Barcodes & QR Codes

A Guide to Small Business Barcoding

May 28, 2024 • 8 min read

Businesses of every shape and size benefit from using barcodes and QR codes to keep their inventory organized. In fact, using a barcode inventory system is the fastest and most accurate way to maintain perpetual inventory—that is, inventory whose current quantities, conditions, and whereabouts are tracked in real time. 

In this article, we’ll explore how small businesses can make and utilize barcodes for their inventory without overspending on hardware, software, or maintenance.


Why are barcodes essential for small businesses?

Small businesses, in particular, stand to benefit from an inventory management strategy that includes barcodes. This is in part because small businesses typically have limited resources and also because they compete with larger businesses that may be able to invest more capital in additional inventory and inventory management strategies. 

Fortunately, the evolution of inventory management software and its automation features have made barcodes easier to use, create, and maintain than ever before. Once a barcode inventory system is implemented, even the smallest of businesses will be able to keep track of their inventory in real time without spending a fortune on hardware or software—or hiring extra staff to implement such an inventory tracking system.

Here are four specific reasons why barcodes are so essential for small business:

1. Improved inventory control

As previously mentioned, smaller businesses often compete with larger corporations for business and revenue. One of the chief frustrations of smaller companies is the inability to keep up with customer demand. After all, larger businesses may have the resources to stock more items in more locations, enabling them to meet their customers’ needs more swiftly.

Fortunately for small businesses, implementing a barcode inventory system can allow even the smallest of businesses to practice superb inventory control. The reason for this is twofold. First, by implementing a barcode inventory system, your business will have a better understanding of not only its current inventory status but also prior inventory usage, all of which leads to improved demand forecasting.

Second (and in turn), this improved demand forecasting allows your business to better understand exactly what it needs on hand, in what quantities, where, and when, which saves your business time and money.

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2. The ability to scale as you grow

Sometimes, small businesses do not implement a barcode inventory system because they simply do not stock that much inventory. Instead, these organizations keep track of supplies, materials, and even assets using a simple sheet of paper or perhaps an inventory spreadsheet. 

The main issues with these systems, besides being prone to human error, are that they’re not scalable and are challenging to use on the go. That means that the larger, busier, and more complex your business becomes, the less likely it is that your manual or spreadsheet inventory system will be able to keep up with everyday operations. 

Barcode inventory systems allow even the smallest of businesses to optimize their inventory management strategy from day one. And, best of all, these good habits and inventory best practices are already set in stone as the business grows busier and more successful. 

After all, it might be easy to track 30 or 40 items using a spreadsheet, but if your business opens a second location or begins storing some inventory off-site, a barcode inventory system will make that growth that much more manageable. 

3. The ability to collaborate

Often, in small businesses, a single employee is responsible for managing inventory. There is nothing wrong with this, but over-reliance on any single person can generally create inventory-related problems for even the smartest of small businesses. 

When implementing a barcode inventory system in Sortly, inventory data is automatically tracked in easy-to-use software used by the whole team. All members will have access to that data and can update inventory when necessary, in real time. This is essential for growing businesses—or for any business that doesn’t want to hire a dedicated inventory manager.

Additionally, employees don’t need to be technologically savvy to collaborate. With inventory software like Sortly, simply download the app to a smartphone or tablet, then scan an item to check it in or out, review key details, or even update an item’s condition. It’s so easy that there’s no training required.

4. Unprecedented insight into key data

As previously mentioned, when you use barcodes to check inventory in and out, the best inventory management software will automatically create a chain of custody for your inventory items and begin to keep data-rich inventory records. Over time, these inventory reports—which are entirely customizable—can reveal key patterns about inventory usage that lead not only to smarter ordering and inventory utilization but can also save your business significant time and money.

Additionally, these automatic inventory records can come in handy during tax preparations, especially if your business tends to write off obsolete inventory or needs to claim depreciation of assets.

In fact, during key inventory and asset audits, employees can simply scan barcodes to update information instead of manually recording data and then inserting it into a document or spreadsheet later.

How to make barcodes for small business

There are a variety of ways to make barcodes for your small business. 

First, it’s highly likely that many of the supplies and materials your business uses (or sells) already have a manufacturer’s barcode or QR code. If you’re using an inventory app like Sortly, you can scan this barcode as a new item in your inventory records. Many details about the item will auto-populate, and you can fill in all the rest right then and there.

In all other scenarios, you’ll need to create a barcode for four items that do not have a barcode or QR code–including items your business manufactures itself. This process is quick, easy, and affordable as long as you use the right barcode inventory software.

1. Pick a barcode generator

There are many options on the market for creating barcodes and QR codes, some of which are free or low-cost. That said, most small businesses prefer using a barcode generator that automatically links each barcode to the corresponding item’s profile within inventory software. This can be done in a matter of seconds, provided your company has selected an optimized inventory software system or app.

Such barcode-generating inventory apps and software solutions serve a variety of industries and are offered at many different price points. Small businesses searching for affordable inventory solutions should not have to spend very much (or look very hard) to find an easy-to-use inventory solution that offers in-app barcode scanning and an included barcode generator.

Additionally, there is usually no reason to invest in specialized, external barcode scanners or high-end barcode printers. Sortly, for example, allows you to scan barcodes and QR codes using their smart devices—or connect to third-party scanners, if you prefer. Users can also generate custom barcodes and QR codes within Sortly and then print them on labels using traditional printers. 

2. Sync or create barcodes

Next, even if your inventory came with a manufacturer’s barcode affixed to it, you’ll want to sync that code with whatever inventory software you’ve decided to use. This process should be straightforward. For example, if you’re using Sortly, you can create a new item by scanning the barcode with your camera or by manually syncing the barcode to an existing item in your inventory database.

If the item has no barcode, you’ll need to create one. This should be a lightning-fast process, especially if you’re using barcode inventory software. Simply create a new item, generate a new barcode within that item’s profile, and then add any other vital details you want to include about the item. 

If you’re using a system like Sortly, you can also upload high-resolution photos and any other essential attachments and notes to you or the rest of your team. While you’re adding details, you can also set custom alerts for expiration dates, warranty end dates, end-of-loan dates, and even notifications for when an item’s stock levels have dipped below a certain threshold. 

3. Print and protect codes

Finally, it’s time to print those barcodes you’ve just generated. Once again, if you’re using a truly modern inventory management app, you should be able to print these barcodes on regular label paper using a standard printer. With Sortly, you can actually select the size of the labels and even add other details from the item’s profile.

Once you’ve attached the barcode to the item, you might want to consider adding a seal or some other kind of protection to the barcode. This is particularly important for inventory that may get wet or damaged by the sun. 


About Sortly

Sortly inventory app is shown on a variety of devices.

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 large or 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 10,000 businesses globally trust us as their inventory management solution.

Start your two-week free trial of Sortly today.