It’s good for any merchant utilizing a POS system to understand barcodes for optimum planning involving barcoding applications. The practice of barcoding has been growing dramatically over the last 25 years. With the adoption of UPC as the standard for retail grocery stores in the late 70’s, barcodes have become an everyday experience for consumers, everywhere. Bar codes provide a fast, easy, and accurate data entry method. The correct use of barcodes can decrease employee time required and increase an organization’s efficiency, and merchants can print them up on an “as needed” basis.

Accurate Data Input is Everything

Merchants just beginning to use a barcode system need to understand that the application software which accepts the bar code data is in 95% control of the success or failure of an application. Remember that barcodes are just another data input method; what you do with the data is critical for your business’ ability to benefit from using barcodes. The introduction of the IBM PC in the early 80’s, introduced the expanse of barcoding applications along with the PC explosion.

Clearing up Any Confusion

There is a mystique surrounding barcodes which many people find intimidating. It can, however, be eliminated quickly. First the barcode usually doesn’t contain descriptive data, (just like your social security number or car’s license plate number doesn’t have anything about your name or where you live). The data in a barcode is just a reference number, which the computer uses to look up associated computer disk record(s) which contain descriptive data and other pertinent information.

Real Simple Information Storage

For example, the barcodes found on food items at grocery stores don’t contain the price or description of the food item; instead the barcode has a “product number” (12 or 14 digits in the USA) in it. When read by a bar code reader and transmitted to the computer, the computer finds the disk file item record(s) associated with that item number. In the disk file is the price, vendor name, quantity on-hand, description, etc. The computer does a “price lookup” by reading the barcode, and then it creates a register of the items and adds the price to the subtotal of the groceries purchased. It also conveniently subtracts the quantity from the “on-hand” total.

Types of Readers

There are three basic types of barcode readers: fixed, portable batch, and portable RF. Fixed readers remain attached to their host computer and terminal and transmit one data item at a time as the data is scanned. Portable batch readers are battery operated and store data into memory for later batch transfer to a host computer. Some advanced portable readers can operate in non-portable mode too, often eliminating the need for a separate fixed reader. Portable RF Readers are battery operated and transmit data real-time, on-line. More importantly, the real-time, two-way communication allows the host to instruct the operator what to do next, based on what just occurred.

A basic bar code reader consists of a decoder and a scanner and a cable is required to interface the decoder to the computer or terminal. The basic operation of a scanner is to scan a barcode symbol and provide an electrical output that corresponds to the bars and spaces of a bar code. The decoder is usually a separate box which takes the digitized bar space patterns, decodes them to the correct data, and transmits the data to the computer over wires or wireless, immediately or on a batch basis.