High-Tech Barcode Scanning’s Role in Boosting Supply Chain Efficiency

Here are three ways high-tech barcode scanning helps transform supply chains to meet changing consumer expectations.

Tom Setzer
Tom Setzer

For today’s consumers, instant gratification is more of a standard than a luxury. Conditioned by the one-click simplicity of on-demand ridesharing, grocery delivery and dry-cleaning concierges, customers expect the same speed when it comes to more traditional purchases—be it a new pair of boots from Zappos.com or a prescription refill.

Organizations’ ability to meet these demands starts with how they manage their supply chains—something many business leaders are scrambling to perfect. According to one study, global retailers rate their supply chain visibility at 6.2 out of 10.

Mediocre transparency doesn’t gel with an organization’s need to scale their supply chain operations. In fact, more than half of retailers, logistics and manufacturing companies hope to monitor over 10,000 shipments annually—and they want a real-time look into the location, speed and security of those shipments.

Thanks to advancements in barcode scanning, this degree of supply chain efficiency is an attainable goal. High-tech barcode scanning solutions are changing how warehouses and distribution centers function, ensuring the right products get into the right customers’ hands faster than ever before.

Here are three ways barcode scanning helps organizations transform their supply chains to meet changing consumer expectations.

Tracking and Inventory

Barcode scanning enables manufacturers and distributors to expedite each step of the fulfillment process, from pick to purchase. One barcode alone may contain a wealth of data that informs how a box should be packaged, where on the warehouse floor a box should be routed and what the shipping label must include. Truck drivers and last-mile delivery workers can scan the same barcodes on shipment paperwork, creating a detailed picture of when and where inventory is at any time.

Improved Accuracy

Whether handled by man or machine, a product’s packaging and barcodes are susceptible to damage during any part of its journey through the supply chain. Both 1D and 2D barcodes, however, contain redundant information and error corrections to ensure readability—even if up to half the label is destroyed. Some barcode scanning software available today also includes algorithms that compensate for misprinted barcodes (i.e., blank lines created by a faulty printer pin.)

A New Degree of Transparency

In specific sectors, granular visibility into product supply chains isn’t simply a corporate objective, it’s a matter of regulatory compliance. In the food industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act places a greater emphasis on product traceability from origin to distribution at supermarkets, restaurants and other consumer establishments. GS1, the global authority that sets international barcode standards, responded to these evolving needs with more robust barcodes that simplify the process of tracking specific product lots. With a greater level of detail, companies can respond to critical recalls and other product safety issues (not to mention individual customer questions) quickly and accurately.

Despite all that modern barcode solutions offer supply chain organizations, we only unlocked a fraction of what this technology can do. The advent of wearables and augmented reality will create new opportunities to extend the value barcodes deliver—to businesses and their customers.