Warehouse-LINK® leverages barcode and mobile computing technology. The error rate in recording data using barcodes is less than 1 in 3 million characters. Mobile computing technology allows the workers to direct, verify and record their actions at the site of activity.
Warehouse-LINK® uses 2 basic types of barcodes for warehouse tracking – a barcoded location label and a License Plate Number (LPN) label. Every location is has a barcode that identifies the location by building, zone, aisle, bay, level, and slot. Location labels are typically attached to racking, hung from the ceiling, or attached to the floor. The LPN label is unique, sequential and often a pre-printed label that is attached at receiving and is used to track a group of items in a container. A “container” for this purpose can be a pallet, carton, tote, etc. A single barcode scan reveals all necessary information about the product in the container. The LPN stays with the product throughout its lifecycle and be a standalone barcode or may include readable text with the barcode.
Scanning the LPN links the container to the barcode and scanning a location label identifies where the product in the container is located. Every move throughout the warehouse requires an LPN scan and location scan.
"A barcode is an optical, machine-readable, representation of data; the data usually describes something about the object that carries the barcode," as defined by Wikipedia. The barcode uses a series of numbers, bars, and spaces that when scanned reflects the pattern back to a computer to be interpreted.
There are many different types of barcodes, for varying purposes, which adhere to standards set by GS1 (Global Standards One). For more information on the barcode implementation process, go to http://www.gs1.org/10-steps-to-barcode-your-product. Examples of barcodes include the UPC, which is probably the most commonly known barcode to consumers and is used to identify the company and the product. Code 39 (3 of 9) is one of the most widely used barcodes in warehousing because it scans easily, is alphanumeric, and the size is easy to use in the warehouse. Interleaved 2 of 5 is used in the distribution industry but is only numeric. Code 128 is alphanumeric or numeric and is used mostly in the retail industry. FedEx uses Codabar; UPS uses MaxiCode and USPS uses the Intelligent Mail barcode. These examples are just a small sampling of barcode types.
The introduction of barcodes, mobile computers and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) revolutionized the warehouse industry in the 1980s. Warehouse Management Systems, such as Warehouse-LINK®, process any barcode. Barcodes hold the key to gathering the information in a small, compact label. When the barcode is scanned, detailed information is revealed about the product – where the product is in the supply chain process, where it came from, when it was received, who received it, where they put it, when it was picked, who picked it, what was shipped, and a whole host of other real-time information. Barcodes and WMS provide an overall snapshot of what's happening in the warehouse as well as small details about the product like weight, dimensions, batch/lot/serial numbers, and dates associated with the product.
The job of a WMS is translating and relating the barcodes together. When the product is received into warehouse inventory, the barcode (SSCC-18, Code 39, etc.) is translated into a license plate number (LPN). The LPN is used to track that group of items in the container. The container can be anything that holds the product such as a pallet or carton. A single barcode scan reveals all necessary information about the product in the container. Code 39 is a versatile barcode that may be used as a location label in the warehouse, tracking the location the unit was putaway. Sounds straightforward and simple, but in a warehouse with thousands of items and hundreds of locations, barcodes are vital in accessing product information, knowing accurate inventory counts and knowing where to find the product quickly.