Why Do People Love Barcode Printers?

Barcode dropping on businessman hand, financial concept

Anyone who works in retail, shipping, or even healthcare and entertainment can tell you the value of a barcode printer. Whether it’s an industrial printer for use in the warehouse or a desktop machine that prints out tickets or receipts, the barcode printer comes in a number of forms and formats and has found uses across a variety of industries.

That versatility and usefulness is being rewarded, as the barcode printer market is expected to make enormous gains over the next few years. Different studies are predicting different exact numbers, but the trend is certainly upwards: Future Market Insights says it will increase at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 7.4% from 2016-2026; Global Market Insights says it’ll be a $4.5 billion industry by 2022. Suffice to say, barcode printers are hot.

If you work in an industry where tracking a product and/or creating accountability is an important aspect of the business, you are probably already familiar with the benefits of barcodes. If not, you need to be enlightened: The simple, modest barcode has grown into the standard method for product information storing and handling. Whether the barcode is 1D or 2D, there just isn’t another system that’s better suited for encoding information about a product—its origin, its destination, its contents, and much more.

But the utility of the barcode doesn’t necessarily explain why barcode printers are gaining in popularity and prominence. What is driving the barcode market to make such gains over the next decade? There are a few factors—some of which may peter out as time goes on, and some that are expected to keep going strong until we see major disruption in the space.

Growth In the Booming Manufacturing Sector

The results of the recent presidential election has absolutely spurred business confidence. But the truth is, manufacturing and business in general has seen a revival of late that dates back before the new administration. It’s a complex picture, but it’s worth noting that of nearly 2,000 rural counties in the U.S. last year, 60 percent of them added jobs, according to The New York Times. Both Chobani and Clif Bar moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, of all places, to open their latest factories.

And one of the biggest trends in manufacturing has been the automation and streamlining of the processes that used to use enormous amounts of material and company time. Manual hand counts of inventory and fixed assets, such as equipment and vehicles, used to be the standard (though a surprising number of businesses still rely on this method). Now, automated systems powered by barcodes are helping businesses move their products out the door and into the market faster than ever.


Related Article: WHAT IS A BARCODE PRINTER?

Other perks of barcoding rather than manual processes include the near complete elimination of errors and the increase in data that companies can then use to track inventory all throughout their supply chain. This can inform their decisions on whether to reorder a certain item, if products will need to be shipped to certain locations across the country to meet demand, and other factors that might have otherwise led to stock outs or excess inventory.

In the context of increased manufacturing, it’s not surprising that industrial barcode printers hold the highest market share of all printer types. They’re used in warehouses and plants because they’re sturdy, reliable, and print at a high volume.

Blue Barcode

Something We Can All Agree On When It Comes To Healthcare

Speaking of politics, the issue of healthcare has been a subject of national debate for some time. Though barcodes can’t create a healthcare bill that pleases everybody, they can—and already do—provide a level of accountability and organization that was previously unmatched.

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Right now, barcode printers are used in healthcare to issue wristbands and tags that help hospitals with patient recognition and tracking; to create labels for specimens and samples; and for point of care (POC) medicine administration. One of the biggest issues with the modern healthcare system is a lack of centralized data about patients: What is their medical history? When did they last take their medicine? What’s next in their treatment? These questions can’t be solved entirely by barcode labels, but they can help hospitals create a more secure and organized environment within their own walls, which is a major plus. Medical errors cost our government programs like Medicare billions each year, not to mention lead to preventable deaths.

Barcode Printers: Which Printer is Right for Me?

We primarily see hospitals and other healthcare providers using desktop and mobile barcode printers. These are good for medium- and small-batch printing jobs, where mobility and ease-of-use trump printing labels en masse.

Mobile: Not Quite King, But It Is Pretty Close

In most contexts, mobile is now king: We consume so much via our smartphones and other mobile devices that companies must consider them in their long-term plans. That’s not quite the case in the barcode printer market—industrial printers, as mentioned above, are still the biggest segment—but mobile is becoming increasingly useful and important in a few ways.

Many of the industries that use barcode printers, from healthcare to government to entertainment to travel, see unique benefits in using mobile barcode printers. Whether it’s the wristband for a hospital patient, a nametag for a visiting government official, concert tickets for those who have opted to pick them up at the venue, or airplane/bus/train tickets for the on-the-go traveler, barcode labels can serve a lot of purposes, and a printer that can meet all of these needs while traveling in an employee’s hand is a crucial tool for them.

Thermal Technology Barcode Printers Will Rule Them All

In terms of what barcode printers will look like going forward, look no further than thermal printing technology, both direct thermal and thermal transfer. Direct thermal printing uses a heated ribbon to create a barcode on a variety of materials, while thermal transfer imprints the barcode directly on the printed material. These fall into the “non-impact printing” segment.

Older forms of creating barcodes—dot matrix, inkjet, and drum—are increasingly being phased out as the thermal methods take the lead. The thermal transfer printers alone are expected to cross the $1.7 billion revenue threshold by 2022, due to the format’s relative inexpensiveness and the quality of the barcodes it creates.

Few knew that barcodes would come this far when they were first applied to chewing gum back in the 1970s. Now they’re a major cog in the supply chains of companies all around the world, and the devices used to make them—whether they’re large industrial printers or small, handheld ones—are set to boom in the coming decade. Start doing your research now on what barcodes and printers will be best for your business, if you haven’t already, to get out ahead of the barcode curve.     

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Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson

Marc Davidson is a Product Marketing Manager at Informatics specializing in Inventory Warehouse Management and Supply Chain product lines. He has 6+ years in the industry as a product marketing manager, sales executive and product trainer.