Making a Barcode: What You Need for Your Inventory System

Barcodes are everywhere: in stores, warehouses, hospitals, on mail and packages. One single scan of a barcode can relay an endless amount of information. They help reduce human error, save time, and overall reduce unnecessary losses that inaccurate data end up costing a company.

Choosing to use barcodes for your business is taking a step toward proper inventory management. This data collection system is essential for organizing any business, big or small, and offers a more efficient and cost-effective way to regulate products.

In our previous article, we discussed the basics of a barcode: what it is, how it works, and what types of barcodes there are. Now let’s look at the necessary tools needed to finally create a barcode and figure out how they can help your business become more organized.

Common Mistakes

Stating that there is a lot involved in the barcoding world would be an understatement. From the different types of barcodes, to the types of data they store, to the industries that use them, this small black and white image is quite a big deal and the process to make one can seem overwhelming.

With this volume of information, it’s easy to see how someone new to barcoding could make a few errors. Let’s look at some common mistakes people make when deciding to generate a barcode and see how they can be avoided.

Sizing

Deciding what size your barcode should be is actually a crucial decision to make. If a barcode is printed too small or too large, the scanner will have a difficult time reading the information or, possibly, not be able to read it at all.

In order for a barcode to be properly scanned, the laser must be able to read the spaces on either side of the barcode; this is known as the Quiet Zone. Without this space, the scanner won’t pick up the correct information from the barcode and misread it.

Unique barcode shapes and designs are a fun way to advertise your product and can help with branding. Just make sure the design of your barcode doesn’t interfere with its functionality. If it isn’t able to scan, the barcode will be ineffective.

Unique Barcode Shape

Color

While this may not seem like an important element when designing your barcode, certain colors can hinder its readability and cause errors.

Avoid colors that are too light, such as yellow, or too dark, such as blue or brown, for background and bar colors. Bad color combinations, like light on light or dark on dark colors, are advised against as well. 

While it is relevant to design your barcode accordingly, choosing aesthetics over function can do more harm than good.

Barcode Colors & Combinations to Avoid

Orientation & Placement

Orientation relates to the position of a barcode and how it is being presented on a product, either vertically or horizontally.

The terms used for barcode orientation are “picket fence” and “ladder.”

The “picket fence” orientation refers to the lines being parallel to the movement of the label as it moves through the printer. This results in the barcode mirroring a picket fence image. These barcodes are a higher quality image with straighter edges because of how it is printed. For this reason, they are easier to read and scan.

The “ladder” orientation refers to the lines being perpendicular to the movement of the label as it moves through the printer. This up & down image resembles a ladder and works best on cylindrical products, such as bottles and cans. If a picket fence barcode is used on these specifically shaped products, the scanner cannot accurately follow the curve of the object and therefore is unable to get a proper reading. The vertical position of the barcode allows for an easier solution.

Barcodes should be placed in a precise and evident location to make them easily scan-able. Avoid inconsistent planes and corners when deciding on where you want your barcode to be.

Picket Fence vs. Ladder

Barcode Orientation

What Do You Need to Make a Barcode?

There are several important factors to take into account when choosing the right equipment to make a barcode. Each one will differ depending on the needs of each individual business.

Inventory Software

Equipping your business with the proper inventory software is imperative. These tools offer the benefit of picking items faster and more accurately, and helps your company know what products it has already received, improving supply efficiency and eliminating unnecessary shortages or overstock. It acts as a reference book, tracing items and matching their product number with its inventory classification. 

Picking the right inventory software means asking, “what functionality do I need?” Some inventory software programs are free & some are more expensive, depending on the program and what its features offer. Software programs like Odoo and Skyware Inventory are ideal picks for small and medium-sized businesses looking to inventory their stock. These sites are free to download and offer an unlimited number of products to index. Other companies like Fishbowl offer a free-trial and demo before customers commit to a purchase.

Without an efficient and effective inventory software, trying to accurately make a barcode becomes impractical.

Barcode Generator

In order for a barcode to be operational, it must first be generated or made. Registered barcode numbers can be obtained through systems such as GS1.

GS1 stands for Global Standard 1, an international non-profit organization that provides and registers barcodes worldwide. They help with supply chain standards, ensuring key processes run smoothly and provide real time updates for products. GS1 will appoint companies a specific identification number for barcodes; this number identifies a general or specific product category.

There is a purchase amount and a yearly renewal fee required for registering a barcode with GS1. Once a barcode number has been registered with GS1, it remains the same throughout that product’s shelf-life. Generally speaking, retail businesses and corporations will purchase barcode numbers and while smaller businesses can if they choose to register a barcode number, they are not required to. 

Any online barcode generator can be used to produce a product code. These barcodes will connect to each specific product, allowing for tracking inventory to be a much easier process. There are many free options available for those looking to stay on budget.

Barcode Software

In accordance with picking a good inventory software, deciding which barcode software to use will help these programs balance out the necessary information you are implementing. They tell a computer to print a specific symbology into a specific pattern, resulting in the creation of a unique barcode. If there is a high volume of inventory, the software has to be able to contend with that amount of data. Therefore users will want to pick the barcode software that matches with their business needs.

Some softwares allow a free-trial or demo for users before having them commit to a purchase. There are advantages and disadvantages to each program, therefore each business should analyze and research which software is the best pick for them.

Programs like BarTender and Label Matrix offer multiple templates and designs as well as customizations to create a foolproof database.

What Barcode Hardware Will You Need?

Once the proper softwares have been implemented, you will need to consider which tools you’ll need to produce your barcode and officially put them into operation.

Labels & Label Printers

Labels and label printers can be used for printing barcodes but which to use depends on the products to be labeled and in what environment they are being handled.

Large shipping labels, like a 4×6, use barcodes that are helpful in the transportation of products as they are moved between warehouses or from a distribution center to a customer’s address. These labels can be printed by larger establishments, small businesses, or even entrepreneurs working from home.

Smaller labels needed for objects like vials, tags, and small containers with little surface space can be printed using desktop printers. Customizations can be made with these printers to help suit each barcode’s specifications. 

As previously stated, placement of these labels matters. It is necessary for the barcode to be in a visible location where it can be easily accessed and scanned.

Zebra ZD 620 Labelprinter

1-Inch Core Thermal Labels

Barcode Scanner

A barcode scanner is the final piece of the barcode-making puzzle. This tool will read the barcode and interpret the information that has been set up in the computer through the inventory software. 

1-D (one dimensional) barcodes are read with any laser-based LED scanner. This barcode scanner works by illuminating the barcode with a red light, reflecting off of the black and white pattern. The pattern converts into code, which is then sent to a computer and deciphered. 

There are several types of laser barcode scanners for 1-D barcodes, most of which are affordable for small businesses. 

A barcode wand or pen scanner is a small, inexpensive device that’s lightweight and easy to use. This tool needs to physically touch the barcode in order to read it. Users will have to drag the pen or wand across the barcode so it can get an exact reading. 

Another option is a handheld laser barcode scanner. These are fast-reading and can be scanned at longer distances, unlike the wands and pens. There are wireless options but prices can become expensive depending on certain models. 

If you are planning to use 2-D (two-dimensional) barcodes, a laser-based scanner will be inadequate in reading all of the information stored. Instead, you will need to purchase an image-based scanner, which are much more expensive than their laser scanner counterparts.

Laser-Based Scanner

for 1-D Barcodes

In Conclusion

Barcodes can be a great addition to any business. They offer easy solutions to management and inventory tracking, and help regulate the intricacies of any company.

While it looks intimidating, having the right tools can make implementing a barcode system a smooth and easy process.