In a parts or repair business, the ability to operate efficiently and quickly can make or break your bottom line. Without an efficient work flow, a well-trained team, and careful monitoring of costs, it is easy for a parts or repair shop to find itself battling a decreasing profit margin. As we learned in a previous article, Lean Thinking principles can be the most effective tools for making your parts or repair business more efficient and profitable. But, one important tool which we didn’t cover in that article is barcode technology.
Barcoding should be an essential part of your business strategy. When implemented properly, it dramatically improves efficiency, and accuracy, boosting your ability to monitor inventory, receive shipments, manage outgoing usage of supplies, and more. Barcoding can help to streamline many aspects, and introduce better work flow to a variety of processes, within your company.
Barcoding Is Easy
Contrary to what many business owners think, barcoding is inexpensive and simple to set up. You can set up a solid barcoding system for your company with just three basic items:
- A low end barcode printer ($50-$100)
- A low end barcode scanner ($50-$100)
In its simplest form, a barcode is just an image that represents numbers, or letters, or both. This image can be read instantly by a scanning device, which transmits the information to a computer. The computer then reads the barcode, and generates whatever response you’ve set in place; whether it’s to generate an invoice with your point of sale system in order to receive payment from a customer, or to interact with your inventory management system to receive a shipped item.
You have two options when it comes to creating barcodes: You can either create your own barcodes using a barcode font or a web service, or use industry standard UPC barcodes purchased from a universal database.
If you plan to only use the barcodes for internal operations in your company, you can make your own with an online barcode generator, or a barcode font. If you are getting parts from multiple sources, or have been using your own part numbers and have a good deal of inventory already, it is probably easiest to just create your own barcodes. These homemade barcodes can then be printed on standard label stickers with your office printer, and used right away for a number of purposes. Use them to mark boxes, or shelves, where a specific part is located. Use them on receiving slips to quickly receive inventory. Put them to work to assist with cycle counting, drill down on supply usage, and much more.
On the other hand, if you plan to provide items to outside retailers for resale, or plan to sell products in the front-end of your shop which will be directly accessible by your customers, then you’ll need to get set up with standardized Universal Product Codes (UPCs). UPCs are 12 digit numbers that commonly appear below the barcode on many products in the U.S. These can be purchased from GS1 US, the non-profit organization that sets the standards for international commerce. If you plan on manufacturing your own unique items you will need to purchase your own UPC numbers from GS1 US.
Once you’re set up with barcodes, the next step is to get a barcode scanner. You’ll find them in wired and wireless options, ranging from $50–1500, depending upon what you want. They can be purchased easily online, along with specialized barcode printers. For a relatively small investment, your company can be much more efficient with the help of barcode technology.
How Barcodes Can Streamline Your Parts Operation
Because your parts store inevitably needs to handle large volumes of inventory, barcoding can be one of the key tools at your disposal to increase accuracy and efficiency in your business.
When managing inventory, barcoding can solve many common problems you likely experience in your parts business. For example, barcode technology can help to locate and track inventory in the computer system, and also on the shelf, bypassing the time consuming and laborious step of sending an employee to track down a part or catalog the inventory by hand. Barcoding is also useful for quickly receiving and cataloging incoming parts, cutting down on the employee time needed to comb through purchase orders by hand, restock parts, and maintain handwritten inventory sheets.
In the parts business, you frequently need to get parts into a computerized inventory management system, or add them to customer invoices. Barcodes, accompanied by barcode scanners, streamline this process. Using a bar scanner eliminates the need to manually type individual part numbers into your computer system. A quick point and scan, and the computer knows exactly what part you are working with. This simple process can revolutionize your customer service, and your inventory management systems, reducing the time it takes to get the job done and greatly improving overall efficiency.
How Barcodes Can Streamline Your Repair Shop
Barcode technology is also incredibly valuable in the repair shop. Barcoding can provide vast improvements to the efficiency of work orders for common services in your shop, as well as providing a quick and easy way to add parts to work orders. In this process, a service writer would have a notebook of service operations, with barcodes, on their desk so that they can scan the service onto the work order directly. This would be common for services such as DOT inspections, brake services, oil changes, diagnostics, and various other common preventative maintenance options on trucks, trailers and refrigeration units.
This process requires that the business system create specific barcodes for work orders and provide employees with the ability to scan barcodes in, as work is conducted. When utilizing barcodes, many shops will move common inventory items like oil, filters, belts etc., closer to the mechanics and allow them access to the barcode scanners. To ensure proper control over these items the mechanics should be required to enter their employee identification number, scan the work order, and then scan the part to be added, as work is undertaken. A well-designed workflow like this will save time, and better manage the use of parts, providing your company with an excellent tracking system for a variety of repair shop metrics.
Barcodes Save You Time and Money
Ultimately, barcode technology can eliminate the need for manual entry in your parts and service operation. This is key in a business where computer proficiency is low, but tracking inventory and work flow is critical.
Taking the time to set up a barcode system for your business will save a significant amount of time, improve accuracy, provide in-depth tracking metrics, and simplify your business processes from top to bottom.
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