Businesses used to rely heavily on manual systems for inventory tracking. Spreadsheets were used to capture critical data. However, systems that rely on human intervention to function are highly prone to errors. Additionally, teams have to dedicate a substantial percentage of their manhours to manage manual systems.
Over the years, the business environment has begun to change rapidly, and, in this way, businesses have to come up with ways to stay ahead of the curve. Manual systems no longer make the cut and to streamline and automate their operations, more organization are opting for barcodes and mobile hardware.
Barcodes and mobile hardware: An introduction
Barcoding assets is one of the most effective methods to track them. Invented in 1952, the barcode is a machine-readable representation of data. A barcode comprises of thin black lines that store important information related to the item. A typical barcode system includes a handheld scanner. When the user scans the barcode using the scanner, the information contained in the barcode is converted into a language that could be understood by humans. Data generated is transferred to a database.
A major issue with handheld scanners is their bulkiness. Lately, many businesses have started replacing handheld scanners with mobile devices. Thanks to an improvement in technology, mobile devices now come with advanced cameras that can be used to scan barcodes.
Furthermore, smartphones are easy to carry and use. Many software vendors allow users to download their software as apps on their mobile devices. Users with apps can access the system from remote locations. They also get regular updates and notifications regarding important tasks. Managers get real-time access to critical data and reports, which helps improve the decision-making process.
Choosing the best barcoding and mobile hardware vendor
Be very careful when choosing your mobile hardware vendor and barcode equipment provider. Investing in a barcode system and mobile hardware is a long-term decision, which is why you must leave no stone unturned to make sure your provider is capable of delivering.
To help you arrive at an informed decision, we have compiled a list of to-do things when choosing your provider.
1. Enquire about their product range
Barcoding technology is still evolving. Today, businesses not just use barcodes, but many other related products such as RFID tags and QR codes. Even if you are using barcodes today, it doesn’t mean you won’t want to migrate to some other product tomorrow.
To ensure you get the required support when you are ready to take the leap, look for a vendor that offers a full range of barcode products such as retail barcodes, RFID tags and speciality labels. Vendors that deal in different products provide a range of product-related services under one roof, which means their clients don’t have to run from pillar to post when they start using a new product.
2. Enquire about the range and scope of services
Before finalizing the deal, learn about the nature and scope of services that the vendor offers. Enquire whether the vendor just helps their clients with installation or also provides training to their staff.
It is advisable that you look for a vendor that provides both installation and training services. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. When you start using a new system, your team members including your managers would need some time to adjust to it. When they first start working on the system, your employees will have several questions that only an expert who knows the system in and out can answer.
Additionally, the vendor can help you educate your employees, explaining them the various benefits of using the system. Aware employees are less likely to resist the change that’s coming their way, which helps ensure smooth implementation.
3. Ask for references
Look for experienced vendors who can provide credible references. Contact these references, enquiring them about their experience of working with the mobile hardware vendor. If possible, send a team to the office of the references to study the nature and extent of the problems they were facing and how the solution offered by the vendor helped address these issues. Ask the implementation teams how likely are they to recommend the services of the vendor.
4. Interview the vendor
Invite quotes from different vendors. Shortlist the ones with the most reasonable rates. Interview these vendors at your office. Make sure the heads of your implementation and IT teams attend the meeting.
During the meeting, ask questions related to the system’s performance. Ask the provider to recommend the types of barcodes according to your industry and needs. Enquire about the equipment that they provide. Ask them to suggest ways to expand the use of the solutions that they provide. The idea behind this exercise is to gauge how much the vendor knows about your industry and business model and whether they are really the ‘know-all expert’ that they claim to be.
5. Enquire about the support services
Mobile hardware and barcoding system components, like other devices, can malfunction during any time of the day or night. To keep a tab on your downtime, look for a vendor that offers round-the-clock support services. It is also the responsibility of the vendor to publish patches and updates as and when they are available.