Inventory tracking is critical for a lot of businesses. While it’s certainly more critical to some industries, such as retail, other less obvious industries can also benefit. For example, it’s said US retailers are sitting on $1.43 in inventory for every $1 they sell. But a small business can also use inventory tracking to prevent equipment loss versus direct financial losses. So, if you’re thinking of implementing an inventory tracking system to help curtail such problems, there are some basic considerations.
What do you want out of it?
For the retail industry, the benefits of having an inventory tracking system, particularly one with barcodes at the core, become obvious. But, what if you’re a CIO or IT director at a non-retail organization. Perhaps there are asset tracking advantages for you too.
First, sit down with relevant stakeholders to figure out what features would be important? Don’t work backward and find a system then figure out how you can apply its features. Instead, figure out the problems you have and how you want them solved. Then, ensure the vendors your vetting can specifically address them. You’ll also want to figure out if you need integration into any existing or new systems. For example, if you will be adopting new barcode scanners, how will they work with any existing software you might want to keep?
If you’re going to use barcodes, the barcode of choice will be driven primarily by the amount of data you need from it. However, don’t forget it’s important to also understand physical needs. For example, where on the product or asset will the barcode be placed? Can it be easily reached for scanning? How durable of a label will be needed – is the barcode going to be prone to being scratched, rubbed, etc?
There are mainly two types of barcodes: a linear barcode (1D barcode) and a 2D barcode. A 1D barcode consists of vertical lines of varying widths with specific gaps resulting in a particular pattern. A 2D barcode has data generally encoded in square or rectangular patterns of two dimensions. Generally, a 2D barcode can store more data and support a bigger character set than a 1D barcode. For a comprehensive guide to help select the right barcode, see here.
Test it first…
Be sure to test your software and barcode labels before deploying your entire barcoding system. Don’t make the mistake of just starting to use them. You might discover the labels you’ve chosen aren’t resilient enough or the barcode hardware you selected isn’t efficient in scanning right the first time. On the software side, you might discover you want more data from your barcode or to use separate barcode types for differing products or assets.
In an ideal scenario, you’ll want to test the barcode for a period of time similar to the lifecycle of its use. This step is particularly important in warehouse scenarios. It’s during this testing stage you should be able to work closely with your chosen vendors. It will be an opportunity to test them out too. You can measure performance of their solutions and see if they can scale if needed. You can measure how good their technical support is too, and so on.
For barcodes, you want to measure their recognition speed, recognition accuracy and recognition rate. The barcode’s location, how many or on a page and distance can impact recognition speed. Resolution, location and defects can impact recognition accuracy. Resolution, skewing, speckling and other such scenarios can impact recognition rate.
Improving barcode performance is crucial. Getting this right eliminates or reduces many future headaches, such as support incidents, dysfunctional workflows, human-error factors, and more. Sophisticated barcode reading software will offer dozens of ways to improve barcode recognition accuracy.
Back it up
It should go without saying that a redundant backup plan should be in place. This isn’t just for your data too. You might want to consider having a backup inventory tracking system, particularly if its uptime is mission critical.
Today’s cloud computing solutions offer a variety of options for backups, whether you want a total cloud approach or a hybrid local and cloud approach. You’re no longer limited to saving and syncing data just to a local server. The backup plan might also play a role on how you access your data. If you need to be able to access it 24/7 and on any device, your backup plan will need to also account for solutions that can offer this.
The market for inventory tracking systems is growing and so is barcode use, for good reason. Done correctly, they add efficiencies that can truly affect a bottom line in sales and workplace productivity. However, they can quickly turn into disastrous experiences if not properly implemented. So, be sure to plan it out, test it, and find vendors that will work with you to meet the criteria you require from your system.