Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Were Barcodes Developed?

Barcodes are found on almost every item that a consumer encounters. They contain UPC information that relates to the product and, when scanned by any of the multiple available types of barcode scanners, they send an automatic electronic signal to the cash register. This process enables stores to offer quick checkouts and removes the probability of human error.

Barcodes were originally invented, by David Collins, as a tracking system for railroad cars. In 1961, the Boston and Maine Railroad began testing these KarTrack barcodes. Collins quickly decided to expand upon his early success and began soliciting other business. Response was slow at first, but by the end of the 1960s the United States Postal Service and General Motors both had tracking systems in place.

The grocery industry saw the potential for barcodes and scanners and the Kroger chain volunteered to be the first to test it. In 1974, a pack of Wrigley chewing gum was the first coded product to be passed over a grocery store barcode scanner. Since that time they have become almost universally used and accepted, both for ringing up customers and for inventory control.

Although the barcodes themselves have stayed essentially the same, scanner technology has continued to evolve. Long gone are the days that required an electrical outlet for scanners. Now there are multiple different handheld wireless scanners, which can be utilized at a checkout lane or for scanning in inventory.

Cordless scanners are also used in the workplace to replace traditional time clocks. Employers can provide their employees with timecards which feature a barcode and then that card is scanned each time the employee clocks in or out. This eliminates the need for paper time cards, thus reducing costs while also being more environmentally friendly.

Barcode technology is also used by stores that offer membership and discount cards. These cards are loaded with a code that allows a scanner to identify the consumer and to instantly link their account, and any applicable perks, to the transaction. This process works in the same way as imprinted time cards and, again, eliminates the need for paper as stores no longer have to issue coupons to offer specials to specific customers.

Regardless of the size of a company, laser scanners are an essential startup item. Running a business without them would require a much larger time investment, thereby sending operating costs through the roof. Barcode and scanner technology forever changed the face of supermarkets and other retail stores in the 1970s, but it is also applicable to almost every type of business. If your company has any type of item that is sold to or sent out to others then you absolutely need to embrace this technology.

Find out more about Wasp barcode scanners at Wasp Barcode - In the UK see a full range of barcode equipment and solutions from Wasp Barcode UK.

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