Scanning The Way To Savings

Make bar coding work for your company.

Scanning the Way to SavingsIt may seem like a technology that’s been around for a while, but many companies still haven’t discovered the cost-saving advantages of bar coding.

A bar code is any optical machine-readable representation of data in the form of specifically spaced parallel lines. The most prevalent bar code that people see is the universal product code, or UPC, which is on almost every product sold in the retail industry. However, a bar code can represent any form of text, which in turn can be read by a computer using inexpensive bar code scanners. This input can be used with any software in place of a keyboard.

Since 2003, Superior Products has used a bar coding system in multiple departments and has been enjoying hefty cost savings and committing fewer errors ever since. Starting in the machine shop, each job packet has the job number bar coded on the paperwork. When an employee begins work on this job, he or she will scan his or her name badge, and then scan the job code. This is much more efficient than typing names and job numbers into the computer, or filling out time sheets to be batch-entered at a later time. Scanning the bar code also leaves little room for error.

2009 GAWDA Management
Information Committee

  • Chris Dominiak, Norco (Chair)
  • Jim Broughton, Dataweld
  • Tim Fusco, TrackAbout
  • Iain Hodgekins, Superior Products
  • Robert Iverson, Ivey Industries
  • Jim McKenney, Computers Unlimited
  • Doug O’Dell, Linweld
  • Joe Rohs, OKI Bering
  • George Slogik, The Lincoln Electric Company

For Products
After the parts have been run, they are put in a basket that also has a corresponding bar code. By doing this, the parts can be tracked throughout the rest of their journey through the plant, from cleaning to packaging to shipping. When employees were typing or recording information by hand, the accuracy rate of our shipments was approximately 90 percent, due to lost tickets, transposing of numbers or other human errors. That accuracy rate has increased to more than 99.9 percent since the switch to bar codes.

Improved accuracy saves thousands of dollars worth of the engineering department’s time, along with that of management, due to not having to identify mislabeled parts.

Accuracy rates can increase to more than 99 percent by switching to bar coding.

Once packed, part numbers are bar coded on the box labels. The bar code is then scanned as the package crosses over an electronic scale. The packager will be notified electronically if the box quantity does not meet the correct weight. All chances for human counting errors disappear when using this method.

Later, when the goods are pulled for shipment, they are again scanned to ensure they match the amount on the customer’s purchase order. Doing this type of comparison scanning greatly cuts down on the possibility of shipping errors. The correct quantities of the correct parts are sent to the customer, the stock count stays accurate and everyone is happy. As we all know, happy customers mean more orders!

Switching to bar codes requires very little start-up cost and no software upgrades. The investment can be repaid in less than a month in labor costs alone.

Getting Started
Making the switch to bar codes required very little start-up cost and needed no software upgrades, which gave a very quick ROI (return on investment). With a scanner cost of around $150, the investment was repaid in less than a month in labor costs alone.

The switch has brought an enormous amount of time and cost savings to our company, and we are closer than ever to becoming an error-free establishment. The benefits to the level efficiency and organization that come with implementing a scanning-based business are simply too great to be ignored.

What can bar coding do for your company? Can you afford not to find out?

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Iain Hodgekins Meet the Author
Iain Hodgekins is vice president of operations at Superior Products, located in Cleveland, Ohio, and on the Web at Hodgekins is a member of GAWDA’s Management Information Committee.