Getting started with EPMS Bar Coding and Scanning

Written by Rich Riedman of Riedman Workflow Design

Many of you have express interest in how to begin using scanning and bar coding with EPMS.  If I can scan my items at the store self-checkout it would seem to be fairly easy to scan and track inventory throughout my manufacturing and warehousing operations.  Getting these scans into the right place within EPMS to accurately reflect the movement of inventory through your operations is more complex and involves many more factors to be done successfully.

My 35 years of warehousing experience has shown me that it is worth reviewing your current work flows related to inventory movement and tracking first.  Bar coding and scanning with EPMS can generate significant savings through:

  • the faster and more accurate input of data into an EPMS,
  • improved user productivity,
  • increased customer satisfaction (greater accuracy of items shipped),
  • more accuracy of work in progress inventory,
  • increased ability of job tracking.
  • A greater return on the tracking of overage from print jobs.

Here are a few things you might consider when beginning the process:

  1. Evaluate your entire inventory workflow. This includes raw materials and supplies, work in progress, and finished goods.  How much inventory or dollars are tied up in inventory and how is it tracked across your company?  Review the flow of inventory from receiving, to put-away, consumption of work-in-progress, tracking of job surplus, picking of orders and shipping of finished goods.
    • Figure out where problems might be occurring in the inventory flow. Is it an issue of inaccuracy of inventory levels or are the wrong items being selected for shipment? Are the inventory update transactions into EPMS being done incorrectly or with a longer lead time resulting in your sales team selling product no longer in stock?  Can you quickly find the location of a specific inventory item?  Can you track inventory job overage?
  • Quantify the business impact of these issues. For example, scanning is 8 to 10 times faster than manually entering data.  Let’s say you have a user spending five hours a week entering data when it could be done in less than one hour.  Studies show that 5% of all data manually keyed into a system is done incorrectly, thus resulting in inaccurate inventory levels and possible customer dissatisfaction.  Taking time to quantifying these business impacts will go a long way to helping you not only generate your return on investment to implement an EPMS and barcoding integration but to track and measure success.
  1. Determine the type of bar coding or symbology to use in labeling inventory, work in process, finished goods and slot or bin locations.
    • Know your options: A 2D barcode can encrypt more characters in the same space as a 1D barcode. While 1D codes typically have 20 to 25 characters, 2D barcodes can have 2,000 characters or more.
  • Figure out how you will create and print the bar code labels. What software do you plan to use?  What’s the best bar code printer and labels for your application? Label printers and stock will be based on how where the labels will be stored and for how long. For example, thermal direct are great for short term and thermal transfer may be best for longer term labels not stored with high temperate.
  • What to bar code? In addition to printing bar code labels, consider printing bar codes for various fields on existing printed reports, such as job or sales orders. This will eliminate the need for users to manually key this data into an inventory move transaction.
  • Determine how you intend to label bin/slot locations, including locations that might not be in a rack, such as for roll stock. Consider different types of adhesive for tags based on temperature, moisture and durability needs.
  • Do you need specific hardware or software? Different scenarios require different scanning technology and hardware.  For example, you may want to consider using Riedman Workflow Design’s EPMS Scan solution for a handheld scanner.  This software will provide you EPMS-like screens to do your inventory transactions using scanning in real time on the production or warehouse floor.  Users will receive instant feedback on submitted transactions, thus allowing users to correct any input errors immediately.  Determine the right type of handheld scanner including 1D, 2D and or long or standard range scanner, durability and drop specs.

Since every business operates in a unique way, you may want to consider an on-site evaluation of your work processes, generation of the ROI for scanning, and the creation of a work plan for implementing the bar coding and scanning.  Riedman Workflow Design is available to help put this plan in place.

I hope these tips have helped you if you are considering implementing EPMS integration with barcoding and scanning technology in your warehouse.  Good luck!

Rich Riedman can be contacted at