March 16, 2012
Barcoding with Maintenance Software
Most of the time, people want to know why they should go through the effort of barcoding each and every Inventory item they have. In some cases, for instance for smaller shops, it may not be worth the effort. However, for larger storerooms, say 1000 parts or more, it can help reduce data maintenance software entry errors and improve performance when issuing or counting parts.
Think about it, a scanner takes less than a second to enter the number for issuing or counting. That’s a lot less time than it takes anyone to search for an item and enter it in by hand.
Regardless, most barcode startup questions revolve around how to make a barcoded label, what should be on the label, where to put the labels, how to print the labels, and so on.
The first thing to do is decide how you are going to print the labels. You can go with a cheaper laser or ink printer, but the label quality will suffer (fading, too dark, too glossy, etc.). I recommend looking into a higher quality thermal transfer printer. There are many out there: Datamax, Intermec, Zebra just to name a few.
Next, purchase some label printing software that supports the type of printer you want to use. This is separate from your maintenance software. There are several different label printing software vendors out there, but there are two main things you want to look for:
- Importing your data to print either through Microsoft Excel or some similar method; and,
- Easy to use label design, preferably WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).
Once you have the labeling software, you can start to design and print your labels. You need to choose a good label size, like 1 by 3 inches, or 2 by 3 inches. You will need to choose a barcode symbology (i.e. type of barcode) for anything you want barcoded. I recommend choosing one of the following, just be sure you are consistent:
- Code 39 – Best for alphanumeric keys (letters and numbers) but no special characters like underscores, hyphens, dashes, etc. This is a fatter, taller symbology but can usually be fit into 1x3 label; or,
- Code 39 Extended – Like Code 39, but supports the special characters. Interleaved 2 of 5 – Numeric only. This is the best choice since it is a small, compact symbology, but the data must be numbers only.
Next, what goes on the label? Well, much of that depends on your personal requirements and how your maintenance software is setup, but I generally recommend the following:
- Part number,
- Short description,
- ASB location; and,
- Minimum quantity/amount to have on hand.