What Warehouse Barcode Scanner Do I Need in My Business?

Warehouse Barcode Scanner

Selecting the Right Barcode Scanner for Warehouses

There are many unknown or misunderstood terms in the barcoding world. Symbologies, depth of field, rugged ability, IP rating, WLAN vs. WWAN, and the list goes on. What does it all mean, and what warehouse barcode scanner do I need? Allow the scanning experts at ScanForce to pull back the curtain and expose the mysteries behind barcode technology to help you discover what’s right for your operation using Sage 100 or Sage Intacct.

The Barcode

Let’s start with the barcode itself. Did you know that barcodes have languages? We call them symbologies. The UPC (Universal Product Code) is the most common barcode found on most consumer goods, but many others exist. Code 128 and Code 39 are also examples of 1D or one-dimensional barcodes.


These are perfect for encoding a small amount of data like a product code, but what if you need to store more data, such as lot numbers, serial numbers, or expiration dates? A 2D or two-dimensional barcode, such as a Data Matrix or QR Code symbology, can store much more information, up to 7,000 characters!

QR code

Once you’ve selected the proper barcode type, you need to adjust the size. A warehouse barcode scanner’s ability to read at a distance is affected by several factors – the size of the barcode, lighting, and scan angle. The larger the barcode, the easier it is to read from further away.

Warehouse Barcode Scanner Variations


Now that you’ve got the correct barcode, let’s talk about warehouse barcode scanners. Users can connect scanners to a PC via a USB cable or Bluetooth.

Worker scanning barcode in store

The barcode scanner will read and seamlessly insert the encoded value into the field where the cursor is located on the PC. This is perfect for a workstation where the user never moves. However, most warehouse workers must be agile and can benefit from a more complex scanner like a mobile computer. Mobile computers come in many shapes and sizes, but all contain a warehouse barcode scanner.

mobile computer


Some warehousing environments, and users, are tougher on equipment than others. So, mobile computers are offered in a range of toughness referred to as rugged ability. This is generally expressed as a “drop spec,” which tells us how high a device could fall and survive. Most barcode scanners for warehouses require at least a 4’ drop spec, but units are available that can withstand a 10’ drop to concrete. You get what you pay for and will definitely pay for the more rugged units.

Exposure to Liquid and Dust

Another factor is how well a device is sealed against liquid and dust. This isn’t significant for most warehouse workers since they generally spend their day inside the four walls. If you have workers that need to be outside in the elements, you’ll want to consider the IP rating or “Ingress Protection” level offered by different mobile scanners. Some units can be dropped in a bucket of water for periods of time without failing. Another consideration is dust. If your environment exposes units to a great deal of particulate matter in the air, you need a warehouse barcode scanner that will hold up under those conditions.


How will you connect mobile computers back to your host system? Wi-Fi covers most warehousing operations, but some workers need to access real-time data in the field. These mobile computers have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, called WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). If you need to go outside of the Wi-Fi coverage area beyond the reach of your access points, models equipped with a cellular radio are available and referred to as WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network). These require a contract with a mobile carrier, just like a cell phone.

Standard Range or Long Range Barcode Scanner

Now that you understand the different warehouse barcode scanner variations, let’s talk about scanning at a long range. Scan engines embedded in mobile computers allow you to read a barcode at varying distances. We typically refer to a “normal” scanner as Standard or Short Range. The easiest way to envision this is to think of scanning an item that you could reach out and touch. The actual reading distance will be determined by how large the barcode is printed on a label. Each scan engine has a depth of field chart which denotes the maximum distance each symbology can be read when printed at specific sizes. If you need to scan a label while seated on a forklift, then a Standard Range unit won’t get the job done. You’ll need to step up to an Advanced, Extended, or Long Range barcode scanner. Some of these devices can read barcodes from 70’ away!

Let Us Help You Choose the Right Warehouse Barcode Scanner

Selecting the proper mobile computer and scan engine combination is as much an art as it is science. Leaning on the scanning experts at ScanForce will take the mystery out of barcode scanning and ensure that your scanning needs are met at the best possible price. For operations using a Sage 100 or Sage Intacct ERP system, we are happy to assess your situation and show you how ScanForce and the right scanner can save you time and money while capturing data accurately, efficiently, and timely. Contact us today!


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