Labeling Your Warehouse for a Barcode System

Dynamic Systems Asset Tracking Software

For the next couple of weeks well be discussing some details and strategies of barcode within a Warehouse Management system.  The effective and efficient management of your inventory is much more than recording when it arrives and when it is used or shipped.  The ability to store and locate inventory quickly, the most effective way to store items and to pick items off the shelves are included in any warehouse management strategy.  It doesnt matter how large or small a company you are, inventory is undeniably a drain on your cash and must be managed effectively for the health of your business.  Too much inventory and you lose money from obsolescence, spoilage or simply from the carrying costs.  Too little inventory and your salespeople lose business for lack of ability to deliver on time.

Using barcode to accurately track and account for your inventory is one of the best ways to minimize your costs and increase the efficiencies of your company.  The backbone of any barcode inventory/warehouse system is the label and the labeling scheme.

Labeling Your Warehouse Location Labels

The backbone of any barcode inventory system is the barcode label.  In a warehouse, labels are used to identify Locations, Pallets, Individual Items, and Shipments.  There are several methods to labeling locations that we will discuss here.

Often a company chooses to divide the warehouse into locations.  These may be racks, shelves, a specific area on a shelf, or an area on the warehouse floor.  By scanning the location label upon putaway of inventory, the location is stored in the software database, and it is possible to quickly locate an inventory item when it is needed.   Things to think about for location labels:

What numbering scheme will work best?  (For example, Rack A + Shelf 12 = A12)

Will I need to move the location numbers for any reason?  (This may be because the company is growing and the warehouse will be reconfigured at some time.)

Is the warehouse so large that I cant see or scan numbers on the higher shelves?

Do I have large items that wont fit on shelves?  How will I number these locations?

Here are some ideas for shelf or racking labels:

Polyester labels adhered to the shelves that use permanent adhesive are most appropriate when you are not going to be reconfiguring the warehouse often or if you are planning to use other locations for inventory overages.

Barcode labels adhered to a magnetic backing allows them to be moved at will.

This one slides into a plastic jacket.  The scanner will be able to read through the plastic.

When it is desirable to keep location labels for high shelving within easy reach, barcode labels stacked at eye-level that represent higher shelves on the rack is the solution.  This configuration eliminates the need for long-range barcode scanners and allows the warehouse worker to easily read location numbers.

These stacked labels are sometimes called totem labels as they look like a totem pole.  They can be adhered to the vertical shelf bracket or to a free-standing pole near the shelving.  Note, there are often arrows indicating which shelf the label refers to.

When the area to be labeled has no racking, there are choices:  a hanging tag or a floor label.  A barcode that will be scanned from a distance will need to be low-density, so it must have larger bars and spaces, and the height of the barcode should be more than normal to give the person the best chance of getting a good scan the first try.  Here are some things to consider:

Will the tag or label need to be very large in order to be read, both by a scanner and by a person?

Is the tag or label durable enough?  Labeling on the floor can be problematic.

Is the area well-lit or should the tag or label be retro-reflective?

Note:  Most floor, wall or ceiling-mounted tags will require a long-range barcode scanner since theyll be more than a foot away from the scan engine.

Some choices for hanging and floor location labels:

Floor label with stick-on or screw-on metal backing is durable even if run over.  These                                                       labels come in many sizes, so you choose a larger label for easy identification and                                                    scanning.

Pipe-mounted hanging barcode tag is easily hung if piping is available.

A barcode tag can be hung from any fixed spot.  This one uses chain hung from the                                                            ceiling or rafters.

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The Dynamic Systems Inventory Management blog covers inventory tracking, asset tracking, job costing, barcode technology, RFID, auto-id, and analytics.

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