Supply chains continue to grow in complexity, and in no place is that more obvious than in today’s warehouses and distribution centers. In order to meet consumer demands, warehouses now hold more product and have more inventory moving through them than ever before — which exponentially increases the need for asset visibility.
An automated data collection system like barcoding is a key method to ensure accuracy, reduce risk, and increase traceability in your warehouse. Depending on the complexity and unpredictability of your supply chain, or compliance regulations you have to meet, you may have to store a copious amount of information in those barcodes.
Two-dimensional (2D) barcodes offers several distinct advantages to ensure that your warehouse operates at peak performance, regardless of its complexity
1. They store more information than one-dimensional (1D) barcodes.
1D, or linear, barcodes can store only a very limited amount of information — just 20-25 characters. However, 2D barcodes are designed to encode data differently — in patterns of squares, hexagons, dots, and other shapes rather than vertical lines and spaces. This pattern arrangement allows 2D barcodes to contain up to 2000 characters. That’s way more information.
The information that one 2D barcode can contain includes, but is not limited to:
- Product name
- Serial numbers
- Lot numbers
- Date of arrival
- Date to be shipped
- Expiration dates (for food, medication, etc.)
- Website addresses
— along with many other types of binary data.
This means that it takes just one scan to collect all the pertinent information about products, lots, and shipments, which is then easily accessible in one central repository.
2. They can be scanned from any direction.
The aforementioned pattern arrangement that allows 2D barcodes to store so much information also means that they can be scanned by 2D imagers from any direction.
For tasks where items are moving along assembly lines or conveyors, this increases efficiency. Conveyors can move at a faster speed because workers no longer have to perfectly align a laser scanner on a 1D barcode — the only way to get a proper read. Rather, they can hold a 2D scanner in virtually any orientation and still get a good read on a 2D barcode.
And many 2D barcode scanners, which have become more affordable, are capable of scanning moderate to far distances — improving workforce efficiency by making it faster and easier to scan objects high up on shelves or in hard-to-reach places.
3. They reduce risk from human error — even more than 1D barcodes.
Any barcode inventory system is going to eliminate manual record-keeping. The act of physically writing down product, lot, and shipping information wastes time and creates risks for error.
At best, human error can result in the wrong product being shipped out, and then a lot of wasted time and money to ship the correct product to the customer.
At worst, human error can result in a botched recall — which, depending on the recall’s size and severity, can make or break the future of a company.
And while risk does not equal a guarantee, the risk of human error can be avoided with automated data collection and inventory management. With just one scan of a 2D barcode, your workers can quickly access all the information about a product, lot, or shipment without once having to manually record anything. Because 2D barcodes can store so much data, it’s easy to make sure that you have all the necessary information right where you need it. The entire data collection process is much faster and easier with 2D barcodes.
By using a 2D barcode inventory system, you’re able to ensure the accuracy of your data across all aspects of your warehouse and distribution environments. You gain real visibility into your inventory because all the data is electronically gathered and stored.