Best Practices – Inventory Management – Labeling Your Warehouse

You’ve decided to take inventory management seriously, have appointed a leader for the project and have designed the best layout for your business.  What’s next?

Label the Warehouse


Now that you have the warehouse layout designed, you will need to put barcode labels on your locations and items.  There are options for location labeling that include:

  • A barcode label on the shelf that can be adhered to the shelf or on a magnetic strip that can be moved if the numbering scheme or items change.
  • A series of barcode labels at eye-height on one end of the shelving unit (this works if the top shelves are too high to scan effectively) with the locations encoded.
  • A large barcode label on the floor or hanging from the ceiling are ways to label areas that don’t have shelving.  (The type of label material in this case will be specialized – get help from a label expert before spending time on something that won’t work.)



Item barcodes are typically the actual part numbers.  Much of today’s inventory comes already labeled with barcodes.  There are a number of decisions to make when labeling, so make sure you partner with a company that has a good working knowledge of the materials  and adhesives available for barcode technology – not all barcode resellers or inventory software companies understand labeling.

  • Do you want to label each item individually?
  • Would you rather label a case, bag, box?
  • Are some parts too small and not packaged for labeling?  The best solution is to place loose items in a labeled bin.
  • What do you want on the label?  Just part number and description?  Serial Number?  If you handle perishables you may also want the expiration date.
  • Most barcode readers are capable of scanning multiple barcode schemes, so if your items that come already labeled are coded with a different barcode than the one you want to use on your other inventory items, that’s OK.  For example, many manufacturers put a UPC code on their boxes, but a lot of companies prefer an alphanumeric barcode such as Code 128 for greater flexibility in their numbering scheme.  The same scanner can be used for both codes.  Inventory management software should be able to cross-reference between manufacturer’s part number and your company’s part number.
  • The label is important.  If your inventory will be in a challenging environment (a cooler or freezer or if its stacks of lumber that sit in the rain, for example) you’ll need specialty label material and/or adhesives.

Look for the next article that will discuss Inventory Management Processes (Receiving, Storing, Shipping).