Barcode Inventory Software For Small Business: Smartphones vs Barcode Scanners

Barcode inventory management software is much more efficient than inventory software based on the manual inventory data entries. Barcode scanning speeds up inventory management process and eliminates inventory entry errors. Now traditional barcodes are gradually being replaced with the QR codes, and barcode scanners with the smartphones. Are there any advantages or drawbacks in using QR codes over UPC barcodes for the inventory management and asset tracking? The answer is - in most cases it does not make much of a difference which type of barcode you are using: traditional UPC barcode, QR code or other barcode type. More important distinction is which scanning devices inventory software is working with: traditional barcode scanners, smartphones or smartphones connected to a barcode scanner.


barcode scanning inventory management

UPC Barcodes For Inventory Management

upc barcode

UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode is the barcode you see on most inventory products. It is often called "manufacturer's barcode." The number encoded in the barcode (inventory SKU or part number) uniquely identifies inventory line item. It will be the same number for all companies that produce, store or sell this product.
UPC barcode is one dimensional (1D) linear barcode consisting of black and white stripes. Using UPC barcode you can encode only letters and numbers and only up to 16 characters. If your inventory or assets already have a barcode from the manufacturer, most likely it is a UPC barcode.

QR Codes For Inventory Management

qr code

QR (Quick Response) code is a 2 dimensional (2D) barcode that can fit significantly more information (up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters) and diverse data on the inventory items. For example, in the QR code you can encode binary data as well, such as small images. Although you can encode a lot of information in the QR code, if you want QR code to be dynamic (you want to be able to change data that user sees or sends without re-printing a QR code label), you will need to encode a unique inventory line item ID and fetch associated data from the database.

Inventory Management Equipment For QR Code and Barcode Scanning

People often associate inventory QR code scanning with a smartphone, and inventory barcode scanning with a traditional barcode scanner. This is not entirely correct. You can use smartphones to scan inventory labeled with either QR codes and UPC barcodes. Similarly, you can use most of the modern barcode scanners to scan both UPC barcodes and QR codes. Not all barcode scanners are capable of scanning QR codes, however. In order to do it, you need to purchase a 2D imager -- a barcode scanner that can read both 1D and 2D barcodes.

Does it matter what type of barcode to use with the inventory software? There is a slight difference: QR codes can be scanned more reliably with a smartphone camera, and QR code can encode more information on the inventory and assets. However, what makes the most difference is not what kind of barcode to use, but what you are using for inventory scanning: regular barcode scanner or a smartphone.


Inventory Software With Barcode Scanners or Smartphones: What Works Better?

As it happens often, there are pluses and minuses in both approaches, so the final decision depends on your business environment and goals. You can also use barcode scanners and smartphones interchangeably for the different inventory management tasks.


Inventory Management With A Smartphone: Advantages

  • Wider Coverage Area For Inventory Processing
    Barcode scanners have to either be plugged into a computer or (wireless type) be in the vicinity of the computer. Whn you are using a smartphone for inventory management you can be anywhere and you still can scan assets and inventory.
  • Inventory Management Hardware Savings
    If you plan to use inventory software that works with barcode scanners, you will need to purchase at list 2-4 of them, plus possibly hire a consultant to connect barcode scanners to the computer (if you need wireless type). Inventory software that uses smartphones for barcode scanning does not require you to purchase any barcode scanning hardware or do any additional setup. Company employees can use their own smartphones for barcode scanning and processing inventory transactions.
  • Smartphone Inventory Software Has More Capabilities
    Smartphone can be used for much more than just scanning inventory. You can use smartphones for the data entry, inventory information lookup, taking photos, collecting signatures, capturing GPS location of the inventory transaction, and more.


Barcode Scanner Based Inventory Software: Advantages

  • Fast Inventory Scanning
    Scanning inventory using a handheld barcode scanner is faster than inventory scanning with a smartphone. The difference in the inventory processing speed won't make any difference if you typically have just several inventory items to scan at a time, but for the high volume (100+ items) inventory transactions gain in inventory scanning speed is significant.
  • Inventory Scanning Reliability
    Barcode scanners can scan inventory more reliably in the poorly lit areas, although it does depend on a specific model of a barcode scanner or a smartphone.
  • Barcode Scanner Covers More 1D Barcodes
    There are certain types of 1D barcodes that cannot be read with a smartphone camera, but you can read them with a traditional barcode scanner.

Check how you can manage inventory stock using a smartphone for barcode / QR code scanning.

Inventory Software With The Barcode Scanners Connected To A Smartphone

You can combine the advantages of the mobile phones and traditional barcode scanners by using barcode scanners that can connect to a smartphone via bluetooth. With this setup, you are not bound to the office computers and can process inventory transactions in the field, as well as use a smartphone for data entry and look up. When it comes to the inventory barcode scanning, barcode scanner connected to a smartphone will allow you to process high volume inventory transactions faster and more reliably.

As always, you have several options here. You can purchase a barcode scanner that emulates keyboard, and use it with any inventory management mobile application. The input from such barcode scanners go directly into the focused text field in the inventory management mobile application, as if you would type this information in using a keyboard. This setup, however, takes away the advantages of the barcode scanning speed. Instead of doing a continuous barcode scanning in the inventory application you will need to get to the input field and put it in focus before each scan.

A better option will be to use inventory management mobile application which integrates directly with a barcode scanner. This setup will allow you to do continuous uninterrupted inventory barcode scanning. On the flip side, you will need to purchase a specific barcode scanner with which your chosen inventory management mobile application is integrated.

Check how you can use bluetooth barcode scanners and smartphones for the mobile inventory management.

Inventory Software With The Barcode Scanner vs Smartphone: Takeaways

In our opinion it is much more beneficial to use smartphones for inventory barcode scanning, especially if most of your employees own them. However, if you need to process high volume inventory or asset transactions (hundreds of items) fast, and do not need to keep track of any additional information, barcode scanners will work better for this situation.

If you need to process high volume inventory transactions in the field or away from the office, smartphone with connected barcode scanner may be your best option. In this case you may want to chose inventory management mobile application which is directly integrated with a barcode scanner, rather then using keyboard emulating barcode scanner. Check with the application vendor which barcode scanner(s) are compatible with the inventory management system before purchasing them.

Take Assets And Inventory Under Control With These Software Products

QR Inventory

Inventory management and asset tracking with mobile devices and barcode scanning. Track inventory and assets in the field, warehouse or office in real time. Always know what you have in stock, where your assets are, what projects they were used for. Review usage history and trends, analyze data to improve business process.    Learn More >>

QR Mobile Data

Mobile data collection and workflow tracking. Collect data in the field, on the shop floor or on the job sites using mobile forms. Link mobile forms to your process / workflow. Store digital documents in the secure cloud, give all stakeholders immediate access to collected data from anywhere.    Learn More >>

QR Audit

Physical inventory count and asset audits. Do planned and ad hoc counts using mobile devices for barcode scanning. Complete inventory counts and asset audits in hours rather than days or weeks, eliminate errors and miscounts. Immediately identify discrepancies with "on the books" inventory.    Learn More >>

QR Inventory and QR Mobile Data are brand names of inventory management and mobile forms software by AHG -- a provider of mobile and cloud-based applications for business. Our unified mobile platform improves business operations efficiency by eliminating manual tasks and physical paperwork, while providing a secure cloud storage for the business records, real time access to business data for all stakeholders, comprehensive data reporting and analytics. Headquartered in beautiful Boise, Idaho, AHG software is used to manage hundreds of millions of dollars annually in inventory and assets.

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