As businesses grow, inventory management can quickly become complicated — especially if that business relies on traditional inventory and asset tracking methods. Incorrect information on unit counts, asset information or product location can all create major issues in the supply chain or cause downtime as workers look for assets that aren’t there.
There is a wide range of technology that can support inventory and asset management systems in industries like warehousing, manufacturing and retail. Barcoding is one of the simplest tools to implement. With barcodes, businesses can uniquely label items and assets as needed, enabling quick inventory and asset tracking across a site or through the supply chain.
While more advanced solutions are available, they are sometimes too complex or unwieldy. They often also won’t provide the same combination of simplicity, error reduction and ease-of-use that makes barcodes — especially newer variants like 2D barcodes — one of the best options for inventory and asset tracking.
These five benefits show how a wide range of businesses can use barcodes to streamline their operations, cutting down on mistakes and speeding up record-keeping processes.
1. Fewer Errors
A reduction in errors is likely the biggest benefit of switching to barcodes. Digital inventory tracking systems, like those that use barcodes, are one of the best ways to cut down on inventory count errors. Because the technology is so simple, it’s easy for employees to use, apply and scan barcodes correctly.
Because you only need a camera or infrared light source to scan barcodes, simple mobile devices and phone apps are all a business needs to enable workers to use the tech.
Over time, this simplicity can help you reduce errors in inventory and asset counts.
2. Real-Time Asset Tracking
If a unit is scanned every time it enters or leaves a facility, you can easily use barcode systems for close-to-real-time asset tracking. This may involve logging information like the facility the item is in, or even the aisle or location within a warehouse or truck.
Asset tracking with barcodes or related tech, like RFID tags, is used in a range of industries to track assets and deter thieves, preventing loss and reducing errors.
3. Accelerated Record-Keeping
With barcodes, it’s possible to automatically or quickly update records without needing to enter data by hand.
There’s a wide range of benefits to having that data available sooner. You can provide updates to clients faster, offer more accurate tracking and shipping updates for customers, and may even be able to notice when stocks of a particular item start to run low earlier than you would with physical records.
If you maintain an online storefront, you may even be able to provide customers with near-real-time updates on product availability. If you flag items as “low stock” when there are only a few units left in the warehouse, you can help customers avoid disappointment.
4. Quick Updates on Item or Product Info
If you need to quickly change some information on a given item — like its price or location — paper labels or records can make updating information difficult. Barcodes and digital record systems make it easier for businesses to update that info and make it available to employees who need it.
While barcodes are best known for their use in retail, a wide range of other businesses also take advantage of the tech. For example, logistics workers on-site or in the field can use barcodes to update information on a given piece of equipment.
Barcode equipment tracking systems allow businesses to keep better track of tools and equipment, reducing the chance that they are lost or stolen. These systems can also help site supervisors keep on top of maintenance. By tagging each item, you can create an easily updated log that includes data on when a particular item had its last maintenance checkup or repair.
5. Improved Demand and Sales Forecasting
Digitized information on inventory can make it extremely easy to collect and organize data you need for advanced demand and sales forecasting. With enough information, you can even take advantage of advanced forecasting technology powered by big data analytics and AI.
With improved demand forecasting, businesses can have a better sense of when demand will spike and how to prepare for fluctuations in sales throughout the year. Both overstocking and understocking can be very costly. Extra items take up valuable warehouse space and limited inventory costs potential sales. Better forecasting can help bring the total amount of stocked inventory as close to the amount needed as possible, reducing unnecessary spending.
Using Barcodes to Optimize Business Processes
The more complex a business’s inventory or asset collection becomes, the more difficult it is to maintain high-quality and useful records with traditional methods. Barcodes are one of the simplest ways to streamline business records, making it easy for employees to keep track of items and update information about them as needed.
The more accurate and comprehensive data these barcodes provide, the greater the range of benefits — including better forecasts, improved asset tracking and more effective client communication.
Lexie is a UX content strategist and web designer. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee (with a dash of milk) and walking her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.