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Barcodes in Warehouses

Barcode Datalink specialises in helping your business benefit from barcoding in the warehouse. We know how to "whip your warehouse" into shape!

Over the years we have been to countless warehouses. In the past we assisted in implementing batch type solutions where you collect data and download it at the end of the day.

Those days are over. If you aren't going wireless now you can be sure your competitors are. Wireless infrastructure and mobile computers are getting cheaper and more powerful by the day.

Quite often you don't need a bigger warehouse you just need a better managed warehouse. And if your staff are running around filling in "goods in forms", "goods movement forms", "writing down serial numbers" with pen and paper, you have to ask yourself WHY?

Todays most efficient warehouses have every warehouse team member equipped with a mobile computer. Every transaction is recorded in real time while at the point of activity. The person handling the product is:

  • receiving it in
  • moving it somewhere
  • sending it out
  • processing it for whatever reason

- they have to use a mobile computer to record the transaction - then and there! Not later and not by someone else.

Forcing this simple rule: "No mobile computer in your hand - Don't touch the product" means your inventory will be up to date all the time.

How many times have I been to a warehouse where three people are wandering around for two hours looking for a pallet. Someone moved it but he is away sick today! In this example 6 man hours are wasted. It doesn't matter that your computer system says it is in A-1-1. If someone moves it and writes it on a piece of paper that someone has to collect and key in at the end of the day - that information is eight hours old. Totally unacceptable in todays environment.

ERP systems such as Pronto, Baan, JD Edwards, SAP just to name a few have warehouse functionality built in. What you are missing is the mobile hardware. The software should already exist for these functions and can always be customised to suit any particular requirements you might have. All you need to do is buy it and implement it (which in alot of cases will cost more than the hardware).

Regardless, don't let that put you off. The sooner you get into barcode scanning and printing the sooner you will reap the benefits.

Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions

Click here to watch a video on retail and supply chain management solutions from Motorola 

So what are the benefits?

An example might help explain it better.

A customer orders a radiator for truck. Your warehouse is in Sydney and he has broken down in Darwin. Lets say it costs the customer $1500.00. And to get it there urgently overnight is $300.00.

Everyday he is off the road is costing him his livelyhood.

Since you haven't implemented barcode scanning the whole warehouse process is manual and based on pen and paper and keying in data.

Looking on your computer system it says you should have one in stock. You go to the bin location and can't see it there. Now begins the search...where is it? It is in a cardboard box and they all look so similar. Finally you find it. Sadly, the warehouse staff member has had a long day and misreads the product code on the box. The customer has ordered Part Number 0930300149 but the picker grabs 0930330149.

So you send the radiator. It arrives in Darwin the next day and the customers joy turns to aggrevation when the installer tells him it's the wrong radiator.

Now you are faced with an angry customer who will lose another day off the road.

And the freight bill. You have to get your radiator back and ship him the correct one. So any hope of making some money on this deal is fading. Plus the customer isn't going to be recommending you anytime soon.

If you had a barcode system in place, firstly the product would have been scanned in and putaway. When the order was picked, the product code should have been scanned. The mobile computer would have beeped warning the operator he had picked the wrong item.

Working out the extra freight expense is easy. Another $300 to send it to him a second time and say, $100 to get it back within a week. What you can't measure easily is the potential lost business from this customer and more importantly, the "bad" word of mouth.

You might not care if you are the only supplier of this brand of radiator. But next time he buys a new truck he might switch brands. In that case the "brand" will lose the sale for a new truck, all servicing and all parts orders over the life of the truck! What is the "cost" of that?


Barcoding - where do we start?

Step 1: the first thing I recommend doing is a "barcode" audit.

Barcode Audit Report

How many products do you stock? How many have barcodes on them? How many don't?

Just because you see a barcode doesn't mean it is useful to you. Is the barcode your part number or the suppliers. Does it even read?

Make sure it scans! Sounds obvious but don't assume anything. So it scans, what data is in it? If you call the radiator in the above example an "R1" but the barcode says "PR100" that will mean you will have to create a cross reference table somewhere. In Pronto, for example, you will have to put "PR100" in the APN (Alternate Part Number) field in the product master table.

Is the label that the barcode is on by itself or surrounded by lots of other barcodes? What difference does this make? Well, if you want an imager scanner or long range scanner, having a label with lots of barcodes makes it harder for the operator to read the right barcode on the first attempt.

For all the products that come in without a barcode will your supplier label it for you? If they won't you have to implement a procedure for incoming goods labelling.

While this may seem like an extra cost in terms of labour and labels the benefits that flow on from correct product identification then exist in every step after the products are received. The barcoded labels may even assist your customers further along the supply chain.


Step 2: Barcode all your bin locations

Every bin location should have a barcode label attached so that every goods movement involves scanning a bin location label. This helps make the process faster, reduces errors and gets your staff into the habit of realising that bin locations are important.

More importantly, using your computer system to its full potential removes your reliance on staff "knowing" where things are from memory. So if they are sick and have a day off you don't come to a halt because only "Bill" knows where he put that.



Related Information: 

 to selecting the right mobile device for your staff & business

 to see what mobile computers men prefer to use in the warehouse

 to see what women prefer  

 to read about the different types of barcode scan engines available

 to see the various keyboard options for each mobile computer 

 of all the mobile computers 

 Telnet keyboard mapping for all Motorola mobile computers