Tracking equipment and tools manually are both an effort-intensive and time-consuming task. Plus manual systems are highly prone to errors. To help their managers improve operational efficiency, businesses barcode their assets and equipment. A barcode includes information about the product for which it is used. To get this information, users need to scan the barcode with a handheld scanner that sends data to a computer connected to the system. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to barcode your tools and equipment. To get started with barcoding, all you need to do is follow the below steps.
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1. Get a GS1 Company Prefix
Before you start barcoding your equipment and tools, you need GS1 Identification Keys. Simply put GS1 Identification Keys are numbers that are included in barcodes. To assign a GS1 Identification Key, you have to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix from a GS1 member company. The GS1 Company Prefix provides a way for companies to create identification numbers for logistic units, coupons, trade items, assets, parties, and almost every other component in their supply chain.
Once you get your GS1 Company Prefix, you can start assigning numbers to your trade items, locations, assets, and logistic units. The number of identification numbers that you can assign will depend on the length of your GS1 Company Prefix. Your local GS1 member organization shall be able to help you more in this regard.
2. Select a software
When selecting a software, you need to consider various factors such as the role that you want the software to perform, the primary scanning environment, and the reports that you want the software to generate. After you have decided the hardware and software configuration that you need, look for a solution that fits into your scheme of things.
Based on their cost, barcode software can be broadly categorized into three types:
Most affordable systems: Can run only on mobile barcode scanners. Most systems only provide information related to the item number. Suited for small businesses with limited needs, these software can help track receipt, capture inventory data, and move and ship.
Budget, full system: These systems can run on both mobile barcode scanners and desktops. These software can not only perform all the roles of a mobile barcode scanner but also allow users to add items, schedule cycle counts, and run reports. These systems can import and export data with almost any back end system.
Full-featured system: The most advanced of the three types, full-featured systems come with wireless mobile barcode scanners that can communicate with the database and make changes in real time.
After acquiring the software, decide whether you want to install it on a single system or a central server.
3. Select a barcode printing process and your barcode
When selecting a barcode printing process, the single most important thing to consider is the type of information that you want to include in the barcode. If you want the barcode to carry static information (that cannot be changed), opt for any of the traditional printing methods such as flexography or offset printing. If, however, you want your barcode to include dynamic information, use a digital printing method or a combination of traditional and digital printing method.
After selecting your preferred printing process, choose your barcode. For a barcode that is supposed to encode a URL, use GS1 2D symbol. If you want to barcode an outer case that will be scanned in a logistics environment, opt for an ITF-14 symbol. GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, and GS1 2D symbols are ideal for barcodes that are supposed to include a plethora of information.
Once you have selected a barcode, decide its size and color. After printing your barcodes, it is advisable that you rope in an ISO-based verifier to test their quality.
4. Apply labels to your tools
After getting your barcodes tested for quality, apply them on the tools and equipment you intend to track. Before starting to apply barcodes, clean and dry the surface of your tools and equipment. Record the temperature during the application process and the use of the tool. Rub the label on all sides and leave it for 48-72 hours. Once the labels are applied, a technician can start scanning the tools to enter related fields.
5. Start scanning
Once the tools are added to the database of your tool tracking software and the fields are entered, instruct your supervisors to scan every tool and equipment without fail before assigning it to a worker or moving it to a new location.