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How Retailers Save Time and Improve Service
with Bar Coding Technology

- By Bob Twain


We see it everyday. Millions of retailers are using bar codes and scanners to check out customers and enter inventory. Even small stores find that bar coding is practical because it speeds up checkout, tracks stock, and assures pricing accuracy.

Unfortunately, not everyone uses bar coding technology properly. And they don't reap as many benefits as they could.

Utilizing bar codes with your POS software will allow you to…

  • Serve customers faster and improve service by quickly scanning bar codes at the point of sale (POS) instead of typing a SKU.

  • Reduce pricing and inventory errors. Scanning bar codes at the POS is much more accurate than typing a SKU. The typical error rate for human data entry is 1 error per 300 characters. Barcode scanners can be as good as 1 error in 36 trillion characters depending on the type of barcode used.

  • Save time and improve efficiency. If all your merchandise is bar coded you can save time by checking out customers faster, instantly implementing mark downs and eliminating the problem of price tag switching.

  • Quickly count your inventory at any time. If you purchase a PDT (portable data terminal) you can count and enter your inventory by scanning each item with a PDT. The PDT will store your inventory count so you can quickly upload it into your POS software.

  • Reduce costs. If you have UPCs on your merchandise then you don't have to put the price tag on the product itself, which saves time and reduces handling costs.

  • Improve the accuracy of your inventory. One of the biggest cost savings and benefits is maintaining a more accurate inventory. Bar coding reduces errors at receiving and at the point of sale so your inventory stays accurate.


So what is a bar code and how does it work?

First of all, a bar code is a series of narrow and wide lines printed on a label or tag. Each bar on the label represents a character for a "bar code reader" to interpret.

You can scan the bar code with a bar code reader which uses a photosensor to convert the bar code into an electrical signal as it moves across the bars. The scanner then measures the relative widths of the bars and spaces, translates the different patterns back into regular characters, and sends them on to a computer or portable terminal.

Most bar codes look similar but they can have different symbologies or standards. The symbology defines the width of the bars and the technical details of a particular type of barcode.

For example, the UPC (Universal Product Code) is seen on almost all retail products in the USA and Canada. And EAN-13 is a common code used on European retail products. Your bar code reader and inventory software will need to be setup properly to read the "symbology" that you use.


Here's how YOU can start using bar codes and scanners in YOUR store.

First, you'll need the following items to start using bar coding...
  • POS - Inventory Software that supports bar code scanning at the point of sale.
  • A bar code scanner that's compatible with your POS software.
  • Merchandise that's properly labeled with bar code symbologies that your POS software and scanners can handle.
  • A bar code printer (if all your merchandise comes with UPC codes you won't need this).
Here's exactly how to get started:

Step 1 - Decide if you need a bar code printer. If ALL of your products already have UPC codes then you can probably use those. Otherwise you'll have to buy a "bar code printer" and create your own bar code labels.

Step 2 - Contact your POS - Inventory Software Vendor to find out which scanners and bar code printers they support. You'll need to purchase a bar code scanner and possibly a bar code printer.

Step 3 - Ask your software vendor how to setup your POS - Inventory Software to handle your bar code printer and scanner. Then get your software ready to print labels and scan items at the point of sale.

Step 4 - Get ALL of your merchandise bar coded and entered into your POS software. You'll need to use your POS software to print bar code labels for ALL merchandise that doesn't have a UPC code. (Once you get everything labeled you can print and label new merchandise at receiving.)

You'll also need to make sure that the inventory in your POS software has the appropriate UPC code associated with each item. Some of your suppliers might be able to provide "electronic price files" which can be loaded into your POS software. The price file would include SKUs, prices and UPC numbers. Otherwise you'll have to manually associate a UPC number with each inventory item. Again, you'll need to contact your software vendor to learn how to do this.

Step 5 - Make sure your POS software has accurate pricing and each inventory item has bar coding configured.

Step 6 - Now all you have to do is scan items at the register instead of entering the SKU. The SKU and price should get entered into the POS system automatically.

If used properly, bar coding technology can help you check out customers 20% to 50% faster and lower error rates by almost 4%. Not only does this dramatically improve your customer service but it saves time and lowers your overhead.

To Your Success.

Bob Twain



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