9 Replies Latest reply on Apr 20, 2016 9:30 PM by john_wolff

    barcode for inventory management

    jeffww

      Hello can anyone advise me on using barcodes with a inventory.

       

      We are using the starter solution inventory  in file maker pro 13 on macs  (we also have file maker go linked up on couple of iphones,

       

      We currently have our database hosted on a server we pay for with fmp host, but we could possibly move to hosting this ourselves if this was to cause a problem

       

      We are not a very large company, but are involved in manufacturing, so have quite a few parts we order in, and currently these are checked off and the record has to be found and qty adjusted accordingly.

       

      Same too for someone taking something out of stores, to subtract stock.

       

      It would therefore be helpful to us if we could assign a bar code to each product we order on a regular basis, so that when one leaves our stores.. a read of a bar code would mean one item has been taken out.. We would also want to be able to use a bar code to signify new stock has come in.  not sure if that means we need 2 barcodes for each product, one for in and one for out?

       

      We don’t mind to generate our own bar codes for this task, so we would have the code by each item in our stock room..   Not sure on best tool to use for generating a bar code?

       

      Any advise on best solution for this…. Budget / mid and high end  would be helpful..

       

      Presume budget end might include using our phones as readers or something?

       

      At the very least i guess we would want the bar code to find the record and bring it up on screen so we could input the stock change to save time on searching for items and insure the correct record for the item is pulled up

       

      slightly more advanced would be for the bar code read to tell the stock system to either deduct or add to the stock by qty of 1

       

      and more advance to be able to add data in to the description field as to what the stock was used for..

       

      i've seen and read quite a bit on the forums but haven't really found anything that's clear on the best way to get started on this, and any additional software etc we need and if so what..

       

      Thanks in advance for any help

       

      jeff

        • 1. Re: barcode for inventory management
          jbante

          Barcode Creator can make most of the types of barcodes you're likely to want to use — as of today, it can make any type of barcode that FileMaker Go is capable of scanning. There are other ways to make barcodes with FileMaker — plug-ins, web services, system fonts, etc. — but Barcode Creator avoids most of the problems that those other solutions sometimes create for FileMaker developers. I'm biased, though. In full disclosure, I wrote Barcode Creator, and I get a cut when someone buys a copy. The main thing the other approaches have in their favor is that some of them are free, with tradeoffs in quality, ease of use, or compatibility.

           

          For scanning barcodes, using your phones as barcode scanners makes sense if you're already accessing your database with FileMaker Go. The Insert From Device script step is how you can scan barcodes with FileMaker Go. The downside is that this isn't particularly fast; dedicated barcode scanner hardware is faster. To avoid spending money on hardware scanners if you don't have to, you might try scanning with FileMaker Go first, and only look into hardware scanners if you find that that's too slow.

           

          If you aren't already using FileMaker Go, or if FileMake Go's built-in scanning is too slow, you'll want a hardware scanner. Zero Blue sells scanners that are already known to work well with FileMaker. If you want to pair a hardware scanner with an iPhone or iPad, it will have to be a Bluetooth scanner. Traditional computers can work with either Bluetooth or USB scanners. What kind of hardware scanner you need will also depend on what kind of barcodes you want to scan. Laser scanners only handling 1D symbologies, which is most barcodes; 2D symbologies (e.g. QR Code) need an imaging (CCD) scanner, basically a camera.

           

          You do not necessarily need to use separate barcodes for incoming vs. outgoing products. If you just use the same labels from incoming products on the way out, that even spares you the work of making your own. You'd only have to make your own barcodes for incoming products that do not have barcodes, products that are packaged differently on the way out of your system, and products that you make yourself rather than ordering from suppliers. What kinds of barcodes are your suppliers using?

           

          It sounds like you're already on the right track for thinking about how barcodes might fit into your inventory workflow. I have one caution to add: anywhere in your system that expects users to scan a barcode, make sure there's also a way for users to manually enter the data. Barcode scanning sometimes fails. Maybe the label got scratched. Maybe the lighting is bad. Maybe the scanner's battery is dead. As a corollary to this, when you print barcodes, make sure you also print the data in the barcode so humans can read it, or else there's nothing for users to enter when scanning does fail. Technical documents about barcode workflows will often call this the "human readable interpretation" (HRI).

          • 2. Re: barcode for inventory management
            Mike Duncan

            Highly recommend Barcode Creator, as jbante mentioned. If you need to generate your own barcodes, definitely worth a look.

             

            Mike

            • 3. Re: barcode for inventory management
              john_wolff

              Hi Jeremy,

               

              Sorry if I'm hijacking tis thread, but your Barcode Creator looks as though it has to be our upgrade from the SixFriedRice (SFR) Barcode plugin that still works but only if FMP V14 is run in 32-bit mode (& won't be upgraded) -- a real PITA as FM has to be launched from the Application Folder.

               

              As far as I can tell that plugin created Code 128 barcodes which were both more compact, and more readable than the Code 93 that we'd first used X years ago. Those lines were too thin and faded badly over time.

               

              Can you confirm that Barcode Creator will have those same attributes as the SFR barcodes. We print them from a Dymo thermal printer on to Dymo labels and need them to be readable for at least three years.

               

              Thanks,

               

              John Wolff

              Hamilton, NZ

              • 4. Re: barcode for inventory management
                jbante

                John, Barcode Creator does make Code 128 barcodes — Code 128 is the default, in fact. How long they remain readable will depend as much on the durability of your labels and the environment they have to survive as anything else. I can at least recommend that you design your labels to make the area taken up by the barcodes as wide as possible to maximize how much ink there is to survive degradation over time. Also make sure that the generated barcode images have at least the same aspect ratio as the container field on the label, or wider, to ensure that you're taking full advantage of that width.

                 

                If your scanners support it, you might consider using DataBar Expanded or QR Code as alternatives to Code 128. DataBar Expanded can sometimes encode data even more compactly than Code 128, which would make the individual bars in the same printed area even wider. QR Codes include error correction coding, so they may be more likely to be scannable than Code 128 after some degradation.

                • 5. Re: barcode for inventory management
                  miler24

                  We also use Barcode Creator and love it.  It's fully integrated with our Kosmas application that includes full inventory for manufacturers.  We've also built custom add-ons with Barcode Creator in a number of solutions; it's not too difficult as Jeremy provided ample documentation for relatively easy implementation.

                   

                  Happy coding!

                   

                  Eric Miller

                  DocuWrx

                  • 6. Re: barcode for inventory management
                    bigtom

                    There are a few things to consider about your workflow now. Do the things you need to track already have barcodes? Do you have a vision of how the barcodes you creat are printed and applied.

                     

                    As well they can have different levels of error correction so the Code will still work if a portion of the barcode is damaged. I use the Google API with Insert from URL to generate the QR codes initially. No plugin or extra hardware required and it is pretty fast. Once the codes are inserted you do not really need the API after that. You can have FMS can handle all of this for you when the product is initially created in the system.

                     

                    I have used QR Codes for products and their locations. Racks and shelves in a warehouse or store room all have QR Codes to scan when a product is stored there for quick location when picking things. You can also use the QR codes to track individual items that have a serial number but still retain the fact that it is still a particular stocked item. The amount of data you can get in a QR Code is pretty good.

                     

                    You do not need separate barcodes you would just need separate layouts with scripts to either increase or reduce stock depending on what operation is being done at that moment.

                     

                    Budget- Use FMGo to scan QR Codes especially if they are not super small.

                    Mid/High end- Full scanning and printing integration with dedicated hardware for the tasks. The cost depends on the equipement and integration needed.

                     

                    You mught start with repurposed iOS devices, but the only issue in practice is connection time out and battery life.

                     

                    I like to use Brother Label printers with a FMP print robot on location to handle the print queue and skip all the iOS dialogs. There are other options and if you already have printers you should use those.

                     

                    I know odubov is doing great things with iOS attached scan devices and integration. He is also a great guy. I suggest you contact him.

                     

                    He has a nice video of his recent work.

                    • 7. Re: barcode for inventory management
                      john_wolff

                      Hi Jeremy,

                       

                      I've now got BarcodeCreator installed and working. The integration was much easier than I was anticipating from perusing the lengthy documentation, which I may not have read all that carefully. I have two observations:

                       

                      1.     Some barcodes are a little different from the ones we saw with the SixFriedRice Plugin but I suspect that could be due to a slightly different algorithm being used to generate the Checksum. When read by a Symbol scanner, the output is identical.

                       

                      2.     We usually have a list of fabrics that we're barcoding as a batch. So I put the Insert Barcode in Current Field ( dataToEncode ) script inside a loop with a Go To Record Request (Next) ; Exit after Last    script step to move to the next record. What I discovered is the need to have both that Script Step and the End Loop line inside the Exit Script (Result : "") step. Seems obvious in hindsight but was not initially.

                       

                      You might want to add that pointer to your setup  instructions.

                       

                      Many thanks for your effort to create this very necessary replacement for the SFR plugin.

                       

                      Regards,

                       

                      John

                      • 8. Re: barcode for inventory management
                        jbante

                        John, thank you for your feedback, and for using Barcode Creator! I'll see what I can do about documenting the issue you ran into with the Exit Script step; I might add a batch barcode example script to the distribution file.

                         

                        About the difference in how the encoded barcodes look, in case anyone is interested: I'm guessing that you're using a Code 128 barcode? Code 128 has 3 different encoding modes, and we can switch between them in the middle of a barcode to encode different characters or to minimize the length of the barcode. If Barcode Creator and the Six Fried Rice plugin have different algorithms to decide when to switch between what modes, that would explain the difference you see. There can be multiple ways to switch modes to encode the same data. Checksums, on the other hand, are much less forgiving by design: their job is to identify when something is even the slightest bit wrong, which requires an absolutely narrow definition of how it works and what the correct result is. Granted, the way the Code 128 checksum algorithm works, if the encoding mode decisions are different, the checksum will typically turn out different, too.

                        • 9. Re: barcode for inventory management
                          john_wolff

                          Hi Jeremy,

                           

                          Yes, a Batch Mode example would be worthwhile.

                           

                          Yes, we are using Code 128, as I didn't see any reason to change from the SFR mode which had been durable enough for our needs. Your explanation of the different encoding modes is no doubt responsible for the variations we see, and while interesting, won't concern me any further!

                           

                          Thanks,

                           

                          John