Do you know exactly what’s in your inventory? And could you locate anything just at a moments notice? Chances are, your company isn’t as organized as it could be. It’s not a knock on your business, rather a fact of ownership. Many companies have not progressed much beyond the pencil and tablet method of product control.
Product control means knowing your inventory from front to back. Where things are, what things are, how long they’ve been there, and what is available to ship today. By using a relatively simple data collection system, your company will have a good idea “where things are”. One of the first steps is labeling these items. These codes are easy to create and apply. Then a user can input data from these codes using a basic barcode scanner, eliminating human errors and providing a nice snapshot of the inventory at hand.
Barcode Printer 101: Does Your Business Even Need Barcodes?
Barcode printers are a straightforward method to adding scanning to your process. Each inventory item, or item category, etc., can have its own barcode that then corresponds to where it’s placed in your inventory computer system. Need to find something on short notice? Afraid you’re overstocking some item? Worried about tracking product shipping? Barcodes make sure each and every product in your warehouse is accounted for, from the time it is received to when it is ready to exit your warehouse. Still wondering whether a barcode printer is right for you? Let’s take a look at 5 things to consider before buying a barcode printer.
For a small company with a few unique items, it may be best to print labels onto laser pages using your existing office printer. These are a paper material which might be fine. These are not durable and you must print a full or partial page of a unique code or waste label material.
Next, you might look at smaller printers that will allow a “print on demand” system, printing only the material/label(s) that are needed at that time. We call these “single-shift” printers.
If you are running a warehouse with thousands of SKU’s, you will want a printer that can handle a volume of labels, a “full-time” printer. These will be able to handle round the clock labeling needs and print up to 12 inches per second.
Another printer type is used to print labels “on the fly”. These portable printers will allow the user to create labels and print “from the hip”, so to speak. Uses are for cross-docking and mis-labeled items.
These printers are smaller and usually suited for lesser volume printing. However, sometimes larger printers come on wheeled-bases for mobility. These are either used with internal formats already created or are WiFi enabled and pull their format spec’s from the corporate database.
Finally there are the larger stationary printers that will crank labels out on demand, or to be used with a print and apply system for immediate coding of product.
Let’s discuss how formats get to the printer, called “connectivity”. This refers to how your printer connects to a computer in order to receive the actual data it’s printing.
USB connectivity works well for stationary (read: industrial) printers situated next to a computer. The.
Ethernet connections work well for companies who need to share their barcode printer(s). The printer wires into your computer network, where everyone on the network then has access. This shared option works well for many different business settings. Ethernet speeds are typically fast.
WiFi works much the same way as Ethernet, though without hardwiring the computer into the network. WiFi makes a great option for mobile barcode printers shared across your company departments or when an Ethernet cable is not available.
Printing Methods vs. Environment
Two main types of printing methods exist, with each working better under different environmental conditions. Let’s look at which suits your needs.
Direct thermal transfer printing uses heat-sensitive label material that creates the format using chemicals within the paper material. These printers yield clear barcodes that scan easily but that don’t endure well. Under certain environmental conditions such as heat, sunlight, moisture, and abrasion can all degrade the barcode quality, making it less likely to scan.
Direct thermal labels are not good for long-term use such as shelf labeling or for product that will need to be readable over a long period of time.
Thermal transfer refers to using a heated, thin printing ribbon to melt onto a blank label that then creates the barcode and information.
These barcodes are more likely to last longer than the Direct Thermal stock. Thermal transfer works best for long-term storage and shelf labeling.
Many printers will print both types of material.
Buying Your Printer
Choosing a barcode printer is subjective. The only person who can understand your business’ exact needs is you. Though without our above list, hopefully, we’ve made the decision a little easier.
If you’re in the market to buy a barcode printer, get in touch with us. We stock a wide variety of printers suited for businesses of all kinds and sizes.
Our experts can help you choose the printer that’s right for your company. With some information from you and our years of expertise, we guarantee you’ll find something that works for your business.
Barcodes can simplify the data collection process, and the initial step is labeling.
Start organizing your business today with a barcode printer. We promise the barcode benefits far outweigh your initial investment.