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What is a Barcode?

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Barcodes automate the data capture process so companies can eliminate errors and improve productivity.

Companies new to barcoding often ask, “What is a barcode?” While people broadly use this term to describe any sort of data capture method or technology like 2D or RFID, a barcode is actually a series of bars, blocks, and white spaces that represent numbers and letters. Those numbers and letters contain data, such as part and SKU numbers, shipping addresses, expiration dates, and serial numbers.

Computers can easily and accurately decipher alphanumeric data from barcodes, which is why companies use them to track assets and manage inventory, for example. In fact, barcodes were designed to automate the data collection process so you can enjoy operational benefits.

Eliminate errors

Studies show that when using manual methods for collecting data that—on average—users make one mistake for every 300 characters entered. That means for every item number with 10 characters, there would be a mistake in every 30 items inventoried.

When automating the data collection process, the error rate drastically reduces to one error in every one million characters. Therefore, barcode systems can significantly increase accuracy and instill confidence that counts are correct.

Improve efficiency and productivity

Manual data collection processes are often clumsy and inaccurate. Typically, employees must physically capture inventory counts on a sheet of paper attached to a clipboard. When done, they have to rekey the information they just collected into their system, which may consist of a single spreadsheet.

With an automatic data collection system, the process is streamlined. Users simply scan the barcode, enter the quantity in the wireless scanner, and inventory is instantly updated. Better yet, today’s RFID systems allow entire loads to be scanned as they enter the docking gate. Companies not only optimize their operations leaving time for other tasks; they can confidently make purchasing decisions because they know their information is correct.

You may have noticed that not all barcodes look the same. The size and placement of a barcode’s bars, blocks, and white spaces are determined by its symbology. Learn more about barcode symbologies.

Got questions?

For answers to common barcoding questions, visit System ID Barcode FAQs.

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Jay Schofield

Product Business Development Manager at System ID Barcode Solutions
Jay Schofield’s passion is numbers. For more than 10 years, he has been turning facts and figures into actionable business intelligence for System ID. When he’s not researching, analyzing, and planning for the “next big thing,” Jay can be spotted on the lake with family and friends.