Help me use my barcode scanner please
August 27, 2012 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Hi - I would really like some advice on how I can improve my shop's ordering/stock level management. I'd like to go for a technological solution.

At the moment everything is visual. If stock is running low on the peg, an order is placed for more stock. If the stock on the peg is all bought before someone notices the stock was running low there's every chance we'll never know what was on the peg!

Obviously the simple solution to this is to put a backing card on each peg with the stock code, description and supplier.

But I'd like to do better than that and print barcodes and descriptions from the computer onto self adhesive labels and stick the labels onto the backing cards.

I have a Palm Symbol SPT 1550 and my ideal is to be able to do stock takes and re-ordering using the scanner.

Could anyone advise on some good methodologies/workflows and perhaps above all software to achieve this?

At the moment I'm even struggling with printing barcodes which will scan. I've got a barcode font for Word but barcodes printed from Word won't scan. So you can see where I'm at...

Many, many thanks
posted by dance to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of different barcode standards. In the past, I have worked with scanners that could only support a limited number of standards at the same time, so for example when we wanted to scan EAN128 labels we had to reprogram the scanners (which was pretty easy btw).

I have no experience making barcode labels in Word. A colleague of mine tried this in the past but he never got good results. Personally, I never tried. These days we use Nice Label. I really *love* that program, we use the enterprise suite and it acts as middleware between our (home-built) WMS, and our label printers. But there is a simpler version for only designing labels and you can easily make an interface to Excel or other data sources so you can quickly make batches of labels.

However, the barcode labels are in my opinion just a (small) technical hurdle, the main question is how you want to register your stock levels etc. It is nice if you can scan a label, but you really should think of a scanner as a glorified keyboard that you use to enter a serie of characters. You could enter the numbers manually and still have the same result. It is just a tool to (semi-)automatically capture goods movements. This information is used by your warehouse management system to track goods, and the aggregate information is used by your enterprise/accounting system for a lot of other business decisions (like: do we have to re-order?, when do we need to ship out goods?, can we deliver this new order at the requested delivery date, etc.)

But maybe I am overcomplicating matters. A lot of the required system/methodology/workflow depends on your business and your requirements. Maybe you can give a little bit of background about your operation?
posted by IAr at 12:57 PM on August 27, 2012

Word may or may not be the limiting factor in printing barcodes that scan. You may have to upgrade to a higher quality printer to make that work - any noise generated in the UPC will prevent a scanner from registering it!

The real gold standard is for your ordering program to be tied in to movement data from your POS and for new wares to be received in such a way that the system recognizes new stock when it arrives, working towards perpetual inventory. If it is at all possible for you to invest in the tech to make that happen now, you should consider the option!
posted by kitarra at 2:29 PM on August 27, 2012

Get some software to do the whole thing for you. For your small library e.g. Delicous Monster does that. There might something similar which also handles stock.

Also look into iPhones as scanners and stock keeping apps respectively. The camera + QR codes are pretty fast, too.
posted by oxit at 2:55 PM on August 27, 2012

You need to implement and use a proper POS system.

You previously asked a question about POS systems. Had I seen that question back then, I would've suggested Microsoft Dynamics. I have worked with it and it seems ideal for a small business such as yours, i.e. a couple of sales registers and a back office server.
posted by wutangclan at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2012

I've got a barcode font for Word but barcodes printed from Word won't scan.

You do know that if you're using a Code 3 of 9 barcode font you have to bookend the string in asterisks, right? E.g. if the barcode is for 1234567, you should have in Word these characters: *1234567*. These are control characters which tell the scanner the start and end of the barcode.

Because of this you might find it easier to create your labels in Excel (using the same font) since this will let you add them e.g. keep column A as a normal font, make column B your barcode font and place something like "="*" & A1 & "*" in cell B1 to get your barcodes.

Re. printing: if you want to print from a normal laser or ink printer you'll probably have to buy sheets (letter or A4 size) of labels of whatever size suits you. In the longer term, I believe a dedicated label printer is a cheaper option. But I don't really any advice on that I'm afraid because we did a system from scratch (not POS).
posted by NailsTheCat at 6:00 PM on August 27, 2012

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