Barcodes & QR Codes

How to Implement a Barcode System in a Warehouse

June 28, 2024 • 6 min read

Many warehouses set up a barcode system to help streamline inventory tracking. In this article, we’ll detail how to implement a barcode system in a warehouse, how to use a barcode scanner in a warehouse, and then touch on best practices for maintaining an optimized barcode inventory system.


What is a barcode system for warehouse inventory? 

In inventory management, a barcode system enables an organization to automatically track the comings and goings of warehouse inventory using barcodes and a “connected” barcode scanner. For a barcode system to work, these barcodes must be synced with some sort of inventory management software which contains key details about stock, supplies, and materials.

With the scan of a barcode, team members should also be able to update those key details. This includes quantity in stock, item location and condition, and more. Additionally, scanning a barcode in a warehouse should pull up “non-text” data, including high-resolution product images and essential attachments.

One of the chief benefits of a barcode system for the warehouse is that it enables organizations to keep perpetual inventory. Unlike physical inventory, where you manually count everything and then update a separate system, perpetual inventory stays constantly accurate. With a barcode or QR code scanner, your team can update an item’s quantity, location, and other details right on the spot, saving time and eliminating errors.

In the past, organizations relied on external scanners to scan barcodes. Thanks to apps like Sortly, your smartphone camera can be used as a powerful barcode reader. Now, team members can update inventory on the go, no extra equipment needed.

Additionally, if inventory kept in a warehouse did not arrive with a manufacturer’s bar code, it’s possible (and, with the right software, easy) to generate custom barcodes. These custom barcodes can be printed and affixed to unlabeled stock and then synced with the barcode software.

A barcode system for warehouses reduces confusion about the whereabouts of inventory while creating a more profitable and productive inventory system. Additionally, practicing perpetual inventory with the help of a barcode system makes it easy to implement optimized inventory control efforts. 

After all, when organizations have the most up-to-date data about their inventory, they can place orders for new inventory only when necessary. This allows these stakeholders to reduce the amount of inventory they keep on hand without having to worry about meeting customer demand swiftly. The result is that the business remains just as (or more) productive without unnecessarily tying up cash and storage space in stock, supplies, and materials they don’t need yet.

This is particularly helpful if a warehouse has limited space or stocks inventory at risk of shrinkage or obsolescence.

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How to Implement a Barcode System in a Warehouse

The easiest way to implement a barcode system in a warehouse is with the help of intuitive barcode software. Instead of creating barcodes on a spreadsheet and then having to purchase external software that allows you to link these barcodes to inventory data, use a barcode software solution that automatically connects codes to inventory profiles plus provides you with other key automated features that streamline your warehouse inventory tracking.

Here are a few key steps to get you started:

1. Organize the warehouse

It’s virtually impossible to create and maintain a warehouse barcode system without optimizing the physical organization of your warehouse’s aisles, shelves, and bins. That’s why a thorough clean-out and organization of your warehouse before implementing a new barcode system is recommended. Begin by taking stock of everything you have on hand and physically organizing it in the most intuitive way.

2. Pick a barcode system 

While performing this physical organization, you should create an inventory list of all the items you have in stock. Since your goal is to create a barcode system, it makes sense to start building this inventory list within inventory software from the onset. Alternatively, you could compile this information in a spreadsheet and then bulk upload it to a solution such as Sortly. 

Suppose you decide to start with barcode inventory software right away. In that case, you’ll likely be able to scan items that already have manufacturers’ barcodes affixed to them for many of your items. In some cases, information and even photos about these pre-labeled items may auto-populate. If not, you can fill in all the other details on the spot.

You’ll need to create barcodes using a barcode generator for unlabeled stock. This can be done online, where there are both free and paid versions. Alternatively, you can select a barcode inventory management system that offers a barcode generator. 

Sortly, for example, allows users to create barcodes right within the item profile. The codes are automatically synced with the item, and it’s easy to generate a customized label with the barcode and other key details, too. Additionally, no special equipment is needed to print the labels. These barcodes can be printed on everyday label paper using the printer your business already owns.

 Remember that some barcode systems require external scanners, whereas others allow you to use an app that leverages your smartphone or tablet camera. These systems can be better choices for busy warehouses or those with smaller budgets since they empower employees to track inventory perpetually without requiring the investment in or maintenance of external scanners. That said, if your warehouse already owns external scanners, these can be synced with solutions like Sortly.

3. Create a standard operating procedure

Finally, when your warehouse is organized optimally, and all items feature a barcode, it’s time to create a standard operating procedure that outlines precisely how your warehouse will track inventory. This document should include essential information about how inventory is physically organized, how barcodes are used to check in arriving inventory and check out consumed or sold inventory, and how your warehouse’s unique picking and pulling practices are reflected in your perpetual barcode inventory system.

Remember that most standard operating procedures are never “done”. Continue to audit everyday warehouse practices to see how your barcode system can be made more intuitive and efficient for all team members. Whether that means adding new technology to the mix or reorganizing where and how inventory is stored, the best warehouse management systems are works in progress.


About Sortly

Sortly is an inventory management solution that helps you track, manage, and organize your inventory—from any device, in any location. We’re an easy-to-use inventory software that’s perfect for small businesses. Sortly builds inventory tracking seamlessly into your workday so you can save time and money, satisfy your customers, and help your business succeed.

With Sortly, you can track inventory, supplies, parts, tools, assets like equipment and machinery, and anything else that matters to your business. It comes equipped with smart features like barcoding & QR coding, low stock alerts, customizable folders, data-rich reporting, and much more. Best of all, you can update inventory right from your smartphone, whether you’re  on the job, in the warehouse, or on the go.

Whether you’re just getting started with inventory management or you’re an expert looking for a more efficient solution, we can transform how your company manages inventory—so you can focus on building your business. That’s why over 15,000 businesses globally trust us as their inventory management solution.

Start your two-week free trial of Sortly today.