Barcode scanning is a key component of inventory control and supply chain management. Its ability to connect different parts of the organization through data capture makes it important for regulatory documentation, too. As people move items, information is created. Barcodes make it easy to collect that information. Which solution is best? When you find the right solution to scan barcodes (or QR codes or other IDs) and capture the information contained, you will go beyond the barcode scanning basics to real business information.
Below is a list of key considerations for you when comparing barcode scanners. These can help you make the best decision for your company now and into the future.
Goals for the System
To start comparing scanners, think of how you are you going to use your barcode system. This sets up the rest of the comparison. Are you simply looking to track inventory? Do you want to improve picking quality? Are you looking to collect information so that you can grow your business? Defining the problem is step one in finding the best barcode scanning solution.
Barcode scanning tells you where something is in your system. It can also connect an item to the people who use it and to the documentation they need to do their jobs. New uses for scanning come up all the time. Even if your goals are small right now, they’ll change over time. In addition to your current needs, think about how easy a scanner system can expand and change to fit your growth plans. The best scanning solution for you now should support your future needs.
Basic Features and Functions
We want to help you connect your operations and collect usable data. Of course, you can’t do that if the basics aren’t covered. Scanner systems have different capabilities, so understanding your needs is a great place to start. If you’re looking to upgrade components in your existing workflow, you’ll already have a good idea of what you want. If your starting fresh, take the time to learn the differences in features and functions to define what’s best for you.
Start with the barcode scanning basics. What type of scanner do you need? Laser, linear, or 2D? And what feedback do you want? Optic, acoustic, haptic? In some cases, these features matter to the application. In others, they depend on the users’ preferences.
What type of connectivity do you need? Your choice of scanner may be limited by your management information system. This is especially true if you are working with a legacy platform. In other situations, you may need to consider the security of your application.
When comparing scanners, look at battery life for your use case. Does the solution you’re considering last an entire shift without needing to be charged? Do your users be near charging stations or battery supplies? Will they be in the warehouse, in the field, or working in extreme conditions? Giving your team the right scanner with the right battery life will make a huge difference in their productivity.
Finally, consider the ruggedness you need. How likely is a scanner to be dropped, bumped, or crushed in the course of a typical workday? Not every solution can withstand multiple falls. Look at durability to help determine the best barcode scanning solution for your situation.
Barcode Scanner Styles
There are many styles of scanners. Each brings different functionality and features to the people using them. Ring scanners, handheld scanners, wearable scanners, stationary scanners, and phone scanners are used differently. The choice of style affects comfort, productivity, and workflow. The more frequently a scanner is used, the more ergonomics and ease of use matter. Over a long shift of lifting boxes, even small differences in weight can make a big difference in worker comfort and health.
In some settings, safety is a major consideration. A handheld scanner may be a problem if workers need to climb ladders or scaffolding to do their jobs, as it may increase their risk of falling or the risk of drops on workers below. If the workflow requires dexterity or work with sharp parts, handheld or ring scanners may increase the risk of injuries.
Although scanner types are often associated with specific applications, changing the scanner can change your business. For example, a clothing boutique may switch from stationary scanners at the cash wrap desk to wearable scanners, allowing allow employees to interact with customers on the sales floor. This may increase customer satisfaction (and revenues) while reducing the number of people waiting in line. Industries change, and scanner styles can change, too. The best scanning solution might lead to revolution in the business.
Installation and Training
Scanner technology only works if it works for the people who use it. Introducing scanners or changing your current scanner system will bring change to your organization. Include installation and training in your selection process to ensure that your purchase pays off. It doesn’t matter if your purchase is large or small. Training matters, so consider it when comparing scanners. Scanners that are intuitive to use, that require little training, will be popular with your team.
Some scanner systems are plug and play, offering easy connectivity. Others require more work to integrate into your system. Much depends on what you already have in place. If you are using scanners to change workflow, you may have to do more systems work than if you are upgrading the scanners in your current system.
Will workflow be redesigned? This can payoff big, but only with upfront work. Include it in the selection process. You’ll need to think beyond barcode scanner basics, but it can lead to lasting business improvements. On the other hand, if your workflow is already optimized, a new scanning system could gum up the works. You don’t need that headache.
Workers will need training on the new scanners. Some systems can be picked up and put to work in just a few minutes, especially if the workflow is not changing. Other systems need more time and attention before workers can use their full functionality.
Calculating Cost and ROI
Obviously, the all-in cost of the scanner system is an important factor to find the best barcode scanning solution. The purchase is an expense for the business, but it may also be an investment. To help you in making your decision, take a look at our ROI calculator. It looks at your barcode scanning basics to estimate your ROI. This will show you how our scanners can transform your company.