For small businesses looking to add a barcode system to streamline point-of-sale transactions or manage inventory, there are several options on the market. Each one offers different advantages and disadvantages. The type and size of your business operation will make a difference in your decision. There are also several other factors that should be considered. Compare each to determine which will be suit your needs.
Technology Types for Barcode Printers
There is more than one way to print a barcode label. The type of printer that you choose will determine the print quality and ease of scanning. Some types naturally have higher associated costs, which often translates into material wastes also.
Dot matrix printers are a longstanding method for printing that has a history of reliability. Due to the age of the technology, the results are generally not as high of quality, which translates in a higher risk of the label not scanning properly. For the most part, dot matrix printers have been fazed out of other business printing and replaced by newer systems.
Inkjet and laser printers are the most commonly used for printing signage, fliers, and other business papers. Both are also commonly available for barcode printers. Both offer a higher print quality and thus higher readability rate than dot matrix. However, most incur significant costs, both initially and for long term maintenance. Both require ink, which can bleed or smear, but offer a high resolution quality on printed documents.
There are two types of thermal printers that are becoming increasingly popular over traditional printer options. They include direct thermal printing and thermal transfer printing. Both have an exceptional print quality, making the printed labels the easiest to read with a handheld barcode scanner. Initial setup costs can be fairly high, but in the long run may cost less than other options. Neither requires ink, though thermal transfer printing does require the transfer ribbons to be replaced. Direct thermal printing uses only heat to create text, but is susceptible to damage at extreme temperatures.
Technology Compatibility with Other Devices
For business use, it is important that the labels work with your existing technology. Although upgrading to a completely new system may be beneficial in the long run, the switch can come with unanticipated costs and require employees to train on a new system. Cloud-based systems like Shopify come with a number of advantages. All aspects of business can be integrated into a single system, which allows the information to be access from anywhere and reliably up to date.
Barcodes are printed using a PC or Mac computer, connected through a USB. Some offer wireless connectivity. Software may be needed to create or modify barcodes. It is important to understand how the process will work on a daily basis and how much time and energy it will require.
Other Preferences and Customization Options
Other concerns that a business might want to investigate before investing in a barcode printer are the size of labels, the ability to customize with proprietary details, and the ability to use the printer for other purposes. In small business operations, space can be at a premium and a tool that takes up space must earn its keep.
Some add-on features for barcode printers may or may not be important to your business. A cutter will separate each label from the roll as it is printed. A rewinder will feed printed labels back onto a roll for organization, which may be useful when printing a high volume of labels at one time. Peelers are helpful when printing individual labels, as the label is removed from the backing as soon as it is printed for immediate application. If a product needs RFID tags for security coding, this can be added at the same time, but there are few options available.
Asking the Right Questions
There are some basic questions that a business owner can ask a supplier to help determine which barcode printer is most appropriate.
- How many labels can the printer create on a daily basis?
- What size labels are standard and are alternatives available?
- What additional technology is needed to set up the barcode printer?
- What are the upfront costs associated with a specific model?
- What are the ongoing costs that are likely to incur?
Making the Final Decision
Ultimately, there is not a right or wrong answer when shopping for a barcode printer. All will get the job done and the factors of time and money are the most notable. By comparing these factors and asking the right questions, you will be able to narrow down the selection significantly. If you are still uncertain at that point, find out whether you might be able to take multiple models for a test period to compare them in person for daily use.