Most companies use barcode labels of some type, whether for identification, pricing, or inventory. But as much as barcode labels are used, they are underutilized, too.

When we think about barcodes, we typically think about basic UPC barcodes used on cosmetics, socks, and the stacks of food and beverage products we scan at checkout at the grocery store. But in terms of business productivity, accuracy, and efficiency, there is so much more that barcodes can offer.

Common Types of Barcodes

First, let’s take a very brief look at the primary types of barcodes:

UPC barcodes: These are the simple 12-digit barcodes you use at the grocery store. They encode product information such as the manufacturer, product type, product ID, and price.

EAN barcodes: Used mainly in Europe, EAN barcodes are 13 digits long and can encode the same information as UPC barcodes.

Code 128 barcodes:  These are variable-length barcodes used worldwide that can represent all 128 ASCII code characters (numbers, upper case/lower case letters, symbols and control codes). This makes them ideal for encoding more detailed product information such as manufacturing date of the product, open date, weight, size, and lot number.

GS1-128 barcodes: These are a subset of Code 128 that can represent all 128 ASCII code characters, plus various additional data, such as distribution and business transaction data.  These codes are often used for online purchasing/ordering using EDI.

Brandmark can help you determine what type of barcode will best suit your application.

Serialized and Non-Serialized Barcodes

Barcodes can be further classified into two types: serialized and nonserialized.

Non-serialized barcodes are static (non-changing). With non-serialized barcodes, the same barcode is applied to every product. Every tube of lipstick has the same barcode with the same pricing and identifying information. So does every carton of eggs. Non-serialized barcodes serve to speed product identification and checkout and to manage inventory.

Serialized barcodes follow a numeric sequence so that each product or asset has a unique code without duplication, such as cellphones or other high-end electronics that require detailed tracking and tracing. Other applications include when products may need ownership or warranty verification (such as automobiles) or have the potential for recall.

How Else Barcodes Can Be Used

Other than at the product level, how else can barcodes be used, and specifically to increase efficiency, accuracy, and productivity? By looking beyond the product level to the box, bin, pallet, or warehouse rack level.

For example, in addition to using barcodes on individual products, you could add them to boxes and pallets. Each bag of coffee has an individual barcode, for example, but so does each box of 128 bags. At the box level, the barcode indicates not only what is in the box, but how many, the weights, pricing, and quantities of different sizes, and so on. This speeds inventory tracking and management since your employees don’t have to track each product individually.

You could also barcode pallets of boxes, enabling you to track volume shipments, including origin and destination. Barcodes can also be used on warehouse racks, for example, helping you keep track of multiple products at a time.

There is a whole science to this tiered use of barcodes, so take the time to talk to one of our in-house experts to see how a tiered approach could improve your productivity, accuracy, and efficiency with some simple, inexpensive solutions.

Full-Service Production Vs. In-House Printing

We can preprint and store large rolls of barcode labels for you. If you want to save money and have the flexibility to print on demand, we an design a custom package that contains a printer, ribbons, labels, and software so everything works together flawlessly.

For companies that need an even higher level of tracking and tracing, including real-time inventory management, RFID labels may be the right solution. For more on RFID labels, click here

Image by macrovector on Freepik