What is a barcode scanner?
A barcode scanner is a device that can read and interpret barcodes. Barcodes are a type of optical machine-readable code that is used to store information about products, such as their price, product number, and manufacturer.
Why Barcode Scanners Are The Best Way to Inventory Your Liquor
How do Bars Manage Their Inventory Using Barcode Scanners?
Inventory management at a bar involves keeping count not only of the drinks you serve, but also the ingredients that go into preparing and garnishing those drinks. You also need to keep a record of the full and empty bottles, and equipment like refrigerators, carboys, airlocks, and so on.
Bars can manage inventory manually, jotting down stock counts on sheets of paper. They can also use spreadsheets. However, the best way to manage bar inventory is by using cloud-based solutions that are connected to wired or wireless barcode readers or scanners.
Bars that use these software programs can fully automate stock management. They can quickly and precisely determine their current inventory levels, and identify products that must be reordered and in what quantity.
Barcode scanners are used at the point of sale (POS) to decode the information packed into product barcodes. The decrypted information is then displayed on a computer/mobile screen in easy-to-understand language.
When items are sold at the counter or online, and when fresh stocks arrive, the POS system (linked to barcode scanners) helps update inventory levels in real time. Handheld barcode scanners are also used to count stocks on shelves.
Business analytics reports generated by inventory management and POS software offer deeper insights into different aspects of a business, such as top-selling items, days with high/low traffic, the most expensive ingredients, etc. These reports help businesses address problems like resource wastage, theft, skyrocketing food and beverage prices, and so on.
Inventory management in a bar can be further streamlined with the help of mobile apps that let users track inventory on the go and at any time.
Types of Liquor Inventory Management Systems
Liquor inventory management can be classified into three broad categories- manual, periodic, and perpetual.
Prior to the development of technology, practically all accounting activities and inventory management were carried out manually. This method was prone to mistakes. Despite the widespread adoption of automation today, many small businesses continue to manage inventory by hand since their inventory is relatively small.
Periodic inventory management involves physically counting products at predetermined intervals. Physical stock counts can be performed once a month, once a week, once a year, or more frequently, based on the business. This method works well for businesses with low inventory levels and fewer sellable items on hand.
However, a significant challenge for business owners using the periodic inventory method is that it doesn't track stocks on a product-by-product or transaction-by-transaction basis. It also makes calculating the cost of goods sold (COGS) harder.
On the other hand, the perpetual system of inventory management is the most reliable and accurate solution for tracking inventory. This type of inventory management tracks inventory and costs for every transaction, updating the costs associated with each item at each stage of its life cycle.
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Why is Barcode Scanning a Preferred Inventory Management Method?
1. Barcode scanning efficiently records stock numbers and other relevant product information so that businesses can quickly check what kind of items and how many of those items they have on the shelves, what is to be reordered, and in what quantity. Inventory control is significantly improved this way, and companies can place orders for only those items that are necessary so as to avoid stock-out and dead stock. This reduces resource wastage and inventory carrying costs, leading to greater savings. It also enables businesses to increase profitability by quickly meeting customer demand.
2. A barcode scanner system uses data to inform business decisions. If an organization has a lot of unsold inventory, data from barcode scanning can be used to devise ways to clear stocks. For instance, if barcode scanning identifies an item as a bestseller, a slow-moving item can be bundled with it as part of a deal. This way, the bestselling item may create interest in a product that would have otherwise sat idle on the shelves, thereby opening up sales avenues for unsold stock. Furthermore, businesses can target their promotions better, create strong loyalty programs, provide attractive deals, and improve product price and design from customer data obtained through barcode scanning.
3. Inventory management with barcode scanning decreases miscounts. Barcode scanning at the point of sale (POS) allows businesses to track which products are sold and in what quantities. This sales data helps with inventory reconciliation. Barcode scanning makes it easy to track specific items as they go through different stages of the supply chain and identify the exact stages where losses could happen. Furthermore, barcode scanning generates audit records which in turn helps in identifying and preventing theft.
4. Barcode scanning helps businesses operating across multiple locations boost efficiency and save costs by identifying locations where a product is out of stock and where it is available. This information can then be used to replenish inventories in one location with extra supplies from another, thereby avoiding delays and disruptions in supply.
Components of a Barcode Scanning System
A barcode scanning system is made up of hardware and software.
The hardware component consists of printers, labels containing barcodes or QR codes, computer terminals, mobile devices, and barcode scanners that can read barcode data.
- Barcode labels are created with the help of printers. These are stuck on the surface of a product and scanned with a barcode scanner.
- Barcode scanners are made up of illuminators, sensors, and decoders. (The functioning of a barcode scanner is described in the following section.)
- Pieces of hardware that support a barcode-based inventory system include Bluetooth or Wifi devices that help scanners connect with computer terminals or mobiles wirelessly. For corded connections, wires and USB ports are the necessary pieces of hardware.
Barcode-based inventory software is essentially a computer program that takes inventory management from the physical to the digital realm. Smart software helps businesses store data in the cloud or remote systems and manage, back up, and provide data to users over the internet. Data stored in the cloud can be accessed on the go, from any location, and on any handheld device, and inventory updates can be viewed in real time. Mobile apps are examples of such cloud-based software.
How Does Barcode Scanning Work?
Barcodes are essentially vertical black and white lines that contain numeric or alpha-numeric characters. Barcodes can also be two-dimensional, in the form of QR codes, for example. Barcodes and QR codes act as depositories of a wide range of product information such as product type, product weight, use-before date, manufacturing date, price, name of the manufacturer, website addresses, geolocation data, email addresses, and so on.
Direct part marking (DPM) barcodes, on the other hand, are etched on the product surface directly, from where the product information is to be read.
QR codes are more sophisticated barcodes that contain a great deal of information in a very small space. QR codes store more data than one-dimensional barcodes.
Barcodes can be read when LED light from the illumination system of a barcode scanner falls on them. The scanner contains a sensor that detects the light reflected by a barcode and generates an analog signal. The decoder makes sense of this signal and translates it into text. The product information deciphered by these scans is then sent to a computer terminal or handheld device with which the scanner is connected.
Barcode-based inventory apps downloaded on mobiles make stock-taking a breeze, with the smartphone camera acting as a virtual barcode scanner or QR code scanner. It does away with the need to have separate hardware architecture in the form of barcode scanners, Bluetooth devices, etc. The information scanned by the mobile camera is displayed on the mobile screen itself. This way inventory management, which is often held to be one of the most tedious processes of business management, can be done from the palm of your hand.
Smartphones Vs. Barcode Scanners
A smartphone camera is all you need to scan simple barcodes as well as QR codes. Users are able to quickly access a range of information by simply opening their inventory management app and scanning item codes with the smartphone camera. However, can a smartphone truly match the performance of a wireless scanner? Can you use the two interchangeably?
Barcode scanners are a better bet if security is a concern because they are not designed for data sharing. They serve the specific purpose of inventory management. Mobiles, on the other hand, share data with the outer world over the internet. This may expose inventory data to security threats like hacking, phishing, virus attacks, and data theft.
In terms of social networking too, a barcode reader has zero or restricted links with the outside world, making the likelihood of data leakage low. Since information is saved on a server, it remains secure even if the scanner is carried outside the office/shop/store.
Since mobiles are designed to accomplish a range of tasks, unlike barcode scanners, they require frequent and expensive updates to their operating systems. Software updates on barcode scanners, however, are not needed until users report a problem. Therefore, if a scanner doesn't malfunction, you can continue using its existing software. This saves you from potential data loss and service interruptions that often happen during software updates.
Also, smartphones have a lower battery life than barcode scanners because they run a plethora of programs and apps, apart from the operating system itself.
You need not worry about portability either as a handheld barcode scanner using wireless technology to transmit data is as good as a smartphone in this regard. Owing to these reasons a barcode scanner is way better than a smartphone for managing inventory.
Top Barcode Inventory Systems for Your Bar
1. Zip Inventory
This cutting-edge software can connect seamlessly with barcode scanners to improve inventory management. It supports shelf-to-sheet inventory counts, which allows business owners to easily keep an eye on inventory levels through a mobile app. Additionally, users of the app's voice search feature can perform stock counts by merely calling out item names aloud.
This software is cloud based, as a result of which, inventory data can be instantly synced with the cloud and accessed remotely on the go, at any convenient time, using any handheld device. Furthermore, Zip Inventory provides reports on the cost of goods sold (COGS) and variance, which let businesses track changes in food and beverage costs, identify problems that lead to losses, and identify steps that can help reduce operational costs.
This software solution includes every feature needed to improve stock-taking and grow a business. It is a premier software solution for small and medium-sized businesses. Moreover, Fishbowl offers easy connectivity with several key business applications such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, Adobe, Shopify, and Amazon.
Barcoding, material requirements planning (MRP), inventory control, job shop floor control, inventory predictions on the basis of sales trends, work order management, and management of raw materials are some of the important features of this software. Its real-time updates help streamline business operations, raise efficiency, and lower operating costs.
This bar inventory solution counts goods as well as 'empties' using barcode scanners and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. (Empties refer to liquor bottles that are empty and yet reusable.) AccuBar helps businesses maintain an accurate and exhaustive liquor inventory list.
Inventory data reports generated by the software can help to improve operations. These business intelligence reports help businesses determine critical metrics like pour cost percentage, variance, and so on, that help minimize losses and increase staff accountability. AccuBar can be linked seamlessly with most POS systems and other back-office applications. This program can also be used to create barcodes for items that don't have them.