Inventory Management and The Barcode
Getting Started with an Inventory Management Solution
Effective inventory management plays a crucial role in the success of any organization that utilizes inventory in its business model. The single most important tool in the management of inventory is the barcode. The barcode has been the backbone of accurate and efficient inventory management for decades.
Paper-based inventory management can lead to costly mistakes. The information is slow to become available and often fraught with errors. Inaccurate data, such as available quantities or the exact location of inventory, can lead to wrong information being conveyed to coworkers and worse, to customers. Trying to find lost or misplaced inventory wastes time and resources.
Barcode Inventory System
Scanning barcodes using mobile computers, specifically handheld computers with integrated barcode scanners, is far more accurate and faster than manually keying in data. Information such as item numbers, serial numbers, and batch or lot data can be captured quickly and error-free with a barcode scan. Utilizing wireless scanners deployed on an internal Wi-Fi network, this data can instantaneously be made available enterprise-wide via the ERP or WMS (Warehouse Management System). Employees can make informed decisions based on accurate up-to-date information.
Types of Barcodes
1D barcodes, or one-dimensional barcodes, are ideal for limited amounts of data such as item numbers, bin locations, or lot codes and are conventionally used for tracking on an item or piece level. 2D barcodes, or two-dimensional barcodes, can store hundreds of characters and can therefore store multiple item numbers along with serial numbers and/or lot codes are consequently ideal for tracking at the carton or pallet level. 2D barcodes are also ideal for storing shipping addresses. Note that 2D barcodes require the use of a 2D barcode scanner and that must be taken into consideration when acquiring barcode scanning equipment.
Barcodes aren’t limited to inventory. Location bins should also be marked with a barcode label so the inventory system knows exactly where the inventory is being stored. The barcode can be used to track the inventory as items are received, moved within the warehouse, and then shipped. This real-time visibility means buyers and planners can literally see the inventory flowing through their system. Using a sophisticated WMS or inventory management system, quantities are adjusted when items are received and deducted when they are shipped. As inventory reaches preset thresholds, inventory systems can trigger an alert to replenish low-stock items or generate a purchase order to procure the additional stock. The level of automation, based on the barcode, can prevent stockouts, optimize inventory levels, reduce manual effort, and minimize time wasted correcting errors.
Barcode Scanning With Android Mobile Computers
Obviously, the impact of the barcode on improving efficiency is greatly affected by the proper selection of mobile computers, a reliable wireless infrastructure, inventory software well suited to the business model, and of course training for all those involved in the inventory management process.
Mobile computers, or wireless scanners, have all moved to the Android® operating system in recent years, driven mainly by Microsoft’s decision to vacate the mobile OS arena. To accommodate this, most software vendors that offer contemporary inventory management software have developed specific Android apps, or APKs, that will run on wireless Android barcode scanners/mobile computers. However, most Android mobile computers can also run web browsers for cloud or web-based applications, and even terminal emulation (TE) clients for older legacy systems. This, in effect, makes the software somewhat hardware agnostic and frees the IT manager to select the mobile devices that they feel will work best in their environments, from the supplier they are most comfortable with.
Mobile computers can come in many sizes and configurations, ranging from lightweight cell phones to heavy-duty industrial devices. And not all are designed to be handheld. Some mobile computers are designed to be mounted on forklifts, giving operators the ability to perform inventory tasks while behind the wheel. These devices are generally built-for-purpose and designed to be physically mounted to the forklift and powered by the vehicle’s battery system. Rather than being integrated into the unit, the barcode scanner is connected to the computer either with a USB cable, or it utilizes a Bluetooth® connection.
Wireless LAN technology continues to evolve but mobile devices will always offer some degree of backward compatibility minimizing the risk of obsoleting the Wi-Fi network anytime soon. More and more software vendors are moving to subscription-based models, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which introduces a perpetual cost component into the enterprise, but also ensures that the software is constantly being updated and the data is securely stored off-site. While there are pros and cons to the cloud-based subscription options, generally speaking they are more secure, more flexible, and more sustainable than on-premise/permanent license systems.
AML’s Android mobile computers check all the boxes for almost any conventional warehouse or manufacturing facility. Both the Striker and the Scepter mobile computers are powered by Android and can be equipped with a variety of different barcode scanners so that they can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a user’s environment. They come with or without pistol grip handles, hot-swappable batteries, an integrated flashlight, and an assortment of built-in software utilities that ease the process of configuration and deployment. Both devices are Made in America and backed by US-based technical support.
Enterprise Mobile Computer
Powered by Android
5″ LCD with capacitive touchscreen
47-key backlit alphanumeric keypad
Multiple barcode scan engine options
802.11 abgn radio
Enterprise Mobile Computer
Powered by Android
4″ LCD with capacitive optically-bonded touchscreen
Included software for fast deployment
Preloaded with DC Suite barcode data collection software
1.8 GHz Octa-core Snapdragon Processor
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AML was founded in 1983 to respond to a need in the barcode data collection marketplace for high performance, easy-to-use, and cost-effective barcode and data collection products. Our goal is to provide sensible solutions for mission critical activities, to improve efficiency and productivity, and to make barcode data collection applications worry-free.