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What is the Best Barcode Scanner for a Warehouse?

Choosing a barcode scanner is a major decision when setting up a barcode system for warehouses and other industrial operations. The wrong barcode scanner will limit workers’ productivity or may fail to work completely.

Industrial operations have different scanning needs represented by the many scanner options available today. Identifying the scanner that will work best in your warehouse requires careful consideration of specific factors.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of barcode scanners available and the factors to consider before choosing one. This will help you identify the ideal scanner for your warehouse.

What is the Best Barcode Scanner for a Warehouse?

There is no objectively superior type of barcode scanner for warehouse operations. Scanners that excel in one aspect may be average performers in others. This limits the scenarios where any type of barcode scanner is the ideal choice.

To identify the best barcode scanner for your warehouse, you’ll need a good understanding of your operations, what the scanners will be used for, how they’ll be used, and the challenges they’ll encounter in these operations.

You’ll also need to know the types of barcode scanners available, their capabilities, and limitations. With this information, the choice of the best scanner will be straightforward.

What Types Of Scanners Do Warehouses Use?

There are different ways to classify barcode scanners depending on the barcode symbologies they can read, the technology used to read the barcodes, portability, etc.

1D Vs 2D Scanners

1D barcode scanners can only scan one-dimensional (1D) barcodes. 1D barcodes are the oldest types of barcodes and consist of a series of vertical lines and spaces of different thicknesses.

Two types of 1D barcode scanners are 1D laser scanners and 1D linear imagers. Laser scanners project a laser light at the barcode and read the light reflected from it. These scanners are inexpensive and quick but have limited scanning ability if the barcode is damaged. Linear imagers use a charge-coupled device and function like digital cameras to capture the barcode’s image. They can read damaged barcodes better than laser scanners.

2D barcode scanners or imagers also capture an image of the barcode. However, they can read both 1D and 2D barcodes. These scanners are more costly but are easier to use because barcodes can be read from different orientations and angles. They can even scan barcodes from screens. 2D scanners are more future-proof in case of a later shift to a 2D barcode system.

Wired Vs Wireless Scanners

Barcode scanners can also be classified based on how they communicate with the warehouse management system (WMS). The communication can be wired or wireless.

Wired barcode scanners use a cabled connection, usually USB, to connect to the system. This connection is faster and more accurate, hence more reliable.

Wireless scanners use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technologies to communicate with the system. These portable devices make scanning operations more flexible since workers can quickly move from one scanning location to another. Wireless communication is less reliable and can result in delayed data transmission and scanning failures.

Scanning Motion

Pen or Wand-type scanners must be physically moved across the barcode by the user. These scanners are small, cheap, and durable because they have no moving parts. However, they are difficult to use because they require direct contact and must be moved at specific speeds while being held at a certain angle.

Laser scanners are kept stationary while scanning but have moving parts inside that move the laser beam across the barcode. This makes them more reliable at scanning but less durable.

1D and 2D scanners that use imaging technology read barcodes without any motion from the user or device. This makes them more reliable at scanning than wand-type scanners and more durable than laser scanners.

How to Choose Barcode Scanners?

To get the right barcode scanner for your industrial operations, it helps to keep your unique scanning needs in mind. Some questions you should ask during this selection process are discussed below.

Which Types of Barcodes Will Be Scanned?

You can use a free barcode generator to generate almost any type of barcode but this will affect your scanner options. As explained above, some scanners can only scan 1D barcodes. Others are less effective at scanning high-density (i.e., smaller-sized) barcodes.

When selecting scanners, consider the type and density of the barcodes used in your current setup unless you plan to replace them. If 2D barcodes may be used in the future, this should be considered too.

What Is the Size of the Warehouse?

The size of the warehouse determines the need for portable devices and the communication system that will be most effective. In large warehouses, a cabled connection may not offer the required flexibility. However, without a robust wireless system, the devices may not scan reliably outside a certain range.

Do the Scanners Need To Be Rugged?

Some scanners will be used in harsher environments than others. They may be subjected to rough handling or exposed to extreme conditions.  Rugged scanners of more robust builds should be used in such environments because regular scanners will not last.

What Is the Daily Scanning Volume?

Some warehouses only scan a few items each hour while others process tens of thousands daily with each employee handling hundreds between breaks. Scanners must match the speed and consistency needed to maintain the process speed.

Do Some Barcodes Need To Be Scanned From Far Away?

Depending on the warehouse layout and other factors, workers may need to scan certain barcode labels from farther away. The type of label used affects the scanning distance but scanners also have different scanning ranges.

Which Scanners Are Compatibility With Existing WMS?

Some barcode scanners may not be compatible with your current warehouse management system and replacing the WMS is not likely the best option. Confirm if any scanner you’re adding to your shortlist is supported by the WMS.

How Important Is Mobility?

Having a portable scanner has its advantages but it’s not always necessary. Barcode scanners for dispatch purposes may not need to be portable if all the scanning is performed at a single location. However, workers moving around the warehouse to locate and move items may need battery-powered devices.

How Comfortable Is It To Carry and Use the Scanner?

If a worker has to constantly carry their barcode scanner and use it hundreds of times daily, it should be as ergonomic as possible. It should be light and able to accommodate their hand and fingers comfortably. It should also have a non-slip grip so it doesn’t fall from their hand.

What’s Your Budget?

Barcode scanners have different price points with some costing less than $100 and others going for over $1000. For industrial applications, your ideal scanners may cost hundreds of dollars each. It may be necessary to sacrifice some features to buy as many scanners as you need.

Conclusion

Having a good scanner in the warehouse and other industrial locations makes a big difference. Although there are cost implications if you want the ideal scanner for your operations, it’s more important to take time to figure out your needs.

The key to understanding your scanning needs lies in creating a clear picture of how these scanners will be used daily. At the very least you should know how fast, accurate, mobile, and ergonomic your scanners should be before settling on a model.

The scanners available today have major differences that affect what they can be used for, their durability, and where and how they can be used. Some features may not be useful in your current operations, but you should consider your future needs as well.

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