The Productivity of a New Generation of Scanners

Businessman show barcode with glow light on hand, warehouse and logistics

Believe it or not, barcode scanners are getting better, and their improvement will herald in good times for the small business owners who have invested in barcode technology.

Anyone who’s recently upgraded their personal smartphone, or bought an expensive piece of technology like a digital camera, knows the joy of turning on their new toy and realizing that what they’ve been for months or years was sorely outdated. It’s like you got used to walking around with weights on your ankles, and now you’re free to run unburdened.

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A similar phenomenon is about due with barcode scanners, which many of us only know from checkout lines at grocery stores—wired to the POS system, an unwieldy head, a relic like a desktop home telephone.

Newer scanners are sleeker, faster, sturdier, and built for this generation of users. Why is that so important? Read on.

Barcodes and their scanners are integral to modern business

If you haven’t noticed the role barcodes played in the e-commerce revolution, you haven’t been paying attention.

Internet retail giants like Amazon wouldn’t be nearly the players they are without the humble barcode, which recently celebrated a birthday that would make it eligible for Social Security.

Barcodes provide a number of benefits that everyone from tiny home businesses to Jeff Bezos’ baby can enjoy, including:

  • Productivity boosts: The most obvious perk to barcode scanners is that they don’t require people to write down UPC codes and update inventory levels manually every time someone buys an item. Imagine waiting in a line at the store in that reality? But there are other streamlining benefits, such as the ability to make instant changes in price, and reducing training time needed for new employees.
  • Error reduction: When you let people do things manually, they’re going to make mistakes. To be human is to err. There’s no shame in it. So when we allow barcode scanners with laser technology to scan items and update inventory and or asset levels, we are accounting for that propensity to err and removing it from the equation almost entirely.
  • Business intelligence: Tracking and taking advantage of trends, such as typical ebbs and flows in demand, becomes much easier when you have the tools to record every transaction digitally and map them.
  • Cutting costs: When it comes to inventory management, barcodes allow businesses to institute “just-in-time” inventory, reducing the amount needed to keep the shelves stocked and reducing the carrying costs of inventory. For asset management, asset loss is greatly reduced, and maintenance and depreciation become standard operating procedure rather than something you scramble to do when it’s already too late.

These are benefits that companies have been seeing almost as long as barcodes have been a thing. But the evolution of the scanner has opened up new avenues of efficiency as well.

Male worker scanning barcode in warehouse.

How scanners have continued to evolve

Two of the biggest ways that barcode scanners have changed, and thus changed the businesses that use them, are that they’ve become mobile and laser-oriented.


Related Article: THE RISE OF BARCODE SCANNERS AND HOW WE GOT HERE

Much like how we started using mobile, untethered phones and completely changed the way we looked at the concept of communication, so too did businesses reap the rewards of going wireless.

With wireless scanners, tracking inventory in warehouse and delivery settings became normal practice, and made it easier for companies to centralize inventory data in real-time.

Scanners used in warehouses saw improvements in range and internal memory, allowing workers to scan and save the information of multiple barcodes and make updates to inventory levels when back in Bluetooth or WiFi range.

And scanner producers saw that increased durability was going to become necessary, as companies pushed the limits of their scanners in increasing bold situations, such as in low temperatures or from great heights.

Barcode scanners equipped with laser readers also encouraged growth in the sector. Now workers could scan barcodes in hard-to-reach places, from several feet away, with no drop in capture quality. It’s become the technological norm, and now scanners can read codes with rastering, moving beam, and omnidirectional scans.

What’s next for new scanners?

The next frontier for barcode scanners is how they handle the (second) rise of 2D barcodes.

There was a time when 2D codes, or QR codes, looked to be the future. But the concept was a bit ahead of its time, as people weren’t quite ready to use their phones and mobile computers as often as businesses needed them to to make 2D barcode campaigns worthwhile.

But now, a new push has reinvigorated the 2D barcode space. Companies like Facebook, Spotify, and Snapchat are all utilizing forms of barcodes (in sexier formats than 1D codes), and businesses are recognizing the value that 2D codes, which hold way more information than their older counterparts, can have.

New barcode scanners are almost like personal smartphones in a lot of ways: They run Android operating systems with tons of RAM. They come standard with reinforced glass that makes breaking them almost impossible. They have colorful, multi-touch displays. And they come with LED and vibration alerts to make sure users are up-to-date.

Better yet, they have other features that smartphone users would love to have—namely, long-lasting battery life on a single charge. Plus, the scanners remain lightweight and easy to carry around.

Plus, new scanners should be able to scan 1D and 2D barcodes with the same ease. That makes them perfect solutions for inventory and asset tracking needs.

As a result, industries as far-ranging as retail, healthcare, public works, and warehouse management are all seeing more and more reason to upgrade their current scanners.

New scanners come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and with various capabilities. Some are tiny, while others are hard to lose. Some are meant to stay on your desk, while others are specifically for on-the-go users. It all depends on the needs of your business, or your role at that time.

Not every business sees how important barcodes have become to everyday work life. A shockingly high percentage of small businesses don’t use inventory management or asset management software. Those that do should look into upgrading their systems and scanners, so they too can get that little rush that comes from knowing you’ve got the top-of-the-line gear.

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Erin Myers

Erin Myers

Content and Social Media Specialist at Wasp Barcode Technologies
Erin Myers is the Content and Social Media Specialist for WASP Barcode Technologies. Her role is to overseeing the company’s blogs and social media accounts.
Erin Myers