Maintenance Q&As

What is barcoding?

Answered July 24 2019

Barcoding is an identification method used by a wide variety of companies to track, identify, and manage items. You probably see barcodes every day in common places like grocery store packaging, library books, and shipment labels.

However, barcodes also play a significant role in manufacturing, distribution, and production. From tracking assets and equipment in a facility to managing raw materials in inventory, barcodes can add a great deal of efficiency and accuracy to modern-day products and services.

How It Works

Barcodes are typically a set of narrow and thick vertical lines printed in a particular pattern in the shape of a rectangle. A set of numbers or letters and numbers appear beneath the bar code itself. These codes are one-dimensional, and the pattern of black and white spaces codes the information  into physical form. Although most of the codes you see on a daily basis are one-dimensional codes, two-dimensional codes are growing in popularity. The most common is the QR code that your smart phone can scan from a sign, flyer, mailer, or product.

All markings in a barcode represent a set of information specific to the item, material, or asset. The more detailed the physical code, the more information it can store. Barcode labels or durable barcode tags can be affixed to the item or equipment temporarily or more permanently.

You’ll need a barcode reader to scan the codes. These readers use lasers to transmit the information from the barcode through the reader to a centralized computer system like a CMMS. The system then manipulates the data and can create and store reports to help make better decisions.

Faster and Smarter

According to Barcoding.com, barcodes increase the speed of collecting item information, improve the accuracy of the data, and can be adopted easily and effectively.

For instance, a common reader can scan a barcode in the same amount of time that it takes a warehouse worker to type two numbers or letters. When you rely on humans to enter codes manually, you will encounter one error for every 100 letters or numbers keyed. Compare this level of accuracy with laser barcoding technology that results in one error in every 70 million scans.

Industry studies show that barcoding reader training takes as little as 15 minutes, and return on investment in a system is realized in roughly one year.

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