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    July 19, 2022

    Today’s Barcode Scanning Technology: Smaller, Smarter, and Better ROI

    Barcode scanning and QR scanning have become ubiquitous in everyday life: Checking out at the grocery store, presenting mobile event tickets and boarding passes, or linking to a restaurant menu.

    Long before smartphones and DIY checkout lanes, however, handheld scanners played an important role in warehouses and manufacturing. Early on, the systems were cumbersome and expensive, making them a significant investment and somewhat of a “big ask” from management. 

    Today, the technology is no longer a “luxury” item, but an essential part of warehouse operations with a proven ROI. Even small mom-and-pop companies use scanning technology. The scanners themselves are smaller, more mobile, easier to set up and use, cheaper, and do much more than many managers realize. This article will help you understand the true value of investing in scanning technology. 

    Key takeaways:

    1. Barcode scanning is an integral part of automated warehouse operations.
    2. Scanning goes far beyond inventory counts, providing data to support many strategic decisions.
    3. Integrating scanning technology with a WMS adds value.
    4. Today’s scanning technology offers quick and easy setup and cloud-based solutions.

    The #1 Answer to the Question “Why Scan?”: Automation

    Automation is one of the keys to optimizing warehouse efficiency. The introduction of barcode scanning technology in the 1970s revolutionized the warehouse industry. It allowed for the automation of inventory counting and tracking, which in turn led to countless other functions that rely on inventory data. 

    The answer to “Why scan?” is simple. Nearly every part of warehouse operations is moving or has moved from paper to digital. Mobile scanners in a warehouse offer a level of efficiency and quality assurance that simply is not possible with a manual system.

    Barcode technology solved a universal problem for warehouses: Slow, tedious inventory counting and data entry, with questionable accuracy. Scanning increased the speed and precision of the task. It improved inventory management while freeing up workers for jobs that required more critical thinking and skill. 

    Fast-forward to today’s warehouse, and those inventory analytics are helping to optimize in even more ways: 

    • Scanning products on their journey through the warehouse pinpoints bottlenecks and problems with processes.
    • Data can be viewed in real-time, identifying the exact quantity and location of every item in stock.
    • More accurate picking means better order fulfillment and fewer returns.
    • Tracking scanning by employees can identify who needs additional training or who has earned a bonus or promotion.
    • Scanning data can be the basis for benchmarks and a way to measure warehouse performance.
    • Data analytics gleaned from scanning can determine pick paths, warehouse layout, and what belongs in a down-forward picking area.

    All of this information, and much more, is accessible from the data collected by scanning the barcodes of products as they come into the warehouse and at strategic points as they are put-away, picked, packed, and eventually shipped.

    Scanning for Decision Making

    A warehouse manager’s job involves continually looking at data and trends to make decisions to correct problems and improve efficiency. Analyzing KPIs and tracking benchmarks helps managers make those decisions. Many of the data points that make up the analytics come from barcode scanning.

    Knowing what makes up inventory at any given moment, how quickly it is selling, and how long it takes to move—from receiving to storage to packing to shipping—provides the information necessary for many decisions:

    • Workflow. Where are the bottlenecks in the process? Can additional tasks be automated? Are pick paths as efficient as they can be?
    • Labor. Is an increase or decrease in staff necessary? Are workers meeting their benchmarks? Are the benchmarks reasonable or need adjustments? 
    • Space. Is it taking too long to get from point A to point B? What belongs in the forward picking area?  

    Barcode scanning data will not answer all of these questions on its own—but when combined with other WMS information, managers will have a wealth of information to justify the choices they make.

    The Value of Updating Scanners and Integrating With WMS

    While you might be hard-pressed to find a warehouse that is not using scanners these days, some are undoubtedly not getting all they can out of the technology. They may be using outdated, overly complicated systems believing that an upgrade is too expensive.

    Indeed, RF scanners can cost a few thousand dollars each, and many warehouses use them in conjunction with high-maintenance proprietary software. Other systems, like Infoplus Mobile Floor Apps, are cloud-based and run off of iOS, Android, or almost any smart device. And as we have all seen, the price of bluetooth enabled smartphones and tablets is well below that of an RF gun. Quick and easy setup adds to the value, too.

    Investing in and using any kind of barcode scanner technology is a step in the right direction for logistics businesses. Managers can really leverage the investment  by understanding how scanning for logistics relates to every function of warehouse operations.

    Integrating barcode scanning technology with a warehouse management system maximizes data collection capabilities, giving managers more information for important decisions. If, for example, the scanning software does not communicate directly with the company’s warehouse management software, managers might be looking at old information rather than real-time data. 

    Companies that have different warehouse locations or sell on multiple channels need clear analytics and integration to operate effectively. Barcode scanning technology can tell them what they have at each location at any given time. For 3PLs this is even more important as they need to keep all of their clients happy by being both efficient and transparent with their inventory.  

    As any warehouse manager knows, the metrics in a warehouse can be combined in an infinite number of ways. And those configurations can serve as useful KPIs and benchmarks. When linked to barcode scanning software, WMS can organize the data collected into useful reports.

    A Cloud-Based Solution

    Barcode scanning technology has come a long way with smaller, mobile devices replacing corded, bulky scanning guns. There are more options than ever in terms of scanning tools used on the warehouse floor as well as the information they can collect for managers. 

    Infoplus Mobile Floor Apps is cloud-based, eliminating the need for any additional proprietary software. Just download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play and get started. All that’s needed is an internet connection. 

    Any warehouse that hasn’t totally given up some manual systems such as paper picking or excel spreadsheets should consider moving to barcode scanning technology. The current barcode scanning technology is accessible for any size business. It is easier and cheaper than ever to take advantage of the data collection that these tools can provide.

    Book a demo today to find out how utilizing Infoplus' cloud-based fulfillment solution can help you with end-to-end warehouse management. 

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