Barcode inventory systems are getting a lot of attention. Operational agility and efficiency are crucial ingredients for success, and businesses across industries are currently focusing on sharpening processes and weeding out systems that no longer serve them. Inventory management is at the heart of this exercise.
Mobile barcoding systems are an alternative to traditional manual processes and can be an extremely effective way to streamline inventory-related activities, gain accuracy and reduce costs. But is a barcode inventory management system the right technology for you?
Pain Points Solved by a Mobile Barcode Inventory System
Some of the common inventory challenges businesses seek to solve with a mobile barcoding system and data collection may sound familiar as you examine your own operations:
- Inconsistent Data – When the information within your ERP system, such as NetSuite and Oracle Cloud SCM, doesn’t match what’s actually happening in the warehouse, it’s a cause for concern. Inventory data discrepancies impact fulfilment, purchasing and customer satisfaction, so it should be a top priority for any business.
- Manual Processes – Human error is often the root cause of errors inside a warehouse. This will be obvious if your team still relies on pen, paper and manual data entry to manage the movement of stock.
- Insufficient Productivity – Companies struggle to get the best value out of their staff when they aren’t equipped with the necessary tools to carry out their tasks efficiently. Lack of data and error-prone processes make picking, putting away and managing inventory difficult.
Mobile barcode inventory systems can move the needle in these areas, but products and vendors are not homogenous. It’s important to ensure the technology you select fully meets your requirements. When evaluating potential barcoding systems, be mindful of factors such as:
- Cost (including users)
- Support services
- The implementation process
- Reference customers that are similar to your business
Optimizing Your Warehouse With a Barcoding System
Here are some ways in which a barcode inventory system could transform your operations:
Increasing Accuracy and Visibility
The premise of a barcode inventory system is to label all of your inventory and storage locations so that you can leverage handheld scanning devices to transact data into your ERP. As items move through your warehouse or store, a worker would use a mobile barcode scanner to validate and record activities like receiving, counting and picking.
- Eliminate Manual Data Entry – If you were previously recording your data on paper and manually entering that information into a computer terminal, this added step becomes obsolete. Once a barcode is scanned, the information is transferred to your ERP in real-time, increasing efficiency and vastly diminishing opportunities for human error.
- Introduce Cycle Counting – Businesses traditionally take multiple manual physical counts per year, which are labor intensive and prone to inaccuracies. With a mobile barcode scanning system, you can leverage a cycle counting program – a method of intermittently counting stock by a set criteria using mobile devices. This is a great way to stay on top of high-volume or fast-moving items and boost inventory accuracy. You can even replace your physical counts entirely, meaning there is less disruption and more productivity.
- Reduced Inventory Carrying Costs – Businesses that don’t have an accurate count of their physical inventory are more likely to carry higher volumes of safety stock. Real-time data achieved through mobile scanning will mitigate this, making you more agile and responsive to demand changes.
Automating Manual Processes
A barcode scanning system is a catalyst for efficiency because it lets you streamline the process flows within your warehouse. Once your inventory and locations are labelled with barcodes, you can leverage handheld scanners to automate activities like:
- Purchase Order Receiving
- Bin transfers
Mobile barcode scanners direct users from start to finish, ensuring the right items and locations are engaged without mistakes. Above 99% accuracy can be achieved for order picking and fulfilment, which presents a significant ROI for businesses that still utilize manual processes.
Read the ROI on RF Data Collection whitepaper
Greater Worker Productivity in the Warehouse
A mobile barcode inventory system eliminates manual data entry for things like receipts, transfers, picks and adjustments. As less labor resources are required, companies can reduce costs by operating with fewer staff and still have a greater output.
Data from the Wireless LAN Alliance suggests that ADC increases productivity by 15% or more – and further investment into technologies such as voice and hands-free devices can boost that figure to 30%. This alone is a significant saving for any business; when compounded with the other advantages of automation, it’s hard not to evaluate your options.
Selecting a Mobile Barcoding System
Barcode systems are not all one and the same, therefore it’s critical to conduct a thorough evaluation before making an investment. Here are some of the factors you should pay attention to when comparing solutions:
- Integration – Gain a clear understanding of how each of the barcode systems you are evaluating will integrate and interact with your ERP. If you are using NetSuite, identify the BFN status of the product. Native solutions like RF-SMART reside directly on the NetSuite platform, providing real-time, accurate data. Expect lesser integrated products to come with the associated drawbacks.
- Scalability – Can the vendor adequately support your business’s growth? Identify the barcoding system functionality you need now and down the line, and find out how costly or challenging it will be to have your future requirements met.
- Support & Implementation – The professional services a vendor can offer are often just as important as the core product. During your evaluation, ask questions like:
- What support services are available in the event of an error?
- What is the implementation timeline and process?
- Will I have a direct point of contact in your organization to support me?
- Hardware – Barcode inventory systems are heavily reliant on the hardware they operate on – this includes the scanners, printers and labels that will be part of your day-to-day processes. Choosing a vendor with a dedicated hardware team is advantageous because you won’t have to select, procure or maintain these vital components on your own.
While it seems evident that replacing your manual warehouse processes with a barcoding system can lead to significant business-wide benefits, it's also apparent that there are many variables to think through before launching a project.
To help you initiate this process, we've created a free WMS Value Analysis Tool. This editable worksheet enables you to build an accurate picture of your current and future requirements, engage the right stakeholders and assess the key differentiators between potential solutions.