How to get more out of the Barcode
During my Consulting work, I often called to mediate between the IT department or supplier and the Business. IT department says “look at the graphs we have 99.9999% uptime” and the business says “we don’t care about the graphs, people are waiting too long in the queue and walk out of the store” The two worlds aren’t talking the same language – which is where I come in and we look from a technical point of view for solutions to speed up the system and we make business processes changes from the business point of view to better service the client. In all my years of consulting, I have used one piece of technology that is so understated but yet so powerful. This technology is cheap and readily available and helps with automation, processes and speed and yet we hardly give it a second thought. I am referring to the humble Barcode.
Running a retail store is no easy task. Marketing, inventory, stock control, HR, accounting, logistics are just some of the tasks that shop owners have to deal with and master in order to run a successful store. A key ingredient that could make or break the store is the ability to manage the stock correctly. Order too much of an item, and you have to discount is below cost to get it out of the store room or order too little and customers are frustrated and walk across to a competitor. When you consider that even a small retail shop can have 2000 products at any given time, stock-management is a monumental task that is typically conducted by the store’s staff. However, the sheet intensity and stress of managing the stock was the main reason cited for employee leaving a retail store according to Barcodesinc.
Clearly, something had to be done.
The solution came in the form of a simple sticker that revolutionised the industry around the globe – the barcode.
The barcode and its integration into the Point of Sale (POS) system allows for goods to be tracked, scanned and sold with simple click of the scanner. Vendors like Shopify sell coordinated POS hardware and software that is linked to barcode software and barcode printers. When the storeowner orders new products, the POS is updated and the barcode software automatically generates barcodes for the products. When the barcodes are ready, the printer then generates labels for each product and the storeowner can then label each product. With this system, at a touch of a button, store employees have an efficient method to keep track of their items.
But wait – get more our of the Barcode !
Apart from this basic function, the barcode labels can also be used to store information and to simplify other tasks.
The basic task for a barcode printer is to generate labels with product information. However, technology has improved allowing the barcode label to carry more information than meets the eye. 2D and 3D labels such as the QR Code, can be used to carry information about inventory number, product name, product weight, product cost and much more. At any point the retailer is able to scan these codes and instantly gain an understanding of where these items fit into their systems.
We make the mistake of considering the barcode printer to be a single job device, states Zebra in their Barcoding 101 document. However, almost all vendors provide additional devices that can increase the functionality of the barcode printer. In their “Beginner Guide to Bar Code Printing” Barcode-it.co advises that manufacturers may also supply personalized add-ons to help you with special printing needs which one should investigate upfront before committing to a supplier.
Retail is not the only place where barcode have revolutionised the industry. Airlines check in are now faster as the Ticketing Agent simply scans your boarding pass. Hire car companies use the barcodes to scan your vehicle. Letters and Parcels are delivered around the globe as the courier companies are able to track and trace items with the packaging’s barcode.
Barcode and the App
Our Mobile devices are powerful computers that have the ability to scan barcode. Apps like PriceCheck and Amazon use the phone’s camera to read the barcode and preform an action. The Pricecheck app allows the user to scan the barcode and the app finds the same item at other retailers along with the price. Amazon’s app offers the user book reviews and related books based on the ISBN code that is scanned by the app.
Even the banking industry has adopted the barcode scanners with apps like SnapScan from Standardbank that allows merchants to offer a QR Code for customers to make payments via the app.
So in summary
Barcoding is now an integral part of the retail industry and almost every product carries a barcode to make billing easy. The secret sauce with Barcoding is to integrate the Barcode into the system so it becomes part of the general flow and not become a stumbling block which is counter productive.
While Barcoding technology is not new, the uses for bar coding have expanded exponentially over the last few years which takes barcoding way beyond simply helping the checkout line move faster at your local store.
*images from Shutterstock.com