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The Maintenance Management Blog

December 02, 2014

Why You Need to Know About Barcode Readers

Why You Need to Know About Barcode Readers

With so many types of barcode readers on the market today, it can be difficult to choose which is best for your business and inventory control system. Should you go with laser barcode readers or image-based ones? In this short blog post, we will examine the difference between these two major types in an effort to clear up some of the mystery.

Barcode readers are a pivotal piece of technology for anyone in need of data collection, inventory control, and asset management. While some may argue that traditional laser barcode scanners are a thing of the past (or soon will be), they do have their place and are still widely used throughout various industries. Then again, you can still find old-school cash registers in some convenience stores too.

Before we can determine which of these technologies is more suited to your needs, let's look at how each function and the type of environment they are usually found in.

Laser Scanners

Nearly everyone in modern society is familiar with laser scanners. You see them at the check out stand at grocery stores and other storefronts. They can also be found in warehouses and just about anywhere you need to track inventory or assets, including airports, hospitals, and so forth.

With the advent of laser technology on a consumer level, laser scanners, which were invented during the 1970s, has had plenty of time to evolve and become more accurate. This "evolution" has also led to lower pricing, and, as such, laser scanners tend to be a cheap alternative for inventory control specialists and proprietors alike. They excel at long distance decoding and 1D scanning/decoding, are motion tolerant (you can use them even with shaky hands or in a bumpy environment), and even serve in practical applications like self-checkout kiosks in stores.

Image-based Scanners

The alternative to laser scanners (at least one of them--let's not forget the much-vaunted RFID scanners), is the image-based or digital imager scanner. The majority of consumers who come into contact with this type of scanner will see them used for ordering or tracking inventory or in a shipping capacity (think UPS or FedEx). From an industry perspective, they are suited to tracking, logistics, shipping, inventory, and even transportation purposes.

Image-based scanners read both 1D and 2D barcodes, giving them a great advantage when it comes to data collection, as 2D barcodes hold more information than 1D barcodes. They also are a little easier to use, as they simply capture the image and translate it, versus having to "scan" in the traditional sense. Another great feature of this type of barcode scanner is the fact that it can transfer, as well as receive, images, making it ideal for situations where you would need to capture an image or to scan a verification signature.

Which Scanner is Best

Which barcode scanner you choose is largely dependent upon your own personal tastes and requirements. If you need to capture more layers of data, an image-based scanner is probably more appropriate. If you run a mom-and-pop grocery store, you may opt for the cheaper, traditional laser scanner. Sometimes, you may find yourself benefiting from the use of both technologies. At the end of the day, both of the major barcode scanner technologies serve their own purpose and are great at what they were designed for: capturing data and allowing you to have more mastery over your inventory and information!


Lisa Richards

About the Author – Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards is an experienced professional in the field of industrial management and is an avid blogger about maintenance management systems and productivity innovation. Richards' undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering opened the door for her initial career path with a Midwest-based agricultural implement manufacturer with global market reach. Over a span of 10 years, Lisa worked her way through various staff leadership positions in the manufacturing process until reaching the operations manager level at a construction and forestry equipment facility. Lisa excelled at increasing productivity while maintaining or lowering operating budgets for her plant sites.

An Illinois native, Lisa recently returned to her suburban Chicago North Shore hometown to raise her family. Lisa has chosen to be active in her community and schools while her two young girls begin their own journey through life. Richards has now joined the MAPCON team as an educational outreach writer in support of their efforts to inform maintenance management specialists about the advantages in marrying advanced maintenance software with cutting-edge facility and industrial management strategies.

Filed under: barcode reader, barcode technology, barcoding — Lisa Richards on December 02, 2014