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Coupled with computer databases and decoding logic, bar code labels can be made to serve as complex information carriers.

By now, most of us know that bar codes are used for fast, super-accurate identification of product, or for error-free scanning of data into a computer. Furthermore, by using completely automatic laser scanners, product movement can be tracked, as cartons or pallets move from place to place.

The many possibilities for the best use of this fast, accurate and sophisticated technology are not always so obvious. Let’s explore some of its problem solving capabilities.

Bar code aliases

Problem: Bar codes are too long.

Solution: Use a 2 to 4 character "alias" instead of the full length code.

A 2 character alpha-numeric code has 1156 different combinations (excluding L and O.) 3 characters have 39,304 combinations. An additional "check" character gives only a 3% chance that an incorrectly keyed value is accepted.

Advantages of encoding:

  • Easy to correctly key enter.

  • Easy to find the label ID visually when searching for a pallet.

  • Easy to remember.

  • Bar code prints fast with little ribbon wear.

  • Easy to scan as it is less angle-dependent than a long label.

  • Takes up less room – you can use a smaller label.

Multiple format bar codes

Problem: Different items require different categories of information in the bar code.

Solution: Use a variety of bar code formats to satisfy the different needs.


  1. Company ID and Part number – IBMX1234567 (company=IBM, Part #1234567.)

  2. Part number and quantity – 1234567X1234 (Part #1234567, quantity=1234.)

  3. Part number and serial number – 1234567X123456789 (Part #1234567, serial# =123456789.)


  • Alpha-numeric code such as 3 of 9.

  • Variable length format permitted.

  • Custom decoder software – this then is how each of the above formats would be decoded and sent to PC:

  1. IBM,1234567

  2. 1234567,1234

  3. 1234567,123456789

Reusable bar-codes for ID

Problem: How to identify an order automatically?

Solution: Use a reusable, short bar code.


  • Bar coded totes divert only to zones with picks, bypassing others.

  • Wooden "slave" pallet has the bar code permanently attached.

  • Reusable clip-on bar code tabs for cartons.

  • Implementation: Initial bar code scan station to associate code with order number. May use OCR, document print sequence, or document bar code.


  • Large, easy to read bar codes and man-readable letters.

  • Low cost because they are reused – very permanent.

  • Uses inexpensive scanner technology.

Build in redundancy

Problem: Murphy’s Law applies – even with bar codes!

Solution: Build in the ability to double-check everything (even if you rarely use it.)


  • Verify product# to slot#.

  • Verify order# to group of part numbers in order.

  • Verify calculated weight

  • Reuse emptied slots immediately for received product, to verify the slot was really emptied.

  • Replenish to fill slot. This insures you put product in correct slot. Also bar code verify with slot or product label on slot.

  • Use a portable bar code terminal for slot directed cycle counts. This is much faster than product directed cycle counts.


Note below, how much information is encoded into a relatively small bar code by use of multiple fields, encoding of data (carton number), and use of a computer lookup table (order information.)

Graphic of intelligent shipping label 


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Some Recent Testimonials
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"Hi Art, you are very welcome for the references. You may not know this but we RAVE about the suggestions you made to us for our "Distribution Center", and how right your suggestions were…" Dan G., Pres., Pipersville, PA.



"I look forward to having you involved for our DC implementation plan and in future endeavors as well. Your input was extremely valuable to us". Brent T., President Jacksonville, FL



"This move is incredibly difficult - I would never have been able to do this without all your great help"! Dave W., Owner, Chicago, IL.



"First I wanted to say that all your suggestions work great!  Thanks so much.  Secondly, in the later part of May, we will be moving out of our current facility into a new one.  I was wondering if I gave you the layout could you draw up a design.  You told me if there were ever changes, just ask for a new layout, so here I am.  Thanks a lot!"  Bob V., Owner, New Kensington, PA



"I know it has been a while, but we finally signed on a new building, and are looking at a mid July move.  We have three dock highs, and two roll ups.  Please do your magic and lay out the floor space.  Thanks."  Rami R., Owner, Chatsworth, CA



"The renovation is going great.  The large shelving is all moved and the small shelving is about 75% in its new location.  A company is coming in Tuesday to build the new shelving...then we can start to relocate all the product.  Thanks for all the help."  Jeff L., Operations Manager, Victoria, BC, Canada.



"We've received the final report, thanks for the summary of findings and the recommendations.  What was most valuable for us was the process of getting to the goal and the discussions around it…  Thanks again for your help…Joachim S., Systems Manager, New York, NY



 "I'm proud to say that our first day of production in our new location was March 6.   Thank you for your work on our behalf.  Looks like we got off to a fine start in the warehouse and picking areas.  It's always a pleasure hearing from you."  Charlie T., Project Manager, Amityville, NY


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