When I go to the library, supermarket, department store or other retail outlets, I notice the barcode on nearly every product. Lately, a new kind of barcode also appears on newspapers where you can scan it with your smartphone for a detailed video presentation. Besides convenience, the barcode revolutionizes the way we operate by saving tremendous amounts of labor, material, error and confusion.
The convenience of the barcode for the customer is seen in swiping a credit card, banking at the ATM, or borrowing a book from the library. As for the business operator, the barcode’s most obvious advantage is tracking the price and inventory of each item in the business. The data represented in the code is scanned into a software system that gives the manager a complete picture of total inventory and cost. The software keeps track as the products are sold. It tells the manager when the inventory needs replenished, and how fast is the sale of each product. There is no need to physically count the quantity of each item.
The advantage multiplies when the business gets bigger involving large warehousing, distribution, and a network of retail outlets. The software system becomes the virtual manager of accounting, price tracking, inventory and distribution. The potential does not end there. When the business goes global, the software can be upgraded to serve foreign markets, including the handling of international currency fluctuations.
The barcode’s higher objective is to serve the marketing purpose of the business. By tracking the sales of each product, the manager knows which one attracts customers under what circumstances. Further studies of different patterns of sale will yield more valuable information that can be used to improve product quality and sales.
Besides the retail sector, the barcode also benefits production where factories manage raw materials, component parts, and final product sales. For major corporations like Walmart and others that have integrated their business from retail all the way to production, the barcode is indispensable for it enables the management and marketing of each product of the company.
The usage of barcodes is not limited to products and materials. The private record of an individual is commonly linked by a barcode printed on a credit card, identity card, driver’s license, passport, business license, or even an airline ticket. The records include credit history for banks, health conditions for doctors, personal identification for airline or immigration, traffic and other violations for the police.
The barcode is ubiquitous in our daily life. Despite complaints about privacy and abuse, the barcode makes work incredibly quick and efficient.