Building a Barcode Inventory System - How To Get Started

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(Article and images courtesy of Smith Corona)

Barcodes are everywhere: in stores, warehouses, hospitals, on mail and packages. One single scan of a barcode can relay an endless amount of information. They help reduce human error, save time, and overall reduce unnecessary losses that inaccurate data end up costing a company.

Choosing to use barcodes for your business is taking a step toward proper inventory management. This data collection system is essential for organizing any business, big or small, and offers a more efficient and cost-effective way to regulate products.

In our previous article, we discussed the basics of a barcode: what it is, how it works, and what types of barcodes there are.

Now let’s look at the necessary tools needed to finally create a barcode and figure out how they can help your business become more organized.

Common Mistakes

Stating that there is a lot involved in the barcoding world would be an understatement. From the different types of barcodes, to the types of data they store, to the industries that use them, this small black and white image is quite a big deal and the process to make one can seem overwhelming. With this volume of information, it’s easy to see how someone new to barcoding could make a few errors. Let’s look at some common mistakes people make when deciding to generate a barcode and see how they can be avoided.


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Deciding what size your barcode should be is actually a crucial decision to make. If a barcode is printed too small or too large, the scanner will have a difficult time reading the information or, possibly, not be able to read it at all.


In order for a barcode to be properly scanned, the laser must be able to read the spaces on either side of the barcode; this is known as the Quiet Zone. Without this space, the scanner won’t pick up the correct information from the barcode and misread it.

Unique barcode shapes and designs are a fun way to advertise your product and can help with branding. Just make sure the design of your barcode doesn’t interfere with its functionality. If it isn’t able to scan, the barcode will be ineffective.




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While this may not seem like an important element when designing your barcode, certain colors can hinder its readability and cause errors.

Avoid colors that are too light, such as yellow, or too dark, such as blue or brown, for background and bar colors. Bad color combinations, like light on light or dark on dark colors, are advised against as well. 

While it is relevant to design your barcode accordingly, choosing aesthetics over function can do more harm than good.


Orientation & Placement

sc 4 barcode orientationOrientation relates to the position of a barcode and how it is being presented on a product, either vertically or horizontally.

The terms used for barcode orientation are “picket fence” and “ladder.”

The “picket fence” orientation refers to the lines being parallel to the movement of the label as it moves through the printer. This results in the barcode mirroring a picket fence image. These barcodes are a higher quality image with straighter edges because of how it is printed. For this reason, they are easier to read and scan.

The “ladder” orientation refers to the lines being perpendicular to the movement of the label as it moves through the printer. This up & down image resembles a ladder and works best on cylindrical products, such as bottles and cans.

If a picket fence barcode is used on these specifically shaped products, the scanner cannot accurately follow the curve of the object and therefore is unable to get a proper reading. The vertical position of the barcode allows for an easier solution.

Barcodes should be placed in a precise and evident location to make them easily scan-able. Avoid inconsistent planes and corners when deciding on where you want your barcode to be.

What Do You Need to Make a Barcode?

There are several important factors to take into account when choosing the right equipment to make a barcode. Each one will differ depending on the needs of each individual business.

Inventory Software

Equipping your business with the proper inventory software is imperative.

These tools offer the benefit of picking items faster and more accurately, and helps your company know what products it has already received, improving supply efficiency and eliminating unnecessary shortages or overstock. It acts as a reference book, tracing items and matching their product number with its inventory classification. 

Picking the right inventory software means asking, “what functionality do I need?” Some inventory software programs are free & some are more expensive, depending on the program and what its features offer... (the article continues here:

About Smith Corona

For over 130 years, Smith Corona has revolutionized the industry to become the country's only vertically integrated label manufacturer. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, they manufacture direct thermal and thermal transfer labels for shipping, barcoding, logistics and warehousing, and inventory tracking. Find out more about Smith Corona.