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How to set up a barcode system

by Thomas | Last Updated: January 31st, 2022 | Barcoding | 18 comments

We’ve had a lot of small businesses write in to ask about barcoding, so we put together a three-minute tutorial on how to set up a barcode system.

Our full barcode tutorial video is right here:

How To Set Up A Barcode System | inFlow Inventory software

But since you’re here, this post provides some extra detail to the steps from our video.

Step 1: How to generate barcodes

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 it comes to generating barcodes, you can use a free online barcode generator to generate codes one at a time, or inventory software that can automatically generate codes for each of your products.

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

A screenshot of a product spreadsheet, part of the first step in building a barcode system

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, so 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 sell their own labels on their website, but you don’t have to use their branded labels — generic ones will work as long as they’re the right 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 not to get too ambitious 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 of the items that you’d like to barcode. Expect this to take at least a few hours, if not days. The labelling process can go a bit faster if you have software that can filter to your current stock and automatically print labels for just those products (more on this later).

Once you’re done labelling everything you currently have, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and remember that you should keep the process going for any incoming products.

Step 3: Find inventory software to tie your barcode system together

Finally, you’ll need great inventory software to tie your whole barcode system together. Finding barcode scanners and label printers is pretty easy, but you’ll want an inventory management system that was 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 single product with just a few clicks.

When it’s time to physically label your product, inFlow can kickstart the process by showing just your current stock and printing your labels straight to a DYMO printer. We also make it easy to print labels straight from purchase orders, so you can add incoming stock to your barcode system as it arrives.

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

Your business will start to reap the benefits the moment your next sale comes in. Instead of having to type 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, like stock transfers or work orders.

We hope this post has helped you learn all the major components of setting up a barcoding system — and if you’d like to get started, inFlow Cloud can help!

Try inFlow Cloud free

No credit card required. Sign up now!

Thomas

Thomas

Thomas is a 100% human being who divides his time between writing medium-sized articles with his keyboard and taking large photographs with his camera.

18 Comments

  1. Megan Joy

    Good day

    What barcode scanner and software would you recommened that can link with a free online barcode generator? (Which free barcode generator would you recommened?

    We are based in Cape Town, South Africa.
    Thank you.

    Kind regards
    Megan Joy

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi Megan, we’re actually working on a new post to highlight some of the best barcode generators outside of inFlow. Here’s one of the generators we’re going to highlight: https://barcode.tec-it.com/

      Reply
  2. Echina Obrota

    Which sales app uses barcode and can also show inventory level notifications..
    I am writing from Nigeria. I intend to start a grocery store.

    Please your answer would go a long way in helping me. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi Echina, our software, inFlow Cloud, does offer barcode generation and scanning. We also track inventory.
      We don’t have in-app notifications right now for inventory levels, but we do offer email notifications that you can get on a daily basis for low stock items.

      If you’d like to try inFlow, we offer free trials and we have a team dedicated to help you get set up and learn how inFlow could best fit your business.
      You can sign up for our trial here: https://www.inflowinventory.com/signup

      Reply
  3. pratham

    hi can one of u guide me for set up a full barcode for my small business

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi Pratham, we do offer onboarding as part of your inFlow trial. So we could show you how to set up barcodes at your business if you sign up here: https://www.inflowinventory.com/signup

      Reply
  4. ankit patel

    how can i set up barcode system for my hardware shop

    Reply
  5. Tony Moore

    How do I generate a book publishing bar code for an ISBN 13 code. What information do I place onto the generator?

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi Tony,

      Here’s a free barcode generator that can generate ISBN 13: https://barcode.tec-it.com/en/ISBN13?data=9781234567897

      From some quick Googling, it *does* look like there is meaning to the numbers in the ISBN, though, so I recommend doing further research to make sure it’s valid for usage. It looks like there are country, publisher, and title identifiers built into the numbers—as well as a check digit.

      Reply
  6. KVH

    How does one use this software to set up a barcoding system both for their retail division, wholesaler division, and warehouse?

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi KVH, good question.

      The quick answer is that you’d usually tie a single barcode to each product, and that barcode would bring that product up each time you scan it into our software. inFlow also provides different pricing schemes so that you can have a separate retail and wholesale price for the same product, depending on who the customer is. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to start a free trial and our team will let you know if inFlow is the right fit for your business.

      https://www.inflowinventory.com/signup

      Reply
  7. Jason

    Hi, I’ve been trialing the system with my own personal business but I’d like to propose to my employer that we use this in my day job – the one feature I can’t seem to find though is location barcodes. Is it possible to do this with inflow or is the only way to put stock into a location to manually add it there?

    Reply
    • Thomas

      Hi Jason, sorry, inFlow doesn’t have a feature specifically for location barcodes right now.
      If your locations are barcoded, you can scan them into the Windows or web apps. Just not our mobile apps—you’ll have to pick from a location list).
      But I’ve passed your feedback along to our team for consideration.

      Reply
  8. Marilyn Indahl

    Thank you for this article… A great help as I am researching barcode information. We have a good size amount of camera and lighting gear here at Minneapolis College that we check-out to students and we need a better online system. Its nice to know this was written by a fellow Photographer!

    Reply
  9. Kathy

    What would you recommend for a small business that is currently using Quail?Having to key in everything at time of sale/pick up is timely and mistakes are happening too often. I’m looking for a way to implement barcode scanning but need to differentiate between around 10-15 different vendors.

    Reply
    • Jared Plumb

      Hey Kathy,

      For me to better answer your question could you tell why you need to differentiate between the different vendors for items with the same SKU?

      Reply
  10. Henry Odhiambo

    When we pass the items by the barcode reader, the software needs to show us the order ID number which this items belongs to. Let’s say there is 50 orders and we need to find which order this item belongs to. Can inFlow work this way?

    Reply
    • Jared Plumb

      Hi Henry,

      Thanks for reading. If you were using the inFlow desktop application you could do this in a few steps:

      1. First you would open your product page.
      2. Then you would scan the item.
      3. Check order history for unfulfilled orders.
      4. Choose one and open it.

      If you’d like to try it out yourself inFlow offers a 14 day free trial with no credit card required. We also have an amazing support team to help you test it out. Just click the button at the bottom of the article to get started.

      All the best,
      Jared

      Reply

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