From physical stores to eCommerce platforms to warehouses and shipping centers, if you are dealing with physical goods, barcodes are found and used everywhere. These little black and white lines are used for more than just organizing products in your warehouse and are one of the significant factors in determining your order fulfillment process.
A barcode is a rectangle stretch of parallel black and white lines, designed with unique patterns printed on each product for easy identification and tracking. Think of it like a SKU, but something that can only be decoded by a machine. At each phase of shipping, this barcode is scanned until the product reaches the end customer.
Shipping Barcodes vs. Product Barcodes
There are two types of barcodes used in order fulfillment:
- Shipping barcode: These are printed and pasted on the inbound and outbound shipping packages. This will help manage the inventory received and track the ones that have either been received by the end customer or are stuck in transit or delayed.
- Product barcodes: These are for the individual products that are stored in your warehouses, helping you locate the products more easily. This is also crucial for an efficient warehouse and inventory management system.
For both types, there are also different ways a barcode is printed and read.
- Alphanumeric barcodes: These barcodes can handle larger chunks of data than numeric ones, making it easier to track and manage the orders.
- Numeric barcodes: These are used for basic level inventory management in your warehouse. The perfect example is a hang-tag you see on a clothing in a store.
- Datamatrix barcodes: These are suitable for smaller products, such as mobile phones, cosmetic items such as lipsticks, eyeliners etc.
Scanning the shipping barcode will give you information about the contents of the package, customer details, delivery location and other information. Let’s discuss the situations where a barcodes are used and why they are beneficial for both 3PL fulfillment centers and the eCommerce providers.
When Are Barcodes Used?
When Receiving Inventory in the Fulfillment Center
Usually inventory arrives to a fulfillment center through two means – parcels or freight shipments. Scanning the shipping barcode will let you know about the details and plan the next step of the order fulfillment process accordingly. This will help prevent any delays in the shipping or hidden charges that could arise in the process.
When Handing Off Packages to Shipping Carriers or Courier Companies
When your orders are packed and ready to be shipped, you print and stick a barcode on the package before handing it to the shipping carrier. The barcode is first scanned by them before leaving the fulfillment center. This helps to avoid any mishaps later, especially in situations where the order gets lost or if the shipping carrier claims they never picked up the order.
When Receiving Returns from the Customer
Returns can happen in many ways. You may send one of your employees to pick the order back, or the customer might send it back to you or your 3PL fulfillment center. In such cases, you can simply scan the barcode on the package to see the details about the order and resolve the issues seamlessly.
Benefits of Barcodes
Shipping barcodes are not just for tracking orders that has been packed and shipped. These help you in maintaining your inventory and warehouse properly, and optimize your order fulfillment process. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of having shipping barcodes and how they can benefit your eCommerce business.
Faster Order Processing
When you are expanding and growing, fulfilling multiple orders can become stressful or complicated. It’s physically exhausting to record each and every detail about a product and manually manage the total number of orders processed, sent out, and in transit. Having a barcode system can help you process the orders faster and with better accuracy.
Less Errors and Misplacements
Manually entering the product and package details and managing a register can cause a lot of errors and, in turn, unexpected losses and costs. When you automate the process with advanced barcode technology, you are improving the efficiency of your order fulfillment on a basic level.
The days of having one big scanner at one location has gone. It’s now the era of portable, wireless scanners. No matter where you are in your warehouse, you can carry around a barcode scanner and easily access all the data you need about a certain product or package.
Don’t Have Barcodes Yet?
Implementing a barcode system to your order fulfillment process can be a fairly easy task. However, you must also ensure that your shipping partners, 3PL fulfillment partners, and product manufacturers are also aware of your current barcoding system as a secondary checks and balances system. This can help you segregate between the new batch of inventory and the old one and process them faster and efficiently accordingly.
When you partner with a 3PL fulfillment center like ShipBots, you get a fully automated, efficient inventory management system and streamlined order fulfillment process, including an advanced barcode system. Every item we store, pack, ship and receive are registered with a barcode for improved accuracy. Our inventory management software also helps you track each and every step of your order fulfillment process. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your shipping and order fulfillment with an efficient barcode system.