Warehouse Scanning Equipment: Types and Applications

Nick Mirev
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    With the advancements in technology and the widespread use of eCommerce solutions, there has been an increased need for improved warehousing. Business owners need to be aware of the latest developments in warehouse scanning equipment and solutions. This is because these systems have the potential to significantly reduce labor needs and optimize multiple business processes.

    This article shares details about the main types of equipment used by warehouse scanning systems. We’ll also give warehouse management tips on the topic of choosing a warehouse scanning solution.

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    Different Types of Warehouse Scanning Equipment

    Types of Barcode Scanners

    Barcodes are one of the most common types of warehouse scanning equipment used. Below we shed light on five different varieties of barcode scanners used in warehouses.

    1. Laser scanners. This type of scanner is designed to read one-dimensional (1D) barcodes and works effectively in a range between six inches and two feet. One of the disadvantages of laser warehouse scanning equipment is that they break easily compared to other types.
    2. Image scanners. An image scanner has a camera that captures the barcode image. Then, it’s read by the software and inventoried. Like laser scanners, this variety is only suitable for 1D barcodes.
    3. 2D scanners. A 2D scanner is more versatile and can scan both 1D and 2D barcodes. Another advantage of these scanners is that they are quicker compared to simple laser and image scanners.
    4. Charge-coupled devices (CCD) scanners. This kind of scanner creates waveforms that measure ambient light emitted from the barcode. 
    5. Pen and wand scanners. The simplicity, durability, and low price make pen and wand scanners the perfect solution for businesses with a low scanning volume.

    Other Scanners

    Barcodes are the most popular data representation type used in warehousing. That’s why there are various barcode scanner apps for inventory on the market. However, other solutions have emerged in recent years. 

    Let’s look into four of these other solutions:

    1. Radio-frequency identification (RFID). The increasingly popular RFID tags still need a scanner. However, their main advantage compared to barcodes is that they can be scanned without a direct line of sight. The main reason why they are not as used as barcodes is that RFID warehouse scanning equipment comes at a higher price.
    2. Near-field communication (NFC). Widely used in smart devices, the NFC technology has applications in inventory management systems as well. NFC allows devices to function bi-directionally. Since they can be both readers and tags, the technology enhances efficiency and is expected to become even more popular in smart warehouses.
    3. Bluetooth. If you’re looking for information on the topic of barcode scanning in warehouses, you might stumble upon the acronym BLE. It stands for Bluetooth low energy. This technology is not very popular but it's cost-effective and suitable for smartphone scanning and short-distance scanning.
    4. QR codes. Quick response codes are great for situations where a lot of data needs to be stored. Unlike barcodes, they have some fault tolerance and offer great versatility. They have a wide range of applications and are very well-known.
    Key takeaway: Barcode scanners are the most common type of warehouse scanning equipment. They are a cheap solution and are suitable for the majority of businesses. Other technologies for warehouse scanning include RFID, NFC, and even GPS. Some of them can be combined with fully autonomous warehouse-scanning drones, guided vehicles, and mobile robots.
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    Choosing Warehouse Scanning Equipment

    When picking the optimal type of warehouse scanning equipment for your business’s needs, there are a few factors that need to be considered.

    1. Warehouse size. If you operate a fairly small enterprise, you might opt for a cheap and reliable solution. However, if you have a large warehouse, scaling and handling a lot of data is paramount. The inventory system needs to be suitable for multiple sales channels.
    2. Budget. Naturally, price is a major factor when choosing warehouse scanning equipment. Although modern AI-powered autonomous systems might sound like an excellent solution, they come at a very high price. That makes them suitable for large enterprises. For a small business that needs to scan just a few items a day, one scanner and one printer combined with a suitable inventory management system is more than enough.
    3. Features. The ability to scan with a smartphone can be an important feature for some businesses. Others might prefer to benefit from built-in printers on their scanning devices. Make sure the warehouse scanning equipment corresponds to the business needs.

    Benefits of Investing in Warehouse Scanning Equipment

    Businesses aim to reduce the cost of goods sold in various ways. One of them can be to find suppliers that offer wholesale prices of the goods and raw materials used by the business. In recent years, many companies have started investing in automation. Here are some of the reasons why businesses should consider investing in warehouse scanning equipment.

    Improved Accuracy

    Manual inventory and warehousing processes are prone to human errors. Therefore, even small businesses that aim to increase their accuracy need to implement warehouse scanning equipment. Having an automated inventory system also helps with par-level tracking and removes the risk of stockouts.

    Cost Reductions

    Thanks to modern warehouse scanning equipment and software, businesses have the opportunity to reduce labor costs. Furthermore, these solutions also help reduce the cost of things like overstocking and stockouts which might have a negative impact on customer returns and sales.

    Saving Time

    Switching from manual inventory checks to warehouse scanning saves time which can be otherwise used for more productive activities.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about Warehouse Scanning Equipment

    Technologies advance constantly. That’s why even business owners need to stay in the loop with the latest advancements in the field of warehouse scanning equipment. Below we’ve gathered a few commonly asked questions. Their answers might help you on your journey of picking the optimal warehousing solutions.

    What Are the Main Features of Warehouse Management Software?

    Warehouse scanning equipment is only one part of the whole warehouse management system. The main features and uses of warehouse scanning equipment include:

    • Order management. Warehouse management software plays an important role in optimizing orders and fulfillment. It improves shipping and handling by regulating the flow of products in a warehouse.
    • Goods receiving. All components of the warehouse inventory pass through the warehouse management software.
    • Real-time inventory management. Thanks to modern warehouse control systems, businesses have the ability to track inventory levels in real-time.

    What Is the Future of Warehouse Scanning?

    One of the crucial advantages of modern warehouse scanning solutions is that they can be combined with autonomous drones. This can lead to having a warehousing process with little to no human interaction.

    In addition to that, AI can play a role in analysis and other business processes. Modern tools can analyze data and give managers insightful tips to reduce inventory loss and maximize profits.

    In recent years, many companies have invested in smart warehousing solutions. These automation tools greatly increase the speed of the scanning process and have multiple advantages compared to regular inventory scanners.

    What Are Other Data Capture and Identification Technologies?

    Collecting data and transferring it into computer systems in the right format plays a vital role in the digitalization of data. Here are some of the main AIDC technologies.

    1. Bar codes. They are widely used in almost all spheres and are part of our daily lives. 
    2. RFID. This technology has applications not only in warehousing but also in contactless payments, animal tracking, and more.
    3. Optical character recognition (OCR). It can convert images or even handwritten text to machine format.
    4. Voice recognition. Thanks to smart devices, in the past decade this technology has become very popular in various aspects of our everyday lives.
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