Barcodes and QR Codes - What's in Store ?

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 5119 , Published on 04 March 2011

There was a time in manufacturing when the inventory management was hell of a job. Each and every part or product used to be manually counted and accounted for.

The process required manual identification, data entry and counting for every product. This was highly prone to error and mistakes. But in today’s world to make operations run effectively it is necessary to eliminate data entry inaccuracies and to enhance more efficiency. At every manufacturing step, more and more stringent controls are required.

How it all changed ?


Barcodes-History and Trends


It all started in 1948 when a Bernard Silver overheard a requirement of automatically reading information about a product during checkout in a food retail chain. Over next few years, many developments were done to “Classifying Apparatus and Method" what Silver started and finally the Barcode as we know it today was born as the standard.

Now we will discuss the barcodes and their impact on the world of operations management and business. The barcodes along with scanners can be used to gather all information about your inventory. It is said that more information you have about your inventory, lesser is the amount of actual inventory you need to hold.

What are the advantages of Barcodes ?

1) Speed : Barcodes can store more information which can be read very quickly with a barcode scanner (When compared to a human who actually enters the data with a keyboard).

2) Accuracy : Barcode scanning is highly accurate when compared to other methods of inventory identification.

3) Ease of use : Barcode scanning and reading is much more easier to use. Manual counting is too cumbersome when compared to barcode reading.

4) Cost Savings : A simple barcode sticker comes very cheap but is readable by almost all barcode readers and stores so barcodes prove to be very cost effective and scalable.

5) Inventory Control : Tracking inventory manually is a laborious process. With barcodes applied to each item in inventory, portable scanners can be used to track shipping and receiving and quickly take physical inventory. The data from portable scanners can be uploaded to a central computer system at regular intervals or portables can update inventory in real-time, depending on the system you choose. Barcode inventory control provides accurate, real-time inventory updates. This allows a company the opportunity to reduce stock levels and thereby reduce carrying costs. It also reduces the time taken to collect data for purposes such as annual inventories. With improved efficiency, operating costs are lower.

6) Quality Control: Barcode systems in quality control can be used to tell a person which test to perform for a given part and where to send it if it fails. Barcode systems can also create permanent records for tracking component and subassembly failures.

Barcodes are just not used at factories or manufacturing, they are used wherever operations management is required. Retail stores, library, theatres, restaurants etc.

These days even schools and colleges are using the barcodes to identify and store information on students, faculty and courses along with the library operations.

Till now we were just talking about the conventional barcodes but these days a new breed of barcode is rising and is growing really fast. These barcodes are called QR Codes.

A QR Code is a two-dimensional code readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

It was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

These barcodes are becoming more popular as the Smartphones are becoming more affordable and ‘smart’. By using scanning apps readily available in phone these days, customers can directly scan product and get information about it instantly through the internet.

For example, A customer walks into a store and finds a product. He picks it up and scans it with his/her Smartphone and using Internet Product Database (e.g. Google Product Base) gets all the information about the product including the prices and discounts offered in the nearest stores other than the one he/she is currently standing in.

The conventional barcodes are giving way to these new QR codes. These codes can contain any information. QR Code is an open format. The format's specification is available royalty-free. The owner has promised not to exert patent rights on it. QR Codes can be used to store addresses and URLs that can appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any product that users might need information about.

QR-Codes have become more popular than the typical barcodes.  A typical barcode can only hold a maximum of 20 digits, whereas the QR-Code can hold up to 7,089 characters. This makes the QR code much vaster in terms of storing information. Typical barcodes could just store few digits or alphabets but QR codes are much more powerful. These are also much faster in being read when compared to barcodes. One more advantage is that a QR code can be read in any position or angle where as a typical barcode has to be read in a proper angle.

The next image shows a QR code for You just need a Smartphone with a barcode scanner app installed. Point the camera at the image below and the website will open in your mobile browser.


MBA Skool QR Code


This was just a basic application of QR code. Companies are using these barcodes on billboards where walking by people can just scan it with their phones and full information would be downloaded on their phones. Smart isn’t it?

With the invent in technology, the way of doing business is changing or we must say it’s becoming better. But still such technological advances are not always risk free. Current bar-coding system is giving a lot of power to the customer which can be risky and beneficial at the same time. Barcodes have made the businesses simpler and better and they would continue doing it.


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