What are barcodes?
What are barcodes?
Many of the people that run a warehouse do not fully understand what barcodes are and how they can be used in a warehouse. If you're not an expert on barcodes, then the following article is for you!
In simple words, barcode is a graphical notation of characters understandable for the barcode readers. Barcodes were invented in order to faultlessly and quickly read the information. Reading and distinguishing of indistinctly printed letters is sometimes difficult even for humans - while the readers are dealing with it very well even with partly damaged or crumpled barcode. Below you can find example texts and their graphical representation in the barcode type CODE 128:
What information can be included in barcodes?
As shown in the above example, we can encode not only digits, but also letters. Type of information that can be encoded depends on the type of barcode. For example, popular EAN code can contain only 13 digits (it is used on products available in retail sales). EAN codes are assigned by GS1 organization for a proper fee. Such registration is necessary, if you want to mark your products and introduce them into trade, because the codes must be unique: 2 products in the store can't have the same code. However, if you want to use barcodes only within your warehouse or for information exchange with the clients, then the barcodes do not have to be unique in the global scale, and you can print your own barcodes free of charge on the packagings. In the case of your own barcodes, you should use the code named "CODE 128" or "CODE 39". Code 39 was created in 1974 and it is supported by almost all barcode readers. Code 39 may contain uppercase letters from A to Z, digits and symbols: -.$/+%. The disadvantage of code 39 is small density of data recording and it's not suitable for placing on small items. Code 128 is widely used in the entire world for marking components and collective packagings in the whole supply chain. This is a barcode with high resolutions, it has been created for encoding 128 ASCII characters and it does not have limitations regarding the code length. So you can code lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as special characters (e.g. from keyboard)..
Marking of items in the warehouse
In the case, when items are intended for further sale, each item should have appropriate barcode stuck on its packaging. If you have 2 pieces of the same product, then both of them should have the same barcode, which unambiguously identifies the item and its price. If you run an internal warehouse, then you can only mark the container with the given item or shelf on which the same items will be located. When taking an item from the warehouse, you just have to read the code from container and enter to collector or inventory management program the quantity of the given item that has been taken.
Printing the barcodes using standard printer
If you want to mark the items without investing in specialized printers, then in a small warehouse you can print barcodes on a standard office printer. It's best when it's a laser printer or inkjet printer with good resolution, so that the barcodes will be legible. Depending on the needs, on one A4 sheet you can place e.g. 10 labels (5 rows, 2 columns) or 24 small labels (8 rows, 3 columns). You can also purchase labels that are clean, ready to use and self-adhesive 2,4,8,10,12,14,16... labels on one A4 sheet.
When designing label with a barcode, you should also put the name or product code for yourself - in the case of situation when label gets damaged and there's a need to identify the product manually. It's best when a barcode on the label has a width from 3 cm to 10 cm - then the most popular readers will easily read the code. The barcode height should be greater than 1 cm, so that it's easy to read it with the use of the reader, and so that in the case of damage to the edge of the label, there's still a remaining readable fragment on the whole code width. For designing and printing, we recommend LoMag program. Using the LoMag program, you can freely set the quantity of columns and rows with labels. There's also a possibility to start printing from e.g. 8 label on the sheet with 10 labels, in the case when we already printed 7. You can print as many label copies as you have items on stock or as much labels as you receive on stock during item receipt on Goods Received Note.
Specialized label printers
If you need to print a larger amount of labels, you should purchase the printer dedicated for this purpose. If you don't care about the durability of the print, you can purchase thermal printer, to which you only have to put thermal labels and then you can print without any additional consumables. Unfortunately such prints, similarly to the receipts from stores, are not resistant to temperature or sunlight, and are easily destroyed.
Another solution is purchasing thermal transfer printers, which use special wax or resin ribbons allowing for permanent prints on the paper labels, foil labels and inserts. When purchasing a printer, you should take into account the operating costs: inexpensive thermal label printers manufactured by e.g. Brother company, require original labels, which cost more than 50 PLN per roll containing 400 small labels. Special safeguards installed in the printer prevent you from mounting the cheap labels, which usually cost from 5 to 10 PLN per roll. In the case of low-cost solution, you should consider a printer of Taiwanese company Argox e.g. model OS-214 plus, which allows for printing both in thermal technology, and in thermal transfer technology on any medium with a width up to 105 mm. Printing speed of such printer is 76 mm per second - that is 1000 labels ready in 10 minutes.
Reading of the barcodes
There's a very wide selection of barcode readers on the market. However, you should consider purchasing a reader that is resistant to falling down and which easily reads any barcode. In the case of wireless data collectors, it's important to check whether they have built-in software and whether they are integrated with the inventory management software. Here we recommend tested scanners and collectors at attractive prices. In particular, noteworthy is the collector Argox Pt-20, which is fully integrated with LoMag program. Below you can find a video that shows the operation of collector PT-20 and integration with Lomag program: