We’ve had a lot of small businesses write in to ask about barcodes or, more specifically, how to set up a barcoding system. So we put together a short tutorial on how to set up a barcode inventory system.
We tried to keep this article quick and easy, but if you’re interested in a more in-depth look at how to get started barcoding your small business, be sure to check out our Ultimate Barcoding Guide. It covers absolutely everything barcode related.
Our full barcoding system tutorial video is right here:
But since you’re here, this post provides some extra detail about the steps from our video for setting up a barcode inventory system.
Step 1: How to generate barcodes for your barcoding system
The first thing to do is prepare a product list spreadsheet so that you can tie barcodes to specific products.
In our video, we showed a spreadsheet with columns for Item Name and Barcode, but if you don’t have a full product spreadsheet ready, we’ve got an article on inventory management basics that can help!
When generating barcodes, you can use a free online barcode generator to generate codes one at a time. However, a better option would be inventory software that automatically generates codes for each product.
If you need GS1 registered barcodes you can visit our official inFlow GTIN Barcode Shop to purchase single barcodes for only $30 with no renewal fee. However, if you need more than ten barcodes we would recommend purchasing a company prefix directly from the GS1 website.
As a quick final example, here’s what a product list spreadsheet could look like:
Step 2: Label your inventory
Now that you’ve got a spreadsheet of your products and corresponding barcodes, you’re one step closer to a barcode inventory system.
Now it’s time to physically label your current inventory. For this, you’ll need a specialized printer and software to create the labels. We’ve had good experiences with DYMO printers, specifically the LabelWriter 450. DYMO also sells its own labels on its website, but you don’t have to use its branded labels. Generic labels will work as long as they’re the correct size.
The great thing about DYMO is that they offer free label software that works with their printers. It’s quick and easy to install on Windows or Mac, and you can drag and drop the fields you’d like to appear on your labels. Our tip is to stay moderate with adding fields at first. Stick to the basics like Item Name and Barcode, and see how that fits with a few test prints. Remember that you’ll still want to be able to read some of the information on the labels, so having fewer fields on each label means they’ll be easier to skim.
This step is probably the most labor-heavy because you’ll have to print one label for each item you want to barcode. Expect this to take at least a few hours if not days. The labeling process can go faster if you have barcode inventory software that can filter your current stock and automatically print labels for just those products (more on this later).
Once you finish labeling everything you currently have, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You’ve almost completed your barcode inventory system setup. Just keep in mind it’s a good idea to keep the process going for any incoming products.
Step 3: Get a scanner for your barcode inventory system
Having barcodes on your products won’t do you much good with a scanner to read them. Scanners come in all shapes and sizes, from small pen models to larger portable computing systems with built-in software. Today, you can even use the smartphone in your pocket to scan barcode labels.
What scanner you choose to use depends on your workflow. Your smartphone could do the trick if you don’t scan many barcodes regularly. What’s great about this option is that it’s zero investment on your part. However, the more scanning you do, the less efficient it becomes.
We recommend buying a dedicated barcode scanner for your barcoding system. They can speed things up and save you a lot of time in the long run. If scanning barcodes at one stationary location, you can buy wired scanners that connect to your computer through USB.
Anyone in a warehouse that needs mobility should invest in a wireless barcode scanner like our Smart Scanner 3. Smart scanners are great because you can download your barcoding software right onto the device, making the scanning process super seamless.
Step 4: Find inventory software to tie your barcode inventory system together
Finally, you’ll need excellent inventory software to tie your barcode system together. Finding barcode scanners and label printers is pretty straightforward. But you’ll want an inventory management system designed to take advantage of a fully barcoded business. This is where inFlow Cloud comes in.
inFlow can help you build your product list from scratch or import your existing spreadsheet (kudos if you’re already this organized!). After that, you can generate unique barcodes for every product with just a few clicks.
When it’s time to physically label your product, inFlow can kickstart the process. It does this by showing your current stock and printing your labels straight to a DYMO printer. We also make printing labels straight from purchase orders easy, so you can add incoming stock to your barcode system as it arrives.
Your business will reap the benefits the moment your next sale comes in. Instead of typing items onto a sales order, you can scan barcodes right onto it instead. The same goes for other tasks at your business that are heavy on data entry. Such as stock transfers or work orders.
We hope this post has helped you learn all the significant components of setting up a barcoding system. If you’d like to get started, inFlow can help!