A barcode or bar code is a method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form.¹ Barcodes are created by condensing detailed information numbers and characters into a series of lines or symbols that can be automatically translated and expanded into their full meaning by “reading” the barcode with a scanner. They are used extensively to automate tasks and accelerate the order fulfillment process.

Early Adoption of Barcodes

Initially, barcodes were a series of parallel lines, with different data sets distinguished by varying the width of the lines and spacings between the parallel lines. Barcodes are frequently printed as labels that are read and interpreted by scanners. These optical systems read the series of printed bars for translation into a numeric or alphanumeric identification code.

A popular example is the UPC (Universal Product Code) used on retail packaging. Another commonly used product label is the GS1 barcode, which is formatted according to a standard that ensures products can be tracked and traced from anywhere in the world.

An early and common use of barcode labeling technology can be found in grocery stores, where product descriptions and pricing that are embedded into a barcode label can be quickly scanned by a barcode reader at the checkout register to identify the goods’ description and prices. This practice has dramatically saved time and improved accuracy, enabling the worker to simply scan a product’s barcode rather than manually rekey product details into the cash register system to generate a bill.

Since the invention of the first format, patented in 1952, numerous barcode formats and types have been created, including the original line-based barcode, 2-dimensional barcodes, QR codes, data matrix barcodes, and more.

Barcodes in Logistics and Shipping Operations

In manufacturing, logistics, and shipping, barcode labels are used to capture detailed product, order, and delivery information that can be quickly scanned by a barcode reader as materials, finished goods, and shipments move through the entire distribution process.

Barcodes are used extensively in warehouse operations, serving as a license plate for warehouse management systems and warehouse execution and control systems for fast and accurate verification of product descriptions, warehouse locations, SKU numbers, and more. Order fulfillment tasks are greatly accelerated as workers no longer need to manually transcribe and rekey information into systems. Barcodes are also used to track the movement of products and orders through the warehouse, serving as a valuable tracking method for operations, customer service, and other departments.

Barcodes are used extensively in pick-by-voice solutions, which direct the operator’s movement using voice commands combined with product barcode scan validation to direct a more efficient picking process in a fast, consistent manner with built-in order pick & pack validation.

Today’s most advanced voice-picking solutions, such as Numina’s Victory Voice™ Suite, combine the convenience of voice-directed instruction, wireless headsets, and hands-free barcode scanners for fast, paperless order picking and task validation. When configured for optimal efficiency, voice-picking takes the guesswork out and enforces uniform best-practice work procedures across the picking and packing process.

Barcoding in Shipment Processing

Barcoding has also improved carrier pick-up and order-delivery procedures. For example, parcel delivery shipping labels now routinely contain a barcode scanned by the carrier as it picks up and delivers a package. The barcode contains information such as the destination name and address, return address, package weight, etc. This information can be scanned when the driver drops off the shipment, eliminating the need to rekey delivery confirmation details.

Learn More

Blog: The ROI of Voice Picking Technology

Customer Case Study Video: Medical Device Company Increases Fulfillment Productivity by 200% 


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