You're interested in a barcode tracking system, but you want to know what equipment you are likely to need. As a starting point most businesses I work with use the following:
- Barcode scanner/mobile scanning computer - model dependent on your system and requirements
- Stock Control / Inventory Control /Barcode tracking software
- Barcode label software package (dependant on your requirements)
- Barcode label printer
The number of barcode scanners you require, obviously depends on your business setup and staff. If you work a shift pattern then you may decide to share scanners between shifts(cutting your initial outlay).
If you would like to know more about the type of scanner available please look at my Scanning Barcodes article.
There are a range of label printers available and the model you purchase, again will reflect your requirements eg. volume, size of label, label media. I tend to recommend Zebra label printers to my clients, as they are compatible with the barcode tracking software I work with and I have found them to be a rugged, reliable piece of kit.
Is Specialist Equipment Needed?
The simple answer is, to print certain barcodes you do not need anything particularly special, as effectively a barcode is just another font! Therefore, for some barcodes, a simple true type font of the symbology is all you need, (check out my barcode boutique for one of these).
However, for the more complex barcode symbologies, there is a need to calculate the code. This is based upon the characters being barcoded. A check digit is added to the end of the barcode and used by the barcode readers to ensure that the barcode is decoded correctly, this is why barcode readers never get it wrong !! In these situations, Word and true type fonts are not the most suitable format for producing barcodes and a specialized printing application or dedicated printer is required.
So, why are there so many “Barcode Printers out there” I hear you shout. Well, just look at how many barcode printers Zebra sell every year! Let me tell you one of Betty’s little secrets and what many a Barcode Salesman will not tell you. The reason that these Zebra printers are so good is that actually they are fantastic label printers with special label stock that, also can print barcodes onto the labels.
So, what printer do you want?
If you want to produce barcodes for products (and the barcodes do not form part of the packaging print design) then, you want a label printer that can print barcodes.
As for which make, well, Zebra lead the market in Barcode label printers and, yes, you guessed it, these are available from within my boutique!
Where can I get this equipment?
There seem to be 2 main ways of purchasing equipment;
1. As a complete kit - if you are purchasing the barcode tracking software or an Inventory Manager solution often your supplier will recommend associated hardware for their barcode software and you may take out a support package that covers the use of the software and faults/repairs to the hardware. Although I would point out that if your warehouse man runs over his barcode scanner with a forklift truck and breaks it the cost of repairs/purchase of replacement handheld may not be covered!
2. Hardware (scanners/printers/cables) from a hardware specialist and software separately. There are many barcode hardware suppliers listed on the internet, have a google for barcode scanners and then take your pick. I've noticed that the price of the most common barcode scanners tends to be very similar as is a highly competitive market. Just remember that if you have purchased the software and hardware separately you may not get (or it could cost you extra) the support you need need to configure the barcode software onto the handheld and get it working as you require.