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How to Setup a Barcode Inventory System Quick and Easy

Posted by ThomasLast Updated May 24th, 2024
— 6 minutes reading

Over the years, we’ve had countless small businesses ask about barcodes or, more specifically, how to set up a barcoding system. So, by popular demand, we’ve crafted this short tutorial to show you how to set up a barcode inventory system quickly and painlessly!

We tried to keep this article simple, but if you’re interested in a more in-depth look at how to start barcoding your small business, check out our Ultimate Barcoding Guide. It covers absolutely everything related to barcodes.

If you prefer video tutorials, you can find one below:

How To Set Up A Barcode System | inFlow Inventory software

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: Generate barcodes for your barcoding inventory system

The first thing to do is prepare an inventory list spreadsheet so that you can tie barcodes to specific products.

If you haven’t prepared a spreadsheet, head over to our article about inventory lists. We walk you through what an inventory list is and how to create one. We’ve even included a free-to-download template to make your life easier.

Now, back to generating barcodes. You can use a free online barcode generator to generate barcodes one at a time. However, there is a better option. Barcode inventory software can automatically generate barcodes for each product. If you have custom-built software for utilizing barcodes, you can also do more with your barcode inventory system. 

Generating your own barcodes, however, isn’t for everyone. If you need your barcodes to be recognized globally, you need GS1-registered barcodes. For those, 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 recommend purchasing a company prefix directly from the GS1 website.

As a quick final example, here’s what an inventory list spreadsheet could look like:

A graphic example of what an inventory list spreadsheet looks 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 complete 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. We also created a built-in label designer into inFlow to make it easy for users to create custom labels. Understanding your company’s brand archetypes can significantly influence how you design your product labels, making them resonate more with your target audience. Our tip is to stay moderate when adding fields 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.

Quote: "Setting up a barcode system will require an investment of time, but the payoff is huge."

Step 3: Get a scanner for your barcode inventory system

Having barcodes on your products won’t do much good without 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 you’re in the market for something that is both affordable and reliable, you could pick up a wired USB scanner. We have one available in our shop, and we recently reduced the price to only $49.99. These are an excellent option for anyone doing stationary barcode scanning 

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.

A picture of the inFlow Smart Scanner, a great addition to any barcoding inventory system.

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 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 simplify printing labels straight from purchase orders, so you can add incoming stock to your barcode inventory system as it arrives.

An image of two Cassandras showing how a barcode system is faster than typing

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!

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