Do you need barcode readers for your warehouse, or are mobile phones enough?

Warehouse management
30.11.2023

When implementing a managed warehousing WMS, you need to provide warehouse staff with hardware to read product barcodes. However, in order not to spend unnecessarily on it, it is not necessary to always and for everyone buy full-fledged (and relatively expensive) readers. For smaller warehouses with a few tens of orders a day, mobile phones are often enough, for medium-sized warehouses with a few hundred orders, a Bluetooth phone extension for a few thousands.

Mobile phones for smallest warehouses

Mobile phones with a WMS  application are the cheapest and easiest solution - you just need an average mobile phone for a few thousand. The camera replaces the reader function here. We recommend this option for warehouses where you process several tens of orders per day. Mobile phones are also great for part-timers or seasonal workers.

Compared to readers, light and compact phones are particularly suitable for use in the field and in small or unusual warehouses. They are also ideal for simple registration and stocktaking of assets, for example for registration of files, for tool rentals and the like.

However, phones only read certain types of barcodes (typically only QR and GTIN codes). In addition, the warehouse workers need to place the camera very close to the label. Also, take into account that the function of the reader may be limited by poorer lighting in the warehouse or a dusty environment. The water resistance and battery life of the mobile phone is also a limit, so ideally choose more durable phones with a higher capacity that can last at least one shift without charging.

Bluetooth reader – extension for mobile phones

The intermediate step between a mobile phone and a reader is a Bluetooth reading device that you put on the mobile phone. These are extensions that connect to a mobile phone via Bluetooth and act as readers while the WMS application is running on the phone. Bluetooth readers cost low units of thousands and are thus even with a phone more affordable than readers.

Bluetooth readers with the quality of reading codes are very close to full-fledged readers. They can also read specific commodity codes, manage it from a greater distance and don't mind poorer light or dust in the room. Today, Bluetooth technology is widespread even in the lowest ranges of smartphones, so you can pair them with almost any mobile phone on the market.

We recommend these reading devices especially for medium-sized warehouses that ship low hundreds of orders per day. They are also suitable for more demanding recording or stocktaking of assets. The limits of the mobile phone described above - battery life or lower resistance – remain the only objective disadvantage of the whole set.

Barcode readers

Barcode readers are the most advanced reading devices that we recommend for larger warehouses with hundreds of orders per day or for operations with high demands.

They function as both code readers and a platform for the operation of the WMS application. They are durable, last around 12 hours on a single charge, and you can work with them even in gloves. It goes without saying that all product codes can be quickly loaded even at a greater distance, including areas with little light, high dustiness or low temperature. The tax for these benefits is then a higher price, which usually exceeds the threshold of CZK 10,000.

You can combine individual variants

From our experience, many companies provide the same type of reading device to all warehouse workers or logistics workers. For some people, the equipment may be insufficient, while for others, on the contrary, unnecessarily luxurious.

Therefore, we recommend that you map out the requirements and needs of individual positions and activities before purchasing. This can vary across warehouses and positions – you may need a different type of reader for receiving than for issuing.

Of course, we will be happy to help you choose suitable equipment. We will consider what type of operation it is, how intensive the work is in the given warehouse, we also deal with the ergonomics of the work (whether both hands are needed free when working). We simply look for the optimal option for each job position or operation.

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