4 Components of a Well-Designed Barcode System (4 of 4)


Selecting the Right Barcode Equipment (including the type of Network) – The Last Step!

The Network:  Batch vs. Wireless

A typical barcode system today is designed using a wireless network.  But don’t rule out a batch data collection system until you evaluate your needs.

Do you need “real-time” data?  You may be surprised to find the answer is “no”.  If you know where your equipment is first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon, or if you can check a few times a day, that may be enough.  A batch system has fewer components, so fewer failure points.  It is much more easily installed, since it doesn’t require a site survey, the installation of access points, and the more expensive equipment that comes with wireless capability.

If you are sure you need or want up to the minute information, plan your wireless network carefully.  Nothing is more frustrating than losing connection in the middle of an inventory count.  Get a good site survey so that you’ll have coverage throughout your facility, and consider one of the wireless barcode scanner utilities, such as Stay-linked, that assists in maintaining continuity between access points.

The Scanners – Mobile or Not?

Mobile versus Corded or Cordless is the first question.   If your workers need to roam across a wide area or if they need to see the data entry screen on their barcode device (they won’t be near a computer), then mobile is the choice.  However it is much more expensive – up to a factor of 10+.  So if a corded application makes sense, go with it.  For example, a manufacturing company will often use a corded barcode scanning scheme for work-in-process tracking or for job costing.  A PC at a workstation with a corded scanner is cheaper these days than a mobile barcode terminal.

Other choices:

  • Environment – determine if you need a highly rugged device and if it will be getting wet or go into a freezer
  • How much data will you be displaying on the screen?  There is a wide variety of screen sizes – make sure yours will be large enough.
  • What kind of keyboard do you want?  Numeric only keys are larger but if you need to enter a lot of alpha characters you may want the alphanumeric keypad.
  • Connectivity – make sure the scanner you choose is compatible with your software

Selecting the Barcode Printer

There are fewer variable in barcode printers than scanners, so your research can be more targeted.  Here are the main points to clarify:

  • Direct Thermal or Thermal Transfer – this should have been clarified during the selection of your barcode label.  Make sure your printer will handle the label technology.
  • Size of label – Width of the label is the deciding factor.  The average barcode printer will print on a label up to 4” wide.  There are printers that can handle 6” and one or two that will handle 8” or 10”.
  • Very small barcodes – If the barcode you will be printing is very small, you will need a “high density” printer.  Most thermal barcode printers produce 203dpi resolution.  You may need 300dpi or even 600dpi if your barcode is very small.
  • Volume – this is the key determinant in selecting the printer.  Duty cycle (# labels per hour or per day) will direct you to the right printer family.

A word of caution about training:  Don’t Skimp!  Industry statistics show that 80% of system installations fail due to poor planning and poor training.  If your users aren’t familiar with the application and the equipment your project will most certainly run into trouble.  Invest in training for maximum return.

You are investing for the future and spending real dollars when you implement a barcode system.  If you follow this methodology and plan for your barcode system, you have a high probability of success.