Barcode Scanner Buying Guide: 6 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Barcode Scanner

Looking to purchase a barcode scanner? There are many different options on the market today, and choosing the right one is important for the productivity of your business. Where can you use barcode scanners? To name a few settings, industrial areas, retail stores, healthcare facilities, and warehousing. 

Some scanners are built for specific work environments, such as extreme weather or tough conditions. Others are designed for moderate conditions and and process data quicker. This is why it is important to know the features and functions of various barcode scanners. You need to pick what’s best for the practices of your business. 

Barcode Scanner Features

1. Wireless Connection

When purchasing a barcode scanner you want to ensure that it has the right wireless connections. This usually depends on how you to collect and input data into your inventory system. Does your firm collect data in real-time and use a cloud-based inventory system? If it does, then you will need a wireless connection to the internet. Your two options for this are through WiFi or through a Mobile Broadband connection.

Do your employees conduct all their scans within a central location? If so, scanners that transmit data through WiFi may be the right choice for you. For example, a WiFi connection is beneficial with scanning within a warehouse. If your employees are in the field or on the road, having a Mobile Broadband connection is more beneficial.  With this, your employees in the field can transmit data wherever they go.

Real-time barcode scanning is beneficial because it keeps your inventory data up-to-date at all times. Also, it is visible to anyone who has access to your inventory system. This makes your inventory management system both collaborative and transparent.

What if your company isn’t transmitting data in real-time with a cloud-based system? In this case, you do not need a scanner with a wireless connection to WiFi or Mobile Broadband.  Another connection option is with Bluetooth. Bluetooth barcode scanning is a wireless connection useful for both real-time and batch processing. We will this type of scanning in more detail further on in this series.

2. Wired Connections

Are you collecting data with wired scanners? Or perhaps you use a locally installed inventory system? If so, wired connections are extremely important. You will need to ensure the scanners you choose are compatible with the computers that use your system. Scanners using wireless data transmission will also have wired data connections, so check for these before making your purchase.

3. Screen

Not all barcode scanners have a display or touch screen. When deciding on a scanner it is important to determine if you need a screen and consider the complexity of what it can display. Screens can be helpful for your employees to receive transaction feedback.  This notifies your employees whether or not there were any errors with the items they scan.

With a screen, scanners can have much more depth to their capabilities. For example, a Mobile Computer barcode scanner can push and pull info to and from your inventory system. Some of these can even act as a both a cell phone and a barcode scanner.

Depending on your employees’ tasks, having a simple barcode scanner may be enough. A simple barcode scanner can be beneficial by only having one function that it performs very well. As a result, it requires very little training to use, reducing the risk of input errors.  If your barcode scanner does not have a screen, your employees will not know when they have made a mistake. You can fix these errors later, but they will decrease the overall accuracy of your data.

4. Portability and Ideal Environment

Portability is a huge factor when selecting a barcode scanner. For this, consider the type of environment the scanner will work in. Let’s say the scanner is going to be traveling and going out into the field. What are some important qualities? You may want a scanner that is durable, water resistant, can be used in extreme temperatures, and is portable.  If the scanner is being used in retail, it may not need to be portable and or endure extreme conditions. Barcode scanners are built for various working conditions, and it is important to consider what kind is yours when picking a scanner.

5. Barcode Reader

Are you scanning 1D or 2D barcodes? 1D barcode scanners are linear and represent data with parallel black bars and numbers. The most common type is the Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode, which is found on most product packaging.

On the other hand, 2D barcodes have vertical and horizontal data. A common example is a QR code, which has become popular in marketing and social media.  The main difference between these two barcodes is the amount of data they can contain. A 1D barcode can only contain 20-25 characters, while a 2D barcode can contain up to 2,000 characters.

6. GPS

A barcode scanner with GPS capabilities is useful if you have items moving to various storage locations. As you scan, the GPS will pinpoint the item location and record the closest storage location to that item. For example, as you scan industrial equipment into a warehouse, the scanner will detect the location and enter that into your inventory system. This ensures that you know exactly where your items are. GPS location scanning is a great option for expensive or shared equipment.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to look for when buying a scanner. Consider these six factors and how they apply to your firm. This is the first blog post in our Barcode Scanner Buying Guide series. Check out the other posts in this blog series: