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    August 24, 2022

    How Do I Choose the Right Barcode Scanner?

    Barcode scanning technology is a critical tool in today’s warehouse environment. By automating inventory data collection, operations are more efficient and managers have the information necessary to make intelligent business decisions. 

    Understanding why barcode scanners are a good idea is inevitably followed by the question of which one to use.

    Whether planning the setup of a new warehouse or considering an equipment upgrade, there are certain factors that determine the type of scanner that is best suited for the task at hand. A combination of the warehouse methods, location conditions, type of products, and budget, have a bearing on which scanning products are most appropriate. 

    Key takeaways:

    1. A warehouse’s workflow and environment play major roles in choosing scanning tools.
    2. Cloud-based apps make today’s scanning technology more versatile than ever.
    3. Even small companies with limited budgets can find scanning options that are affordable and offer great ROI. 

    What Form Factor Works With Your Process?

    Choosing which type of scanners will work best for a warehouse depends largely on how employees will use the tools and how they fit into warehouse procedures and workflow. Put simply, does the scanner need to go to the item, or will workers bring items to the scanner? The answer might be different depending on the area of the warehouse or the task—meaning a warehouse may use a variety of scanning tools throughout the facility. 

    Scanners come in five basic physical designs or form factors

    Handheld Scanners are used by pointing at an item and pulling a trigger. Data from a barcode or RF tag uploads to a computer using a corded or cordless connection. 

    All-In-One Scanners include a PC and scanner in one mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Data is either stored on the device in internal memory and periodically uploaded in batches, or transmitted in real time via wi-fi.

    Fixed Mount Scanners are useful in larger operations where products pass by on an assembly line or are brought to a workstation. They stay put, unlike handheld and all-in-one scanners which can move throughout the warehouse.

    The two remaining form factors are presentation scanners and in-counter scanners, but these are not typically used in warehousing, manufacturing, or logistics. They are more often seen in a retail setting.

    Choosing which design works best for the scanners in a warehouse depends on their use. For example, a handheld or all-in-one scanner will work well for workers walking down an aisle picking items to fulfill an order. A fixed mount scanner might be more appropriate at a kitting or packing station used by several people at different times.

    What is Your Warehouse Like?

    The environment and characteristics of the warehouse play a big part in choosing barcode scanners, too. An operation using forklifts to move around heavy objects could have very different requirements than one handling delicate or climate-controlled items. Managers must consider the following when picking their tools:

    Durability. A warehouse with heavy machinery and concrete floors calls for rugged scanning equipment that can withstand being dropped or banged up in any way. Some RF scanners might have an advantage over smartphones or tablets in this regard, although heavy-duty cases and mounts are available for most products.

    Dirt. Things like grease, sawdust, or other dirty conditions go along with rugged warehouses or outdoor storage. These places will need scanners that can operate in grimy conditions, or add-on accessories that protect them and keep them clean.  

    Range. Will workers have close-up access to the items they need to scan? The typical scanner has a range of a few feet, but there are alternatives available that have a long-range reach of up to 35 feet. A warehouse might also place barcodes in an easily reached location at the base of a rack. Figuring out exactly what will work with the warehouse setup should be decided before choosing scanning tools.

    Temperature. A warehouse that is extremely warm or cold could cause some scanners to malfunction. This is particularly important in an environment where freezers or refrigerators are in use. Be sure to check a product’s specifications before purchasing. 

    Internet signal. Wi-fi capabilities give scanners a lot of versatility, but a warehouse with a poor internet connection or dead zones can hamper operations. Equipment to extend the wi-fi signal can help, but in some locations, managers might find it more practical to stick with more traditional corded tools.

    Staff needs. Do workers need to wear gloves? Will they be more productive if their scanner is hands-free? Is the lighting dim or extra bright? These are just a few challenges that can determine the type of scanner that will work best, or what accessories might be beneficial. A scanner worn on the finger or wrist might be best. Or one with a special keypad. Perhaps a tablet will be easier to read than a smartphone-sized screen. Taking time to understand things that affect staff productivity can help in picking a scanner.

    Choosing Scanners Based on Barcodes

    Scanner choice may depend on the type of barcodes in use as well. Laser scanners, for example, read 1D barcodes by the light reflecting on the white space between the black lines. Linear and 2D area imager scanners take pictures of the barcode instead of reflecting light. Imagers are more versatile, as they can read QR codes as well as traditional barcodes. They are also able to grab the images off of screens, interpret a code that is faded or damaged, and can read codes that are upside down or sideways—all of which can be problematic for a laser scanner.

    What Kind of System Do You Want?

    Barcode scanning no longer needs to be connected to proprietary software. Cloud-based apps, such as the Infoplus Mobile Floor Apps, are easily downloaded to either an iOS or Android device. Not only does this mean that setup is quick and easy, it also fits with the trend of companies outsourcing IT. Businesses that can’t afford full-time IT staff can manage without them. Those with existing IT departments can assign them more important tasks.

    Today’s barcode scanning technology is exceptionally versatile. Managers can choose whatever operating system they prefer or that their staff is comfortable with. Infoplus cloud-based scanning apps are equally effective with both iOS and Android devices. All that is needed is a good quality processor to yield good performance. 

    Managers can have a scanning system up and running quickly. Linking the scanning function to a warehouse management system is the next step. This allows the data collected to be analyzed and measured against the warehouse’s KPIs and benchmarks.

    What is Your Budget?

    All of the above factors are important, but as with most investments in equipment, the budget often determines the type of barcode scanners purchased for use in a warehouse. 

    Many companies still use RF scanners. These tools have been around for decades and are at the top end of the price spectrum. Each one can cost more than $1,000. However, it might be worth looking into a mobile device retrofitted for use as a scanner. Many newer mobile devices can be purchased for under $100, which is great news for a large company needing multiple devices. There may also be savings on training, as workers are almost certainly already familiar with using a smartphone or tablet.

    Some might argue that the one-time purchase of proprietary software to run a scanning system is better than an ongoing subscription from a company like Infoplus. But considering the necessary maintenance, upgrades, and IT staff to handle them, a downloadable app is definitely a competitive option. Today’s scanner technology is accessible to anyone—even a small mom and pop operation using their own personal smartphone.

    Choose the Barcode Scanner With the Best ROI

    Finding the right barcode scanner tools means something different to each warehouse manager. There are equipment budgets to contend with, but that can not be the only consideration. Basic information like the warehouse layout, the environment, and the inventory procedures play just as big a role as the type of WMS in use or the data managers hope to collect.

    Most important of all, barcode scanners and their systems need to yield a return on the investment. To do this, they must be reliable, and able to provide the data necessary for management to make wise strategic decisions. Contact Infoplus to explore which scanning hardware and software makes the most sense for your organization. Book a demo today.

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