How to Barcode Your Warehouse: A How-To Guide
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Significant challenges for manufacturers—including supply chain disruption, staffing shortages, and rising prices for raw materials—have been rapidly growing over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has kicked them into overdrive. What’s more, changes in consumer behavior such as an increase in-ecommerce sales have heavily affected warehouses everywhere. Now, more than ever, it is vital to improve efficiency, increase accuracy, and gain visibility in your warehouse. So, how can your warehouse remain competitive in this ever-changing business environment?
To be competitive, many organizations are modernizing their warehouses through barcode scanning. In the webinar, “How to improve efficiency by modernizing your warehouse”—hosted by SYSPRO Canada and presented by riteSOFT—attendees were presented with a poll question and the results were surprising. Forty seven percent of attendees answered, “less than 10%” when asked, “What percentage of your inventory is barcoded?” If this is similar to your warehouse, there is no need to worry because we have created a step-by-step guide on how to implement barcodes in your warehouse.
What Are The Steps?
Why Are Barcodes Important in Your Warehouse?
While there are many reasons organizations barcode their warehouses, one of the most important is that it improves inventory accuracy. Manual data entry often results in incorrect inventory information which causes frustration on the part of customers and employees alike. On average, humans make one error for every 300 characters. This leads to inaccurate inventory levels, unnecessary reorders, and potential stockouts.
Standardized Workflows for Validation and Label Printing
Data validation begins with the use of barcodes and label printing automation throughout warehouse operations. Barcodes help validate stock codes, location, lot numbers, serial numbers, and much more. This improves operator performance and picking accuracy. Barcoding your warehouse and using warehouse software like riteSCAN allows transactions to be validated right at the point where the physical movement or the picking process occurs. This means that if you scan a stock code that is not on the order, the system will prevent you from picking that item.
Increased Time and Visibility
When you manually receive or pick items, the lack of real-time information can add up to a lot of wasted time. You can’t see what’s truly available or happening in the warehouse.
How Do You Get Started?
Step 1: Assess the Needs of Your Organization
First, it is important to take a step back and assess the needs and challenges within your organization. This assessment not only includes your warehouse processes and goals but also the needs of your operations and and production departments. Each of these departments will play different roles within this project, so it is vital that everyone is on the same page. Does your organization want to…
- Improve inventory accuracy? Prevent mispicks?
- Find inventory quicker?
- Reduce training time for new hires?
- Ensure the right raw materials are issued?
- Use automation to enforce standard operating procedures?
Step 2: Determine a Labeling Plan
Next, come up with an organized plan to implement barcode labels in your warehouse. When choosing what to barcode in your warehouse, this does not necessarily mean you have to drive all your processes from a completely paperless workflow. Instead of doing it all at once, start with baby steps. To begin, move away from using paper to record the physical transactions that get entered later into the ERP. Instead, have your warehouse operators use a mobile device to record warehouse transactions, at the point they happen, with simple barcode scans. Then, inventory will be updated in the ERP system as the transactions occur.
Start the process by using barcodes on your physical locations, key products, and documents. Consider the following:
- Physical Locations (e.g., racking and bins)
- Key Products (eg., highest volume)
- Pick Slips
- Purchase Orders
- Work Travelers
When creating a plan, be sure to get feedback from your team members. After all, they are on the warehouse floor daily and understand the current processes best. Review your current procedures together to identify which steps would be best to replace with barcodes first. It is vital that everyone provides input and buys into new processes during this project.
Step 3: Define Your Label Data and Format
At this point, you should define the data required for your labels. What information do you need to collect or display internally or externally as products are shipped to customers? For example, your labels could include the following:
- Stock Code
- Stock Code Description
- Lot Number
- Expiry Date
It is also important to choose the type of barcode and format that are best for your organization based on what type and amount of data you need to encode. What type or size label are you planning to use? Which pieces of data need to be barcoded versus just displayed? Are you planning on using 1D barcodes or 2D barcodes (e.g., QR codes)? In a 1D barcode, there is a barcode for stock code and a separate barcode for Lot Number. In this situation, an operator would have to scan both barcodes to perform a transaction. Common examples of 1D barcodes include Code 39 and Code 128.
A 2D barcode can contain multiple pieces of information in one barcode for the operator to scan. For example, it could include the stock code, lot number, and quantity. Since a 2D barcode can store more amounts of information in a smaller amount of space, this simplifies and expedites the scanning process. Common examples of 2D barcodes are Data Matrix and QR Codes.
Step 4: Create Your Labels with a Label Design Platform
Now that you have defined your label format, it is time to create your barcodes. There are several ways to make labels.
Online Barcode Generator
Barcode generators are generally simple to use, as you only have to add your product code and select your barcode type. Since barcode generator software can be expensive, some organizations prefer using a free online barcode generator. Barcodes Inc provides a free barcode creator that generates both printable and scannable barcodes.
Barcode Label Software
With greater efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility in the label design and printing process, barcode label software may be the best option for you depending on the size and budget of your organization. Purchasing a barcode label software has various benefits.
- Reduced label errors
- Standardized label formats
- Ability to adapt to data changes
- Scalable when your organization grows
Once you have created labels, be sure to consider the material and attachment method before printing those labels. Think about the environment of your facility. Are your products exposed to moisture or extreme temperatures? Do your products undergo frequent cleaning? Are your products located outdoors? If so, you may want to use waterproof or aluminum labels to ensure added durability.
Step 5: Automate the Use of Your Barcodes
After you have established labels in your warehouse, you will want to simplify the scanning process with an automated software solution that transfers your barcoded transactions into your business system such as riteSCAN Mobile Warehouse for SYSPRO. A warehouse management software solution allows you to have access and visibility to real-time information. Moreover, it reduces paperwork floating around the warehouse waiting to be entered into the ERP system later. All these improvements help streamline your warehouse operations and, ultimately, improve inventory accuracy.
When you migrate from a paper-based process to a mobile-warehouse solution with the goal of going paperless, there are several benefits.
- You gain a 90% increase in visibility with access to real-time information from a single source of truth.
- You achieve greater inventory accuracy, which avoids those truly troubling inventory discrepancies.
- You gain improved workflows, which creates more efficient transactions.
At this time, it is beneficial to determine which hardware you will use based on your barcode scanning needs. Some factors to consider are the wireless connection capabilities, battery life, scanning distance, and durability. The latest scanners are more powerful, lightweight, and scan more accurately and efficiently at longer distances, such as the Zebra MC3300, MC9300, TC52, and TC8000—all of which are available from companies like Barcodes Inc and AbeTech.
Step 6: Set Up a Label Process
Finally, it is essential to develop a standard process of how and when to label your inventory. Ask yourself how you will label items when they are received and how you will label existing inventory within your warehouse. Do you want to approach it from a batch perspective or relabel all your inventory at once? One way some of our customers have relabeled their inventory was during a stock take. That way they only had to relabel their inventory items once.
Remember to review your process regularly to check gaps in your processes and identify problems on the warehouse floor. Make sure that your standard process includes how to keep products labeled accurately and consistently such as how and when to relabel products or reprint damaged labels. Also don’t forget to label your locations and bins!
If you plan ahead and communicate effectively to your team, you will be able to successfully implement barcodes in your warehouse. One of the most important elements of businesses today is having access and visibility to real-time information. Barcode labeling your warehouse and moving to an automated solution helps provide more accurate real-time inventory information, which can lead to a significant return on investment. Want to learn more about barcoding and automating your warehouse? Contact us today!