UPC Barcode software



  • Anyone have any experience with UPC barcode software?  I am the lone technology guy of a small business and we really want/need to look into barcoding everything.  We're a screenprinting company and we have a huge need to be able to scan boxes in and enter amounts of shirts we receive, and how many we're shipping, etc.  We have an internal database right now where we have to manually enter said amounts, but if there is a software package out there that we would be able to wirelessly carry a scanner around and scan items in/out and it would update our database, I would be a hero.

     

    If anyone has an experience with this kind of software, or even has a clue as to what might be a good place to look for this kind of information, I would appreciate it.

     

    Thanks!

    -Shaun 



  • Didn't mention that our database is a MySQL database.  From what I can see, most software packages seem to support Excel, Access, text files, and ODBC databases.  We need something that can plug into a MySQL db.



  • I know a lot about that stuff (warehouse management software is what pays my bills) but unfortunately, I don't understand what exactly you are looking for.

     



  • Ok, maybe this is a little more clear......We need software that allows us to:

    1) Create barcodes for our inventory.

    2) Be able to scan these barcodes when inventory is received and/or shipped (instead of manually typing this information into a database)

    3) Be able to do above scanning with wireless upc scanners.

    4) Have the software update our inventory table in a MySQL database.

     

    Thanks. 

     



  • From what I gather from your post, you have an internally developed database to track receipts and issues.  In that case your going to need to write the interface yourself - no third party is going to guarantee writing to a custom data structure.  If its a purchased database, then your going to need to contact the vendor for supported partners.

    If you need to develop it yourself, then you need to determine the type/brand of scanner and then develop an overall architecture for the design.  For example, you could get wireless scanners that come with Windows CE or some other OS which points to either a Web/.Net compact solution.  Intermec has a wide variety of these types of scanners under the computer category - they are expensive $2,000 - 3,000+ per unit and you still need the access points and the wireless survey.

    Another option is a wireless scanner attached to a PC via a wireless keyboard wedge.   PSC has a this type of scanner called the PowerScan RF.  They are about $1,7000 and you need the PC but your architecture options are more open since it just emulates key presses.

    A third option is a batch scanner which holds the scans until it is docked to the PC at which point you can suck down and process the scanned records.  Compsee Apex II/IIIs are units I've used before and are pretty good - you can get them for about $1,200 and you still need a PC.

    Determining the type of scanner is the hard part because it defines the technologies you can use.  If money is no object go with the wireless PCs from Intermec or similar.  If you need to go cheap then the batch scanners are the way to go.  Once the scanner/technologies is chosen, writing the interface is easy.  I'm a little biased on that because I've written several custom warehouse management systems and implemented several for commercial ERP systems.

    A good resource for all things related to barcoding is www.systemid.com.  I've used them before and they are reliable.

    I hope that gets you a little closer to finding the right solution.
     



  • That should be $1,700 for the PSC price or there abouts.

    I just read your update, for creating barcodes you can use software
    such as Loftware Server or smaller solutions such as Label Matrix. 
    Label Matrix can use a downloaded inventory master for which you just
    type in the part and out comes the label.  Loftware Server is a bigger
    solution, you drop a label template into a directory or interface via
    .Net/ActiveX to print the barcode.  In essence you need another
    interface.

    In terms of label printers, I've used Zebras and Satos
    before.  If you environment is dirty go with the Satos as they are much
    more robust (ie steel not crappy plastic).  Otherwise go with Zebras or
    Intermecs.  You can also get wireless printers that can attach to the
    wireless computers if you wish, but you'll be paying for that privilege.

     



  • [quote user="ItsAllGeekToMe"]

    Ok, maybe this is a little more clear......We need software that allows us to:

    1) Create barcodes for our inventory.
    [/quote]
    This is the easiest part, there is a lot of software available for that job. Maybe a barcode font for Windows is enough for you. Just ask google.


    2) Be able to scan these barcodes when inventory is received and/or shipped (instead of manually typing this information into a database)

    Scanners with keyboard wedge cables are relatively cheap, and in many cases, you don't have to change your application. If your have a bit more budget to spend, you might consider a bluetooth scanner.


    3) Be able to do above scanning with wireless upc scanners.

    Like lpope187 wrote, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Wireless terminals running WinCE are in the USD 2K price range, and of course you some need to program them too (or make a web app suitable for the IE on 240x320). And don't forget the access points and cabling etc. If you go that way, be sure to check out several models from different vendors. While they are relatively similar in their specification, small details can have a lot of impact on the user's satisfaction.
    Check the keyboard. Does it have all the keys you need? Are the keys large enough? Does it require too little or too much force to press a key?
    Check the balance point. Is the device well balanced? Some are not.
    Check the form factor. Is it easy to hold it tightly? Those devices break if they fall too often, no matter what the vendors promise.
    Check the scan button. It must be easily accessible by the hand that holds the device. Most devices have more than one scan button.

    Check the accessory prices. Do you really have to buy a cradle? Maybe a simple power supply is available that costs much less.

    But maybe this is too much for your needs and you want to go with a simple bluetooth scanner. 


    4) Have the software update our inventory table in a MySQL database.

    If you already have software to keep the inventory, a keyboard wedge scanner probably can work with it.
     

     



  • [quote user="lpope187"]

    In terms of label printers, I've used Zebras and Satos
    before.  If you environment is dirty go with the Satos as they are much
    more robust (ie steel not crappy plastic).  Otherwise go with Zebras or
    Intermecs.  You can also get wireless printers that can attach to the
    wireless computers if you wish, but you'll be paying for that privilege. 

    [/quote]

    In my experience, all printers (Intemec, Zebra, Citizen) work fine. But of course you should make sure that the label software works with your printer, especially if you buy a brand other than Zebra and Intermec. 



  • [quote user="ammoQ"]

    [quote user="lpope187"]

    In terms of label printers, I've used Zebras and Satos
    before.  If you environment is dirty go with the Satos as they are much
    more robust (ie steel not crappy plastic).  Otherwise go with Zebras or
    Intermecs.  You can also get wireless printers that can attach to the
    wireless computers if you wish, but you'll be paying for that privilege. 

    [/quote]

    In my experience, all printers (Intemec, Zebra, Citizen) work fine. But of course you should make sure that the label software works with your printer, especially if you buy a brand other than Zebra and Intermec. 

    [/quote]

    In relatively clean environments they work the same, but in dirty, hot, abusive environments nothing beats steel frames.  Zebras and Intermecs are the most popular.  I haven't found any software that won't work with those.  Satos on the other hand, may not be as universal.

    As far as labels go, if speed is an issue make sure the interface/labeling software sends native printer code rather than a rasterized image.  I've never liked the GUI label designers anyways so I always designed my labels in native printer code with notepad, so I had full control over positioning. 

    And don't forget the cost of printheads.  For a $1000 4" wide printer, a replacement printhead can run you $200 - 300.  If you find that you are replacing printheads often, make sure you barcodes lines print perpendicular to the direction of the output.  That way if your printhead stops printing on one little pixel, it won't make the entire barcode worthless/unscannable.  Reference the following lame picture.

    Barcode 

     ------------               | printer direction
     ------------               |
     ------------               |
     ------------               |
     ------------               |
                                /
     



  • [quote user="ItsAllGeekToMe"]Didn't mention that our database is a MySQL database.  From what I can see, most software packages seem to support Excel, Access, text files, and ODBC databases.  We need something that can plug into a MySQL db.
    [/quote]

    I can't comment too much on the barcode part, but I know that MySQL qualifies as an ODBC database. Have a look here.



  • [quote user="lpope187"]

    In relatively clean environments they work the same, but in dirty, hot, abusive environments nothing beats steel frames.  Zebras and Intermecs are the most popular.  I haven't found any software that won't work with those.  Satos on the other hand, may not be as universal.

    [/quote]

    I can only confirm that. 

    As far as labels go, if speed is an issue make sure the interface/labeling software sends native printer code rather than a rasterized image.  I've never liked the GUI label designers anyways so I always designed my labels in native printer code with notepad, so I had full control over positioning.

    So true, so true, especially for the barcode. 

     

    And don't forget the cost of printheads.  For a $1000 4" wide printer, a replacement printhead can run you $200 - 300.  If you find that you are replacing printheads often, make sure you barcodes lines print perpendicular to the direction of the output.  That way if your printhead stops printing on one little pixel, it won't make the entire barcode worthless/unscannable.

    True, though some parcels services (e.g. DPD) don't like barcodes printed that way, since they can be harder to read.



  • [quote user="ammoQ"]

     

    And don't forget the cost of printheads.  For a $1000 4" wide printer, a replacement printhead can run you $200 - 300.  If you find that you are replacing printheads often, make sure you barcodes lines print perpendicular to the direction of the output.  That way if your printhead stops printing on one little pixel, it won't make the entire barcode worthless/unscannable.

    True, though some parcels services (e.g. DPD) don't like barcodes printed that way, since they can be harder to read.

    [/quote]

    That's interesting, I've never seen that.  Could it be that the printer is using thermal transfer instead of direct thermal and the ink from the ribbon is bleeding?  I typically use direct thermal to avoid those issues. 



  • As has been said above, this sounds like a perfect fit for a wifi-enabled WinCE/PocketPC based unit. It's what we use where I work, and have set up a few other places with them too.

    By the sounds of it your needs are simple on the front end, so a week or two developing a .NET front end to connect to your MySQL database (or a service running on a PC/server if you'd like a tiered design) should be all that's required.

     As for the label printing, you specify UPC barcodes, but I get the impression that the labels will be for internal use only. If this is the case, there's no reason that you couldn't go the Code 39 route. Code 39 is interesting in that you don't need any fancy label prining software and special printers. Just grab one of the dozens of freely available Code39 TTF fonts and using something like mail merge in word, or a simple excel spreadsheet, set up your own labels at negligable cost (assuming you already have MS Office/OO.o/etc) and print with your office laser printer. That works amazingly for simple or low volume usage.

     

    With a low end wifi pocket PC, an SDI/O or Compact Flash barcode reader , cheap wireless access point, a free code39 font, you could have a cheap and quick prototype system up and running with $500 and a week or two of work.



  • Thanks for the responses you three.



  • [quote user="lpope187"]

    That's interesting, I've never seen that.  Could it be that the printer is using thermal transfer instead of direct thermal and the ink from the ribbon is bleeding?  I typically use direct thermal to avoid those issues. 

    [/quote]

    IIRC it's because of the imprecision of some printers... It's

    ||,||||,||
    ||||||||||
    ||||||||||
    ||||||||||
      '    '

    vs.

    --------

    --------

    --------

    --------







  • Last time I worked with barcode scanners, they registered themselves as USB keyboards and just sent the code as keypresses followed by an Enter. Is that not the case any more?



  • Blakey: Some do, some don't.

    Intermec wireless scanners register as an opaque device and required a heavy, crashy resident software to work with a PC. (Replaced with a small, less crashy .net app recently).

    Motorola/Symbol can do both modes, though keyboard mode is slave only (as in, the PC initiates connection), which makes it infeasible when you want to be able to easily connect any scanner to any PC (via a "connect to me" barcode).



    As of Intermec printers - not sure what kind you have experience with, lpope187, but the larger models (PM and especially PX series) are all metal and quite robust.

    I have some I've ran 50+ km of paper (million or so labels) through, and literally ground a dent in the roll's hook with all the spinning rolls, and they needed zero repairs, just a cleaning once in a while - despite being used in a high-dust-level industrial facility, and having the ribbon and paper replaced by workers who don't even pretend to be careful.

    The firmware on the wireless ones is pretty shitty, though - doesn't like some fancier wireless systems, and you need to find the exact right version for it to work.



    OP - you shouldn't want UPC barcodes for internal use, as UPCs have to be registered with the central authority and paid for.

    Use code39 or code128.

    Just about any label printer can autogenerate barcodes of various types for you - just send it the barcode type and deserved content.

    And in Intermec's Direct Protocol mode, you can set a label template with blank fields once, and then just stream to it a batch of the contents values from a PC or anything.



    Very much agreed against GUI designers, though some Do The Right Thing and use the "print text / print barcode" functions of the printer instead of sending a bitmap.

    It takes a bit of practice to design the labels in Notepad, especially with Zebra protocol, which last I saw it, looked like line noise. Intermec's is easier, sorta - it's mutated oldschool numbered-line BASIC.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.