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The Importance of Barcodes

Since they first rolled out in supermarkets in the 1970s, barcodes and barcode scanners have become essential tools in today’s globalized economy. No longer confined to retail shelves and supplier warehouses, barcodes are used across multiple industries to streamline operations and improve data accuracy. Given their continued importance, it’s helpful for developers to keep the key advantages of barcodes in mind as they build applications that could benefit from them.

Four Key Barcode Benefits

1. Efficiency

Since scanning a barcode automatically enters a large amount of data into a system, they are incredibly valuable for streamlining recordkeeping and improving efficiency. Modern supply chain and inventory management simply would not be possible without the use of barcodes. Rather than manually entering inventory and shipment data for every item into a system, employees can simply scan entire pallets, crates, and even shipping containers to instantly know what contents they contain inside. Given the sheer scale of products moving through a supply chain, barcodes allow companies to automate a key process to save time and money even as they scale operations. Barcode scanners can also streamline onboarding and training since it takes much less time to teach someone to use a scanner than to manually enter data.

2. Error Reduction

Manual data entry is notorious for its high levels of human error. According to research conducted over several decades, even workplaces with the best performance measures in place see human error rates of five to ten failures in every hundred opportunities. That’s a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, whether it takes the form of inverted characters, skipped lines, misreadings, illegible markings, or faulty keystrokes. Even worse, once an error occurs, it will often be reproduced across a system, making it very difficult to locate and remediate the original mistake. According to one estimate, errors resulting in bad data cost businesses more than $600 billion each year. Scanning a barcode, by contrast, completely automates the data entry process and significantly reduces the risks associated with manual errors. Information encoded into a barcode will be reproduced accurately each and every time the image is scanned to ensure consistency across systems.

3. Tracking

Each time a barcode is scanned, it creates another step in a data trail that can be easily referenced to locate items and events. This allows businesses to greatly improve real-time visibility into their operations. From identifying a shipment’s most recent location or determining whether or not a patient picked up their prescription from a pharmacy, barcodes help organizations and customers alike to track down information quickly and accurately. By improving visibility throughout their systems, companies can deliver a better customer experience that builds trust and prioritizes transparency. Since barcodes are easy to create and print, they can be added to almost any type of business process to streamline productivity and track essential activities.

4. Data Collection

Today’s organizations rely heavily upon data analytics to formulate their business strategy and make key decisions. The more data they have available to them, the more nuanced and accurate their analysis will be. Barcodes play a critical role in data collection strategies. Not only are they used to gather information about inventory, supply chain, and sales activity, but the latest generation of QR codes (a common form of 2d barcode) are also being deployed to learn more about customer behavior and preferences. Thanks to real-time QR code tracking, companies can see how many times the barcode is scanned, where it was scanned, and what devices were used to scan it. Gathering more extensive barcode data provides a more detailed picture of what’s actually happening “on the ground” throughout an organization and in the market. By eliminating conjecture and guesswork, businesses can make much more informed decisions that will help them to sustainably scale operations and capitalize on opportunities.

Barcode Use Cases by Industry

Although most commonly associated with retail and logistics, barcode scanners are deployed across many industries to improve efficiency and accuracy. Here are a few of the most common use cases:

  • Education: From student ID cards to tracking school equipment, educational institutions utilize a variety of barcode types and barcode scanners to streamline operations.
  • Government: Federal, state, and local governments use barcode scanning to manage access to secure facilities, catalog physical assets, and organize records. The ability to quickly create barcodes is essential for agencies that need to catalog and track documents and materials.
  • Legal, Insurance, & Finance: Various forms of barcodes can be used to improve document management, making it easier to track and organize contracts, applications, and invoices as well as flag sensitive documents that require additional security precautions.
  • Healthcare: Barcodes have long been used to streamline hospital processes such as admitting patients and accessing patient records with a simple scan rather than a protracted (and error-prone) manual process. They are especially useful for managing medications and ensuring that critical prescription information like strength and dosage remains accurate and consistent.
  • Retail: A classic use case for barcode scanning, retailers use barcodes every day to manage their inventory, track sales, and reduce shrink. Handheld barcode scanners have made it easier than ever for them to process transactions, access product information, and locate products.
  • Supply Chain: Barcode scanning technology has helped to automate key elements of logistics across multiple industries. As companies continue to do business around the world, the ability to easily track shipments and provide information to customs authorities is more crucial than ever before.

Implementing Your Barcode Solution

Despite the clear benefits of barcodes, many applications lack the basic functionality necessary to read barcodes, much less write them. Luckily, integrating those features is easy to do with the help of a code-based SDK barcode toolkit like Accusoft’s Barcode Xpress. With support for more than 30 barcode types and the powerful image processing capabilities that can clean up and repair barcodes that are broken, damaged, or poorly printed, Barcode Xpress can enhance the functionality of barcode scanners or allow Windows and Linux-based systems to locate and read barcodes on documents. Capable of reading up to 1,000 pages per minute, Barcode Xpress can turn your application into a barcode scanning powerhouse. Visit our product overview to learn more about how Barcode Xpress can solve your application’s barcode scanning needs.