AML Blog - The Scan

Barcode Data Collection FAQs Part 1

In order for a business to be successful, it must be as productive and efficient as possible. A barcode data collection system is one way to push a business forward. Barcodes allow for information to be quickly transmitted, and they also help keep human error from slowing a business down. Although almost everyone knows what barcodes look like, many people don’t know exactly how they work or what they do. This article will address some frequently asked questions surrounding barcodes.

1. What is a barcode?

A barcode is a set of symbols that is used to store data. These symbols are able to be read by machines, which can then discover the stored information. Barcodes were originally nothing more than a grouping of vertical bars of different widths (this is where the name comes from). However, barcodes have evolved over the years to include other symbols and patterns.

There is a limit to how much information a barcode can contain. Depending on the type, barcodes can contain anywhere from 20 to 25 characters up to 2000 characters. Even though barcodes can be used to store all types of information, price, product name, and identification numbers tend to be the most common uses.

2. How can barcodes help my company?

Barcodes can be used for a variety of things, but inventory, tracking, and identification are conventional uses. People have limitations, and a business should always expect human error. However, mistakes are never convenient. Typos can completely change the way information is handled, and poor handwriting can create confusion. Not to mention, determining where the errors are and eventually fixing them, takes time and costs money in the long run. Barcodes can help a business circumvent human error by virtually eliminating these types of mistakes from the process. Since the necessary data is stored in the barcode, and it can be read by machines, the occurrence of human error is decreased.

3. What is a barcode scanner?

A barcode scanner is any kind of device that is used to scan and interpret barcodes. The scanner decodes the barcode’s patterns and turns the contained information into something readable. A barcode data collection system is not complete without a barcode scanner. Otherwise, employees would be unable to properly decipher the information contained within the patterns.

Barcode scanners are most commonly handheld devices. However, smart phones have recently started taking advantage of the barcode scanning technology; there are plenty of downloadable applications that can scan barcodes. Even computers have software that can be used to scan barcodes. However, there are downsides to using consumer grade devices in an industrial environment.

4. How should I print barcodes?

There are two primary factors to consider when printing barcodes:

  • Labels: When integrating a barcode data collection system, media selection is very important. Factors such as barcode application, the intended life span of the label, and environmental exposure have a direct impact on your selection. In fact, it’s recommended that you try different types of labels in an application before you commit.
  • Printers: It’s natural for people to choose types of printers that are familiar, such as dot matrix or laser. However, in barcoding applications, the limitations of these printers far outweigh the benefits. For example, dot matrix printed labels may not meet quality standards and are not very durable. Laser printer label adhesives can’t always withstand heat or pressure. In addition, laser print is susceptible to ink smudges or toner flakes that impact the integrity of the barcode.

Thermal or thermal transfer printing technology is highly recommended, with advantages that hold up to industrial standards. Thermal printing utilizes heat-sensitive media that blackens as it passes under the printhead. These printers are built more durably for more reliable operation, and they result in high print quality barcodes that scan well. Thermal printers are easy to use, and since there is no ink, toner or ribbons to replace, maintenance costs stay low.

The black and white patterns that make up barcodes might be confusing at first glance, but they can become a valuable part of any business. While this post focused on the basics of barcode data collection, part two will go into more detail about different kinds of barcodes. Depending on the situation, some types of barcodes work better than others. Understanding which kind of barcode will work best for your company can make a world of difference.

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