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Guide to Mobile Barcode
Inventory Scanning Systems

Learn all about barcode systems for inventory and how they can help make your business more successful.

An introduction to barcode inventory systems

If you work within the warehousing, retail or 3PL industry, you’ll know how important it is to keep track of your inventory. While it is possible to keep track and manage your inventory by hand or with spreadsheets, this can be cumbersome, time-consuming and prone to human error. 

A barcode inventory system allows businesses to track inventory faster and easier. This approach would involve each product having a unique barcode that can be scanned using a handheld mobile barcode scanner, which synchronises with your barcode scanning software in real-time.

To help give you a complete understanding of everything you need to know, this guide will cover:

What are barcodes?

A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data, which may include text. A barcode is not only used for tracking goods in the supply chain but also for linking that item to all kinds of information relating to it. Barcodes are widely used in the retail industry to keep track of inventory.

They allow retailers to manage their warehouse operations with less time and effort needed in comparison to manual management. The scanner reads the barcode on the item in question and compares it to a database to determine if it is in stock. If so, the system will tell you how many are available. If it is not in stock, the system will inform you when it will become available, making managing back orders a lot easier.

There are two types of barcodes:

1D barcodes

1D barcodes are the most common type of barcode and are typically found on consumer goods. 1D barcodes consist of a unique pattern of vertical black lines on a white background and usually a UPC (universal product code). The space between the vertical black lines allows the barcode scanner to identify the information for that specific product.

1D barcodes are vital for businesses with a large number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) to keep track of inventory accurately. By using 1D barcodes, businesses can scan products quickly and accurately, which helps to improve overall efficiency.

2D barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes use patterns of dots, squares, and other shapes to encode data. 2D barcodes can store more information than 1D barcodes, such as websites, images, and voice recordings.

One of the most common examples of 2D barcodes is a QR code that can be read by a smartphone and take users to a specific website. QR codes are becoming increasingly popular as a way to store information, since they can hold so much more data than a traditional 1D barcode.

What is the difference between SKU and UPC?

Most 1D barcodes contain both a UPC and SKU code. Despite often being used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two. 

A UPC (Universal Product Code) is a 12-digit number that is assigned to every consumer product in order to identify it. The UPC is issued by the Global Standards Organization and consists of two parts: the 12-digit number and a machine-readable barcode. The UPC is used to identify the manufacturer and the item, and remains the same no matter which retailer is selling it.

On the other hand, an SKU code is an 8-12 digit alphanumeric sequence unique to the individual retailer who sells the product. Companies create their own SKU codes to provide information about varying aspects of a product such as price, size, or colour.

How do barcode scanners work?

A barcode reader, or scanner, is an electronic device that scans the barcode, decodes it and captures the information that it contains. In general, the reader consists of: 

  • A lightsource that illuminates the barcode to allow it to be read
  • A lens that reads the code
  • A photo conductor that turns the optical information into electrical signals
  • A decoder that interprets these signals and sends the information from the reader's output to the company’s inventory software.

The decoder is the crucial part that transmits the data to a computer in a format that can be easily understood. An effective barcode inventory system should include software that can input the data in inventory records for managing assets, monitoring point-of-sale transactions, and tracking inventory.

What is barcode scanning software?

Mobile barcode scanning software is a type of software that helps businesses keep track of their inventory by scanning barcodes. Barcode scanning software can be used to track inventory in real-time, which can help businesses keep track of their stock levels and avoid over-ordering or under-ordering products.

How does a barcode inventory system work?

A barcode scanning system is a highly effective method of item stock control and is found in all the most modern warehouses. It is a technology that enables retailers and distributors to access information about the stock levels and product availability at their location - as well as across their network. It is the means by which the software gets its updates on item’s status.

Remote access to data

This information can be accessed remotely via the dashboard in-app, providing an overview of the current inventory and real-time updates. Mobile barcode inventory systems are part of a new wave in inventory control software that aims to provide more accurate stock data with fewer errors, thereby enabling retailers to operate more efficiently.

Eliminates the need for manual data entry

A mobile barcode scanning app can help you scan items that are in your inventory, thereby eliminating the need to manually key everything into a software system or spreadsheet. You can then use this data to generate reports on your business's inventory levels, stock levels, and other information necessary for effective inventory management.

Real-time stock updates

Cloud backend ensures that everyone in the company has access to the real-time inventory stock in all locations. Mintsoft has a mobile barcode scanning app that lets you scan all your barcodes, manage your inventory and business with ease.

What are the benefits of a barcode inventory system?

A barcode inventory system for warehouses is designed to make stock checks, inventory putaway and picking as accurate and efficient as possible. It links effortlessly with your warehouse management system to create a seamless end-to-end experience for you and your customers.

1. Reduces errors

A barcode inventory system significantly reduces the chance of human error when tracking inventory items. It removes the need for manual stock management which is time consuming and allows for mistakes. Another benefit is that a full audit trail of each item is created and stored too.

2. Versatility

Barcodes are incredibly versatile and allow you to track and organise a variety of product information such as price and stock level within seconds.

3. Real-time data

Barcode scanning systems for inventory management provide you with real-time data with one scan, allowing you to be dynamic and quick in your decision making, staying ahead of the sales cycle.

4. Faster and cheaper employee training

Barcode inventory management systems are quick and easy to introduce to new and existing employees. Employee training becomes faster and cheaper, with employees having to familiarise themselves with the barcode scanning technology instead of a complicated manual inventory management system.

Choosing a mobile barcode inventory system

As your business grows, keeping track of all of your inventory and eliminating human error becomes increasingly challenging. With a mobile barcode scanning inventory system, you have the advantage of being able to manage your inventory and make quick, informed decisions with a simple scan. 

Mintsoft’s mobile barcode scanning software makes tracking hundreds of products easy, for your inventory management system and for your staff. Our barcode scanner system allows businesses to improve stock checks, inventory putaway and picking accuracy from day one. What’s more, our software has over 150 integration options, working seamlessly with your existing software and processes. 

Mintsoft is a cloud-based order management software that has been designed from the ground up in order to help you streamline your order processing for those in online retail and 3PL. It’s a great solution to integrate all your orders from various online shopping platforms and multiple sales channels, allowing you to manage the full dispatch process from picking, packing and shipping. 

Book a 1-1 demo and we will show you why we think our order management system is the best! If you’re still unsure, read our FAQs below to find out more.

Frequently asked questions

How do barcode scanners scan?

In simple terms, barcode scanners use laser beams to read barcodes. The scanner emits a laser beam that is reflected off the barcode and captured by a sensor, which it then converts the light into electrical signals. These signals are then decoded by the scanner to reveal the information stored in the barcode.

What information does a barcode hold?

A barcode usually holds information such as a product’s name, manufacturer and price, which is typically used to track inventory or products. Barcodes are often used in conjunction with software, scanners and other tracking devices to automate the tracking of items.

How does a barcode scanning system work?

A barcode scanning system works with a barcode scanner by allowing the scanner to read the barcodes and then instantly transmitting the data to the software. The software will process the data and display it in a user-friendly format, allowing the user to easily manage inventory and check the product’s information.

What’re the benefits of mobile barcode scanners?

Barcode scanners dramatically reduce the time needed to input and search for barcodes in an inventory management system. However mobile barcode scanners further reduce this. Your business will no longer need bulky, expensive equipment as you can use mobiles instead. This ensures complete compatibility with new softwares, eliminates technology repair costs and the ability to back up critical data securely. 

Is it difficult to set up a barcode inventory system?

No, not at all! If you have a growing inventory list, implementing barcodes and an inventory management system sooner rather than later will help you prepare to scale in the future. However, if you already have existing barcodes, our barcode inventory software can simply be integrated in your warehouse within 2 to 4 weeks, and you’ll get Mintsoft’s expert help along the way.