As barcode scanning systems are used across a broad range of industries today, there are a variety of systems designed to meet the needs of businesses in specific industries. That’s why it’s more important than ever to carefully weigh your options when selecting a new barcode scanning system for your business.
Choosing the best barcode scanning system for your company’s needs means evaluating factors such as how easily a system will integrate with your existing software, tools, and workflows, what types of hardware your staff are most familiar with, ease of use, and the specific requirements of your application, among others.
To help you make an informed decision when selecting the best barcode scanning system for your organization, we searched the web for valuable buying advice and asked a panel of warehouse and inventory management experts to answer this question:
“What’s the most important factor to consider when trying to select the best barcode scanning system for your business?”
Find out what our experts had to say below.
Meet Our Panel of Warehouse and Inventory Management Experts:
Bob Hawk has over 30 years of experience in the ERP world, and specifically Exact Macola software. He has served as the VP of Sales at both Macola and the #1 Macola Software reseller. Bob joined WiSys in 2005 where he is now the Director of Sales.
“The most important consideration for a company selecting a barcode scanning system is…”
I hear this question a lot. Customers want to know if they should use a robust handheld scanner, a tablet, or a smart phone for scanning barcodes in their warehouse. For us, it is always a question of using the right tool for the job. A barcode scanning system should be efficient, productive, and easy to use.
Scott Stone is the Director of Marketing for Cisco-Eagle, Inc., a provider of integrated material handling and storage systems for industrial operations. Scott has 25 years of experience in industrial operations and marketing.
“Assuming you’ve already decided a barcode system is the ideal answer to your issues — as opposed to voice or light directed picking systems — you should first look at…”
The physical environment. If the area is a difficult one, with airborne debris, used in a very crowded /high volume area, or has other problems that might harm a scanner, you have to cope with that. If you are using the scanner a lot, then look for models with high reliability; don’t purchase solely on price. Most of these systems offer specs on their durability and cycle. Some connect to mobile computers, and those give you more freedom of movement. The scanner must match your barcode scheme, and should integrate with your existing information systems. Handheld units with a cord are very reliable and good for most internal logistics applications. Cordless models are more convenient (and more expensive) but also very good for warehousing operations. Fixed scanner or mobile computers aren’t typically good fits for warehousing/order picking operations.
Eva Pinter is the Sales and Marketing Director for XPANSA Logistics.
“There is no best barcode system; there is an appropriate barcode system. The factors to consider when choosing one are…”
1. The environment: For an industry environment, such as a production site, you will require a barcode scanner that is very resistant, sometimes water and dirt resistant. In an environment where you have a lot of powder, you need to take also a scanner that will not allow powder to enter into the hardware.
2. The usage: There are scanners that are connected directly to computers as well as scanners that can be used independently.
3. Communication and integration with management systems: For the connected scanners, it is important that they are provided with tools so that no programming is needed in order to use the scanner. For wireless scanners, there are two types: online scanners (i.e., with WiFi) and offline scanners. The online scanner is best when you want to have the information immediately updated. For instance, if you need to have stock counts continuously and accurately updated, the most appropriate scanner would be an online scanner. The offline scanners need to be programmed specifically to transmit the data once connected to a computer, but are less expensive and therefore an appropriate choice if you do not need data immediately updated.
4. A fast interface: Now that scanners are like small computers, there are lots of apps that can be loaded on them. It is important that the apps are fast and do not create unnecessary wait times within the typical workflow. A scanner must also be easy to use and help to reduce the number of mistakes.
Dimitris Athanasiadis is the Online Marketing Manager at Megaventory, a cloud-based Inventory Management program and system that can help small businesses synchronize stock and manage purchases and sales over multiple franchise stores.
“There are a few important factors to consider when selecting a barcode scanning system…”
Barcode scanning is a commodity technology, and people have high expectations of it. In other words, they expect it to work out of the box and to the extent that they don’t actually realize they are using it. To achieve this the technology has to combine a number of features. Firstly, it needs to be fast and reliable with essentially no downtime between scans or throughout the work day. Secondly, it needs to have no hardware limitations, meaning that it should be able to connect to any other input device, such as PCs, printers, and the like. Thirdly, having wireless functionality is also a must in all but the most specific cases. Fourthly, the capability to recognize multiple types of barcodes is also necessary as users don’t need to worry about their scanners when changing barcode formats. Finally, and in addition to all the above, managing to bundle all this into a user-friendly smartphone app instead of a separate piece of hardware would make it an irresistible choice.
Robert Danahy is the President and Founder of The VOC Solution. He is a 30 year veteran of the technology industry. He spent 15 years with Zebra Technologies designing solutions based on barcode scanning and labeling products.
“When considering barcode scanning systems for your business, remember that…”
The scan technology that you should select is very much based on the speed of your workflow, accuracy of information required, and the distance between the product being scanned and the scanning device. With all this in mind, the most important factor to keep in mind when selecting a barcode scanning system is the reliability and responsiveness of the integrator that puts together your system. There are many VAR’s/Integrators of barcode solutions in the marketplace. Make sure you choose one that has a long history of successful customer engagements. Those partners will work with the top tier manufacturers of barcode scanning and print technology and will also be able to recommend the best applications to put the equipment to work most effectively. They will also have excellent service response times and can be relied upon to keep your business operational 24/7.
Shaun McInerney is the President of Somerville, NJ-based AIDC VAR, Symbology Enterprises.
“When it comes to the most important factors to consider when selecting a barcode scanning system…”
That’s a short question with an extremely long answer. Before any barcode solution is put in place, the end customer must have an ERP / business solution that supports the business as it should. Simply adding barcode scanning is not the end all solution. If the customer’s process or business solution is flawed, all scanning will do is add information to a flawed solution in a more efficient manner.
Once we know that the business system and the business process are working properly, we can recommend barcode scanning. In order to take full advantage of barcode scanning, the solution must always run wireless. WiFi is fast, secure, and affordable. The benefit is instant updates to the database, very little opportunity to lose data, and of course your employees are completely mobile and flexible.
Stage three is to decide on the type of device. Today we have many choices among devices. Ultra-rugged, purpose-built scanners based on Microsoft Mobile or Android are one option. Light-industrial, mainly based on Android and of course iOS devices, when paired with the proper sled, makes any device enterprise class. We are recommending and building applications that work with iOS or Android. Devices built with the iOS or Android operating system have the future in mind. Their ability to scale, manage version control, and of course their widespread user acceptance, make any device based on iOS and Android the perfect choice.
Finally, there is the label. The least expensive part of the supply chain sometimes becomes the technology that shuts down an operation. Many customers simply forget about the label because they are so focused on systems and devices. Then when it becomes time to ship product, they realize they cannot, because there is no label.
Samuel Mueller is the CEO and co-founder of Scandit and is responsible for overall strategic direction, marketing, sales, and business development. Prior to Scandit, Samuel was a management consultant and project leader for multinational companies such as Swiss Airlines, Swiss Re, and IBM, as well as a corporate researcher at the renowned IBM Zurich Research Lab. While at IBM, Samuel was awarded an IBM Research Division Award and a total of three IBM Invention Achievement Awards. He has authored numerous patent applications and has published his research results in leading conferences and journals. Samuel holds a Ph.D. from ETH Zurich and graduated summa cum laude with an M.Sc. in Computer Science and an M.A. in Financial Economics, both from the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
“When trying to select the best barcode scanning system for your company, consider…”
Software-based barcode scanning is generally a very fast and efficient way to capture data, but efficiency can be lost when workers use low-end mobile devices that have trouble scanning barcodes due to difficult lighting, an extreme angle, an uneven surface, or distance from the barcode. When it comes to choosing a mobile barcode scanning solution, businesses should consider using software that features advanced blurry barcode scanning functionality. Addressing this from a software perspective enables businesses to increase scanning speeds and boost productivity by reading barcodes before triggering autofocus, regardless of device camera quality.
Kenneth Reid is the President of MasterType Accounting & Business Services, P.C.
“As an accountant, I would have to say that the most important factor to consider when trying to select the best barcode scanning system is that…”
The system should integrate with the accounting software that the company uses for their accounting records. Some barcoding systems work with some — but not all — accounting systems. Some of these systems work better than others. There are a lot of different accounting systems available, and there are a lot of barcode scanning systems available as well. Every accounting system does not work with every barcode scanning system, and every barcode scanning system does not work with every accounting system. Likewise, many barcode scanning systems do not work well with off-the-shelf accounting systems (such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, etc.).
When a company is looking for a barcode scanning system, they need to look at the capabilities of the barcode scanning system, the accounting systems that the barcode scanning system works with, and the cost for the system as a whole (meaning the cost for the barcode scanning system, the accounting system, and all the upgrades and maintenance costs associated with both systems). The total cost factor can be a major factor to consider when choosing the right systems to put in place for a specific company or for a specific purpose.
Every company may not need a barcode scanning system that integrates and works with the accounting system. If this is the case, then there is no need to ensure that the barcode scanning system will work with the accounting system used by the company. However, if the purpose for purchasing a barcode scanning system is to ensure that the inventory is properly recorded in the accounting system (for purchases, inventory assemblies, raw materials, finished goods, sales, etc. of inventory items), then it is vitally important that the barcode scanning system works and integrates seamlessly with the accounting system.
This can mean that the barcode scanning system needs to work with a Point of Sale system (which in turn works with the accounting system), or it can mean that the barcode scanning system works directly with the accounting system (if no Point of Sale system is being used). If a Point of Sale system is used, then the barcode scanning system is not working directly with the accounting system, but is used directly with the Point of Sale system, and therefore it is not as important that the barcode scanning system work with the accounting system. However, it would still be a good idea to make sure the barcode scanning system works with the accounting system (in the event the Point of Sale system crashes for some reason).
Brain Sutter serves as Wasp Barcode Technologies’ director of marketing, where he sets the strategic direction and oversees the tactical execution of the company’s marketing programs.
“When selecting a barcode scanning system for your business, consider that…”
The nice thing about the perpetual system is that you have timely information and you don’t have to perform as many physical counts. But don’t kid yourself — over time, the perpetual count will deviate from reality and the only cure is a physical count. If you manage your perpetual inventory system well, you can assume the data is reasonably accurate. Automated tracking helps.
When you use automated tracking, inventory items and their storage locations are bar coded. A central database keeps track of where items are stored and how many items reside at each storage location or bin. Your warehouse personnel are usually equipped with wireless scanners to let them capture inventory movements in real time. Simultaneously, your sales staff uses Point of Sale terminals to track items sold. Stay away from hand-written inventory cards — they can be filled out incorrectly, illegibly, or not at all.
Alice Sonnenschein is a Senior Consultant with WiSys. Alice began her career as an accountant climbing to the ranks of CFO/CIO. She then moved on to Macola Software Consulting, working with one of the top resellers and completed about 200 implementations before beginning her own practice in 2004. She joined WiSys as a consultant in 2011 and works with customers to develop and implement custom Supply Chain Management solutions.
“The most important factor to consider when selecting a barcode scanning system for your business is…”
The ability to integrate in real-time with the back office ERP system.
Gabriel Kuperman is a certified Google and Bing search engine specialist with Huge Impact who is detail oriented and always focused on the overall user experience. Among other clients, Gabriel works with Barcode Lookup.
“The single most important factor when considering barcode scanning solutions for a business is…”
What kind of form will it take?
Handheld, mobile computer, in-counter, presentation, or fixed mount are all options among barcode scanning systems. It all depends on the application that you are using it for.
Cody is Sales Director for Scanco Software, LLC, an industry leader in real-time warehouse automation and warehouse management solutions in the small to mid-market sector. Cody has a background rooted in warehousing and inventory control management along with a sales background in the software vertical.
“The single most important and overlooked piece to consider when selecting a barcode scanning system is…”
The integration into your ERP or Inventory System. Having an integrated system insures the ability to work with real data and reduce the chance of data being lost through database mirroring, syncing, or batching. An integrated solution should provide real-time validation to your ERP and allow the user to trust that the data being displayed is the most current and accurate data.
Thomas Heitman is Manager, Solutions Consulting for Peak-Ryzex, Inc.
Note: The below information is from Steps to Take When Choosing a Bar-Code Scanning System via Inbound Logistics.
“The most important consideration when selecting a barcode scanning system is to…”
“Know your goals. There are numerous things logistics managers must consider when selecting a barcoding system. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of particular systems, first think about business goals and objectives, and ensure that the selected system will contribute to achieving growth targets. Determine how scalable the system needs to be and don’t let short-term objectives cloud long-term vision. Even if specific short-term requirements need to be addressed, leave room for expansion.
“After tying the new system to business goals and objectives, clearly identify both short- and long-term goals and requirements. This includes its impact on day-to-day business operations. Consider the purpose of the bar code system. Increased production speeds? Tracking inventory? Recording activity? Based on your needs, weigh the necessity of installing automated equipment, like conveyors, as well as how many types of bar codes need to be supported.
“Next, evaluate issues that stand to be improved. Determine what processes can be streamlined to reduce cost, such as receiving, put-away, movement, picking, packing and shipping. Specifically, consider task-oriented outcomes, such as gaining accuracy over manual processes. A company’s ability to take orders and fulfill them can be affected without accurate inventory data.”
Semicron Systems is a total Point of Sale solutions provider for the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries.
Note: The below information is from Learn how to select a barcode scanner or bar code reader for any application, via Semicron Systems.
“There are a few key questions companies should ask that will guide them in selecting the best barcode scanning system…”
“With all the choices available, it is important to understand your environment and application very well before making decisions. Answer these questions to help you determine which scanner is best for you.
1. What type of environment will the bar code scanner be used in? Harsh (as in factory or normal as in a store)
2. Is continuous or periodic scanning needed?
3. Is hands-free or hand-held capability required?
4. Will scanning be conducted close to the bar code or from a distance?
5. What will the bar code scanner connect to?
6. Will the information scanned be needed in real time?
“Remember, there are a variety of bar code scanners suited for each application. The least expensive bar code scanner might work well in an application where scanning is infrequent, but it wouldn’t work well in a harsh manufacturing environment where a rugged bar code scanner may be needed.”
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 pediatricians committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.
Note: The below information is from Barcoding via the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Companies should consider industry-specific regulations and requirements to select the best barcode scanning system…”
For instance, healthcare providers should consider barcode scanning systems that meet regulatory requirements and can withstand frequent disinfecting. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains:
“There are a number of providers who make excellent scanning equipment available on the market. Like in any commercial market, different products have different strengths and weaknesses. The exact choice of scanner will depend on many factors including price, operating environment, etc. There are, however, factors which are likely to impact your office:
“Choose only a scanner that is of medical device quality and is ‘disinfectant ready’. Please make sure to check the scanner specification sheet for this specific feature.
“Be sure that the specific barcode reader you are considering for purchase is compatible with, or has the stated ability, to recognize and translate 2D barcodes.
“Software compatibility: discuss functionality with your EHR or registry vendor to ensure that you are purchasing a brand that will work with their software. While a scanner is not built for any software out of the box, they are configured per the software that is supposed to capture scanned data. Make sure the software used to configure the scanner can interact with the EHR or registry software.
“The optics and sensors: quality of an image is important for readability. While important, the number of pixels is not the only factor in determining image quality. Indeed the sensor will have an ability to deal with a certain number of pixels and, in very broad terms, the larger the number of pixels the better the definition of the image will be. The scanner will also make use of lenses. The focal length is not provided and some will be better at reading from a distance and others at reading close up. In very broad terms, reading very small bar codes is best done with a scanner with short focal distance, and reading larger codes is better done with a larger focal distance.”
Founded in Septemper 2003 with the aim of being the dynamic center of software developers, Dynamsoft provides enterprise-class version control software, TWAIN software development kits (SDK) and other document imaging SDKs, with numerous generations for each product. Today many Fortune 500 Companies including HP, IBM, Intel, and Siemens trust Dynamsoft solutions for version control and TWAIN scanning SDK development.
Note: The below information is from Choosing Barcode Technology for Inventory Systems via Dynamsoft.
“There are several key factors companies should consider when selecting a barcode scanning system…”
“Focusing on the actual barcode, there’s a lot that goes into this supposedly simple black and white image. It requires the proper selection of the barcode type(s), a high-resolution image to reduce decoding problems, and much more. Once you select an appropriate barcode type, the barcode reader comes next.
The barcode reader also has many characteristics to consider. There’s the hardware scanner itself, from the physical size and weight to any ruggedness requirements. Then the software component that reads and captures data from a barcode is also critical.
“The barcode reader software must be thoroughly considered. There are so many capabilities that must be verified to ensure it meets your needs. Does it decode only 1D barcodes or does it also support 2D barcode reading? How many different barcode symbols does it support? How good is it at handling non-conforming barcodes: those that are out of place, damaged, etc.? What about flexibilities such as letting you define how many barcodes will be on a box, for example, so you can speed up performance?
“All along the way, you need to work closely with your chosen vendors so they fully understand your inventory needs. It’s not one size fits all – what a hospital may need is not necessarily a fit for a retail store. Also, you need to make sure the vendor can assist you with the full procedure. For example, can they help you choose the right barcode types? Also, will they help test selected barcode labels before integrating it into the whole barcode system? In addition, what are your support options on software, the barcode reader, the barcode printer and labels? Make sure these things can be fully managed by your vendor and also properly supported.”
Material Handling & Logistics
Material Handling & Logistics is the only publication dedicated to corporate managers who oversee the movement of material and product throughout the supply chain.
Note: The below information is from Automation: Cameras or Lasers: Choosing the Right Barcode Scanner via Material Handling & Logistics (MH&L).
“Companies should consider which type of scanning technology is most suitable for their applications…”
“Lasers have long been the cornerstone of barcode scanning technology. But in recent years, camera-based scanners have become more cost competitive—especially for warehouse and distribution center applications. Logistics managers who optimized their current laser scanning solution may be wondering if switching to cameras could lower operating costs even further. While the answer may not be a simple ‘yes,’ a look at comparative benefits of laser and camera scanners reveals the best opportunities for cost reductions.
“First, consider one huge advantage cameras have over lasers—the ability to capture an image of the whole label or scanning area. The grayscale image data can be used for much more than decoding barcodes. In fact, troubleshooting no-reads is a common use of camera images. For many high-volume distribution centers, this can lead to significant savings.
“For example, suppose a DC with a throughput of 100,000 packages per day has a no-read rate of 2%. That’s 2,000 packages. If each no-read takes a worker two minutes to handle at a rate of $20 an hour, that’s an annual cost of $170,000.
“By viewing a snapshot, a manager can see the reason for the no-read and address the issue. The expense of manual processing decreases, while throughput increases a percentage point or more.
“The same image data can be used for video encoding and optical character recognition, further automating the process of resolving no-reads and increasing throughput.
“Next, cameras typically read barcodes that are damaged or under reflective surfaces (such as plastic shrink wrap) better than lasers. A camera provides the full 2D image of the barcode so it has full spatial information. So, if only part of the barcode is damaged, or only a part has reflection, the camera can still decode the data. In essence, the camera can take advantage of the vertical redundancy of a 1D barcode.”
RMS Omega helps companies design, deploy, manage and service barcode, data collection, wireless and mobility technologies that improve productivity, meet new compliance demands, and reduce operating costs.
Note: The below information is from Industrial Barcode Scanners: How to Choose the Right ones for Your Applications via RMS Omega.
“Companies selecting the best barcode scanning system for their applications should consider…”
If you work in extreme temperatures, you’ll need to consider whether or not your scanners will operate properly. Pay attention to the scanners operating temperature, storage, and recharging temperature. For example, cold storage environments can be particularly tough on your equipment. Long-term use of non-optimized equipment in cold conditions can cause screens and housings to become brittle, and repeated condensation can cause internal components to corrode, short-circuit and fail.
Jason Culliton has been with L-Tron since 2008, specializing in patrol vehicle equipment, barcode scanners, and printers. He brings over 14 years of experience in the data collection industry.
Note: The below information is from Choosing a Barcode Scanner, Part 2 (Handheld Scanning Considerations) via L-Tron Corporation.
“Companies searching for the ideal barcode scanning solution for their needs should consider…”
“A handheld scanner is one whose primary intended use is to be aimed by hand and manually activated by the user. A presentation scanner’s primary use is to remain in a fixed position while the user (or automated system) presents the barcode to the scanner’s field of view, where it’s scanned automatically. As you’ll see shortly, there can be crossover in the mix. We’ll look at handheld scanners first.
“Trigger Position. Handheld scanners are usually finger-activated or thumb-activated. Finger-activated is far more common and features a gun-style design, complete with pistol grip and index finger trigger. It’s not uncommon for a traditional finger-activated barcode scanner to be referred to as a scan gun. This style is preferred for repetitive use handheld scanning. Thumb activated scanners with a handheld form factor are frequently used without manual trigger activation. The Honeywell Voyager Series is one example of a handheld scanner that tends to be used in presentation mode as often as not and is most frequently sold with a countertop stand. The Intermec SF Series is a flashlight-type cordless design and is designed to be wearable and activated when released from its magnetic connector. Which brings us to…
“Tethered or Cordless? Tethered scanners are usually connected to a host computer via USB cable, which provides power to the scanner. A cordless scanner requires at least one radio in the unit and usually a second in the base, but Bluetooth models will usually pair to Bluetooth capable hosts. It also requires a battery and a charging system, so the overall cost is considerably higher, but there are definitely benefits to cordless scanning. L-Tron sells quite a few cordless scanners into vehicle inspection systems to read automotive VIN barcodes. It’s not always easy to move a computer into range of a vehicle and doing the opposite can prove to be impossible! If you have to scan barcodes on any large and/or heavy items, cordless should considered.
“What a cordless scanner doesn’t do is replace a mobile computer. This is a misconception that I run into on a regular basis. It’s usually made by someone looking for an inventory control system. Cordless scanners vary in their range from the host computer between 10 and 100 meters, but they don’t give the user any means of interacting with the software application the data is sent to. If you have to scan a barcode and then enter in things like quantity received and location stocked, you’re going to need a mobile application or a loud voice and second pair of hands on the keyboard. There are cordless scanners with displays and keypads built in, like the Datalogic PM8300, that are more than just a scanner but less than a mobile computer, but these will require programming expertise to set up.
“Scan read feedback. The user needs confirmation that a barcode has been read. For most applications, audible feedback (BEEP!) is sufficient, but visual and/or tactile feedback is required in some circumstances (mostly high noise industrial environments). There are options available for vibrate feedback, light feedback on the scanner (LED) and light feedback on the barcode (projected light). Make sure you consider this if appropriate.”
Asset Tracking Solutions from Camcode: