail order, packaging, postal, printing, rental, transport, manufacturing and wholesaling.

WHY SHOULD YOU USE BARCODING?

The benefits of using barcodes to identify and track items/products are many and varied, but the main reasons are toreduce errors andcost andimprove productivityand profit.

Many companies perceive barcoding to be an additional cost of doing business. In reality bar code investments usually, pay for themselves in less than a year.

When considering a barcode solution, they are generally used to improve the efficiency of your existing system. Don’t try to design a barcode solution from scratch. There may be too many problems to solve at once.

Think about the following issues:

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What is the problem?

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How could you resolve it?

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Consider a few procedures that can be made more efficient.

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Decide how and where to read barcodes.

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Decide how to print and apply barcodes.

THE TECHNOLOGY UNCOVERED.

WHAT IS A BARCODE?

A barcode is a method of encoding data (numbers and/or letters and symbols) in a form that can be read and understood by a machine.

The data (in linear codes) is an array of parallel bars and spaces of varying widths. Reading the barcode employs optical technology because information is scanned using light that reflects from the spaces within the barcode.

There are different types of barcodes. These various types are known as symbologies.Just as we have different languages in different countries, barcodes have different symbologies for different industries.

There are many barcode standards used in different industries. Retail, healthcare, manufacturing, libraries, postal, automotive etc. all have a symbology unique to the industry. Why? Simply because symbologies have evolved to solve different problems.

BETWEEN THE LINES (AND SPACES)

A linear barcodeis normally a reference number that is used by a computer to lookup an associated record that contains descriptive data. Just like the number plate on your car is a reference number to the cars records at Vic Roads.

HOW ARE BARCODES READ

When the barcode is scanned the optical elements in the reader convert the light reflected back into a digital signal i.e. data.

Scanner starts to read the barcodeatthe quiet zone (the white space) before the first bar. The scanner continues past the last bar and thequiet zone at the end of the barcode.

The structure of barcodes varies from symbology to symbology but the provided diagram represents some of the components in a bar code.

BAR CODE COLOURS

There are a number of colour combinations that can be used to represent the dark bars and light background of a bar code symbol. The most common colour combination is black bars and white spaces. The picture illustrated shows some other acceptable colour combinations.

INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS

Now let’s take the first step and look at some of the common applications that are ideally suited to bar code technology.

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Warehouse- Inventory Control:Receiving, Dispatch&Stock take

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Healthcare - Supplies Tracking (Imprest), Patient Identification, Medical Instrument Tracking, Pharmacy Solutions, Prosthetics Management & Laundry Tracking

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Manufacturing - Work in progress&Quality control

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Retail - Point of Sale& Stocktaking

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Transport / Couriers - Package delivery

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Ticketing

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Barcode verification

WAREHOUSE – INVENTORY CONTROL

Many companies already have a warehousemanagementsystem in place. Whilst these are tried and tested paper-based systems the accuracy can be improved with the implementation of a barcode solution.

RECEIVING (Goods Inward)

Using a barcode printer at receiving you can print barcode labels for product codes and serial numbers.

You can then use a Barcode Scanner to scan all products being receipted making receiving much faster and more accurate.

PUT AWAY

With a barcode printer in the warehouse, you can print barcode labels for each of your storage locations.

Using a Portable Computer for Put Away,the operator is guided to scan location, product code and serial number during put away. All the Put Away data recorded can be downloaded to the computer when putaway is complete or in real time via a Wi-Fi network.

DESPATCH

Using a Portable Computer a picking list can be downloaded. This list the operator to record the location, part number and a serial number of every item picked. Each item is verified to ensure that only the required items are picked.  At the end of the pick, the data is uploaded to the host computer to process and produce delivery dockets.

STOCK TAKE

A Portable Computer to scan the barcoded product codes on products significantly reduces the time to do a Stock take and improving accuracy.  The program on the Portable Computer prompt’s the operator to scan the location, product code and record the quantity via the keyboard. On completion or at regular intervals, the data is downloaded to the host computer or in real time with a Wi-Fi network.

HEALTHCARE

SUPPLIES TRACKING (IMPREST)

Our Supplies Tracking (Imprest) solution uses portable computers and barcode scanning for quick stock replenishment.  Working seamlessly with the hospital ERP software, our Stock Replenishment solutions make light work of this critical task.

PATIENT IDENTIFICATION

Using of wristbands with either RFID or Printed Barcodes. Patient identification is then reliable and accurate every time. Patient ID Systems works to track, verify, monitor andlog allactions and procedures involving patients during their stay in the hospital.

MEDICAL INSTRUMENT TRACKING

The cleaning and disinfecting of instruments make normal labeling impossible so Intermax offers Laser Marking. Using specialized scanners for reading Laser Marking our solution identifies each instrument and provides the critical information required to ensure the correct processes are followed for the care and safety of your patients.

PHARMACY

Our Inventory Management solution includes interfacing barcode scanners and label printers with your ERP software.

Our Loan Equipment solution simplifies and automates the check-in and check-out of loan equipment using a mobile computer. Carried in the pocket, equipment is easily scanned and entered into the loan system.

PROSTHETICS MANAGEMENT

Using a Portable Computer Intermax has developed a solution for the tracking of prosthetic components. This greatly increases the accuracy and reduces the labor involved.

LAUNDRY TRACKING

The Laundry Order Tracking system automates the manual tasks in entering, picking and dispatching laundry orders. Using Portable Computers laundry orders are loaded onto the Portable Computers to make picking accurate and order dispatch dockets automatic.

Manufacturing

WORK IN PROGRESS

The simplest form of WIP system would be a host computer linked to a network of bar code readers and one bar code printer.By putting barcodes on WIP products and installing barcode readers on production lines. A product’s ‘build document’ can be automatically updated as the product moves down the assembly line.It can be used to provide reports on:

  • Work order status
  • WIP levels
  • Product traceability
  • Product/batch recalls
  • Identify manufacturing bottlenecks
QUALITY CONTROL

Barcodes can be used as part of an inspection procedure; a different code can be used to identify a fault or rejection.

This system can then be further automated by the use of unattended scanners to control production equipment that will sort the good items from the bad.

Vision Systems are also proving invaluable for quality control, as they can identify problems at high speeds (faster than the naked eye.)

Retail

POINT OF SALE

Most supermarkets use In Counter Projection Scanners and scales that allow barcode reading regardless of orientation. Smaller stores tend to use Hand Heldor Presentation Scanners. All scanners are connected to the store POS system containing the product database.  When an item has scanned the data from the barcode is used to lookup the price and description. These details are sent back to the POS terminal to record each transaction. The product database is often on-line so that stock levels are adjusted as product is scanned.

STOCKTAKING

Using Portable Computers for Stock Control you can conduct full or partial Stock Take audits on your stock levels and keep the right stock on-hand easier and cheaper than you think. The Stocktake data file is uploaded directly to the POS operating system.The Portable Computers can also perform Price Check functions.

TRANSPORT / COURIERS

PACKAGE DELIVERY

Many transport and courier companies now use barcode technology to provide accurate information on the whereabouts of a parcel. This is achieved by barcoding the Consignment Number of each parcel and scanning parcels when loaded onto the delivery vehicle. The drivers uses a Portable Computer with 3G or 4G mobile communication, pre-loaded with the data file containing all delivery details for the route.

On deliverythe Consignment Number of each parcel is scanned and the receiver sign’s for the parcel on the Portable Computer so Proof Of Delivery can be provided. If an item is missed the driver will be warned, if an incorrect parcel code is scanned it will not be unloaded.

After each delivery the data will be sent through the 3G or 4G mobile network to head office in real time, providing real information that can help them answer any customer queries.

TICKETING
The need for computerised ticketing to automate the admissions process is now expanding to medium and small venues. These focus on tracking customers and the purchase of admittance to a specific attraction.

  • Theatre box office
  • Cinemas
  • Concert and sporting events
  • Amusement parks
  • Ski Areas
  • Transportation tickets etc.

BARCODE VERIFICATION

If you are producing barcodes that will be used by your customers, it is reasonable for customers to expect the barcodes you provide will be scan-able.It would also be reasonable for customers to expect that the barcodes you provide have been printed to meet the required industry specification.

If you are printing barcodes purely for your own internal use there will not be any requirement for anybody outside the company to read the code, verification is probably not required.

If you are supplying barcode labels or barcoded products to the retail sector Verification is extremely important. Within the supermarket industry, it is critical that the barcode can be read first time at the checkout. As failure to read the bar code will result in a delay at the checkout as the operator manually key enters the barcode number.

If this happens (however remote it may seem) there is the possibility that the retailer may say “we cannot read your barcodes with our scanner ’s”  and we are returning all your products and imposing a large fine”.

Verification allows you to check the quality of your barcode and to guarantee they have been printed within the specification determined for the type of barcode symbology.  A verification report can be printed at the beginning of the print run, and another of the end of the print run to prove to customers your barcodes are within specification.

Verification is a little more complex than simply scanning the barcode to check it reads on your scanner. A Barcode Verifier will provide lots of technical information about a barcode (e.g. measured reflectance density (MRD) contrast rating, wide/narrow bar ratio etc.). The verifier will summarize all these details to inform the user if the barcode is within or outside the acceptable tolerances of the bar code symbology.

The barcode verification results can also be useful in identifying theproblem with a barcode so that the problem can be fixed eg: the printer may be printing the bars too wide, so the spaces are too narrow.