Although the barcode may embody the ordinary, it is considered by many as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. The origins of the barcode can be traced back to Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver – the latter having had the idea after overhearing a cashier complaining about the tedium of a manual system. Ignited by this, Woodland executed Silver’s idea and by 1974 the barcode system was being used commercially. Now, barcodes can be found on thousands of products in almost every store. Amongst the barcode printer, scanner and computer system, the barcode has become such a widely utilized tool that its purpose is often taken for granted and its significance is often forgotten. As a reminder, here are a few of the ways in which the barcode has succeeded in changing the way businesses work.
After a product is given a stock keeping unit (SKU) and a barcode scanner attaches the barcode to it, the product becomes more than simply the physical object it is. It becomes tagged data which, when scanned, enters a computerized network and one more piece of an information puzzle. The data created from barcodes helps businesses determine what they sell and how they sell it and helps to predict patterns and adjust business plans.
Speeding up the economic process
Barcode products have changed since 1974, becoming more reliable and offering better performance and features. However, even from its humble beginnings it changed the way businesses were able to run. Before the barcode system medium to large sized businesses were forced to keep track of SKU’s manually. This process of doing inventory manually could take a few days and meant businesses were left losing out on profit. This efficiency has also allowed for entirely new forms of businesses – many agree that it had much to do with the rise of ‘just-in-time supply chain logistics’, which many credit to being the key factor in the popularity of Walmart.
With a barcode printer, stores can easily create barcodes for their products, which can then be scanned and immediately tracked by a computerized asset management system. Any computerized tracking system helps to eliminate human error, creating more accurate information. Tracking your inventory is imperative for catching and minimizing losses.
While we are so accustomed to seeing the barcode on our clothing, food, tools and more, it’s important to recognize the significance this seemingly mundane code has had economically.