Barcode Scanners and Systems – How Do They Work
Are you a business with a lot of inventory? What about a little inventory? Are you just getting started with barcodes?
Then, here’s what you need to know about these systems.
You’re probably familiar with linear barcodes. They first appeared in 1974 on a pack of Wrigley chewing gum, and businesses have used them ever since. The information they contain is somewhat limited, but it helps businesses track inventory and sales, along with other important information like how successful ad campaigns may be.
For example, a company can use a barcode as a unique identifier for a product. All sales for this product are tracked and different bar codes can be used for different areas of the country, allowing companies to know where their product is most popular.
Sales and promotions can be tied to barcodes too, so companies can track the effectiveness of a promotion automatically.
A linear barcode is made up of a 12 digit UPC number. The first 6 numbers represent the manufacturer’s ID number. The next 5 are the item’s number. The last number is the check digit and is used to allow the canner to determine whether or not the item was scanned correctly. It’s sort of an automated audit of the scanning system.
A linear code can hold any type of text information, but it’s limited to text only.
2D Barcodes and QR
A 2D barcode is comprised of a complex non-linear structure. 2D barcodes can include information like the price, quantity, web address of a company or even an image. You’ve probably seen these referred to as “QR” codes.
This type of inventory management software works with both 2D and linear codes, but not all systems do, so make sure you check with your manufacturer and software developer’s specs before implementing them.
A linear barcode scanner cannot read a 2D code. For that, the use of an image scanner is necessary.
A scanner, whether linear or image, consists of three different parts. First, there’s the illumination system. This system is basically a red laser light that illuminates the bar code. The sensor detects the reflected light from the lighting system and generates an analog signal that is sent to the decoder – the third part of the scanner system.
The decoder, as the name suggests, decodes the barcode and reads it. It interprets the signal, validates the barcode, and converts it to text, and image, or whatever is embedded in the barcode.
A software application can then handle the text, image, or other data.
Scanners come in a variety of types, including a pen-type reader, a laser scanner, a camera-based reader, a CCD reader, and an omni-directional barcode scanner.
Camera-based scanners are obviously necessary for complex QR codes that cannot be read by linear scanners, but linear barcodes can be read by a simple and inexpensive laser scanner. This is probably the most common type of scanner in use at major grocery stores, production facilities, and hospitals.
Max Gardiner is an assistant stockroom supervisor. He loves writing about his experiences on the web. You can look for his articles on a number of business and management websites.