The bar code is so much a part of everyday life that we take it for granted—every time you buy something at a store, for instance, the first thing that the clerk does is to scan the bar codes of your items, one by one, so that their prices may be calculated. The bar code system as we know it today began in 1948 as a result of an overheard conversation at a grocery store about the pressing need for a way of reading the prices of goods automatically. The patent for the bar code changed hands several times over the next few decades.
But bar codes are useful for far more than just price reading. In more recent times they have been used by businesses, both large and small, as a way of keeping track of the goods from the time they are manufactured until the time that they reach the retail market. Four reasons why they are so valuable are: speed ease of handling large amounts of merchandise and/or assets reduction in costs prevention of errors SpeedBar codes can be read very quickly. As a result, customers do not have to wait in line as long as they once did. The codes serve the same purpose when inventory is being tracked.
Ease of handling large amounts of merchandise and assets
A company that has a large merchandise inventory, or a large amount of physical assets, needs to be able to keep track of all of those things in a way that saves time. Indeed, it is pretty much the bar code system that has made the accumulation of thousands—and even millions—of articles of merchandise a possibility, because no matter how many there are, they can always be looked up in a second! Such large, wealthy businesses are what keeps the economy thriving.
Reduction in costs
Using bar codes can be very economical, not only in terms of time, but also in terms of money. As stated in the previous section, they can reduce the incidence of error, which can ultimately be costly. In addition, manual tracking requires the hiring of employees who need to be paid for their work. These extra employees need to be supervised, too.
Prevention of tracking errors
Accuracy is a must when it comes to tracking things which might be lost or stolen. Before bar codes were invented, the only way to track company inventory was by hand, which meant there was always the possibility of human error. But once the system was introduced, the entry error rate was reduced to one in three million!
Use of bar codes for document storage
If inventory tracking were the sole use for bar codes, then they would be valuable enough. But this amazing technology has other uses as well—uses that their inventor, Bernard Silver, could never have even dreamed of! One of these is document storage. Here, too, the large amounts of data that a business must store can be managed much more efficiently. Documents can be bar-coded before they are scanned and the date of the scanning, the bar code and other relevant information is then stored. From then on, any document can easily be retrieved any time that it is needed. Gone are the days when getting a file required sorting through countless others.
Vehicles and mail
Just as merchandise can be tracked via bar code, so can company vehicles. They can thus be located if lost, stolen, or used for secret purposes. Mail can also be monitored so it gets to the right people.
It is hard to believe, but besides their implementation on things, bar codes can also be used on people! They have great security value when used in this way—guards can scan everyone who enters and leaves company premises to make sure that they are all authorized and thus reduce the incidence of workplace theft and other crimes.
The uses for bar codes are many and continue to grow, and given the flexibility and range of options, no company should go without them anymore.