Barcode Inventory Systems for Field Service Businesses

February 11, 2023 | Read: 8 minutes

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Inventory management that includes a barcode inventory system can be a challenge for any field service business to implement. Read on to see the best practices to tackle this challenge…

Whether you’re a plumber, electrician, or HVAC technician, you’ll handle various parts every day that need to be properly ordered, checked in, stored, and managed.

When looking to develop a new and better inventory management workflow, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

The best place to begin is with a barcode inventory system that will handle your entire process from the arrival of parts to returns from customers.

Keep reading and learn how to take control of your inventory management and integrate a barcode inventory system that can optimize your operations!

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What is a Barcode Inventory System?

Before we move on, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and take a moment to define what a barcode inventory system is. 

At its core – this system relies on the use of barcodes, which are unique graphical representations of data that can be quickly scanned and decoded by a barcode scanner. 

Each product or item in the inventory is assigned a distinct barcode that corresponds to specific information about the item, such as its name, price, quantity, or current location.

1D Barcodes vs 2D Barcodes

Barcodes come in different formats, and two of the most common types are 1D (One-Dimensional) and 2D (Two-Dimensional) barcodes. 

While both serve the fundamental purpose of encoding data for quick and accurate scanning, they differ significantly in terms of design and capabilities.

1D Barcodes

Often referred to as linear barcodes, 1D barcodes, are the traditional and more straightforward type. They consist of a series of parallel lines and spaces that vary in width, encoding information horizontally. 

These barcodes are limited in the amount of data they can store, typically containing numerical or alphanumeric data. Common examples include UPC codes on retail products and Code 39 barcodes.

2D Barcodes

On the other hand, 2D barcodes offer a more advanced and versatile solution. They can store data both horizontally and vertically, using a matrix or grid of dots, squares, or other geometric patterns. 

This allows 2D barcodes to encode significantly more information, including text, images, and even hyperlinks. QR codes and Data Matrix codes are prominent examples of 2D barcodes.

What are the Benefits of a Barcode Inventory System?

Instant Inventory Levels

A properly implemented barcode inventory system should give your team access to instantaneous inventory levels. This means everyone can know exactly what items are in stock and how many of each item is available. 

When technicians need a part on site they could first check if it’s in stock and request it from the warehouse, instead of ordering another. 

Without real-time inventory levels, it’s very difficult to manage the flow of parts in your business as the system would always be one step behind.

A Barcode Inventory System App for your Stockroom

One of the major benefits of a barcode inventory system is being able to utilize the barcode already attached to a part. 

When parts arrive from the supplier to your warehouse, the warehouse manager will need to log all of the delivered parts. If you wish to benefit from real-time inventory levels, those parts must be added to the system when they arrive.

A barcode scanner is the quickest way to check parts into storage. Simply scan the barcode on the part to add it to the system. Through this method, you would be able to build an entire barcode library that matches up with your parts list. 

Ideally, warehouse managers will have access to an inventory management barcode app on their smartphones. This means they can see all the parts due in and out from their mobile device without carrying a laptop around the storage facility. 

Warehouse managers would be able to check in hundreds of parts in just a matter of minutes with their barcode stock control app. It doesn’t get much more efficient than that.

Additionally, barcode scanning can help you identify unknown parts. For example, if you’ve found an old part, but you’re not sure what it is, you could simply scan the barcode and check the system record.

If you’re struggling to move all of your inventory, consider taking on a new pricing strategy. Read this blog for information on some of the most common pricing methods in the industry.

A Barcode Inventory System App for Technicians

Your technicians need to know exactly what parts they have with them. A barcode inventory system app for technicians differs from an app for warehouse managers because of the capability to see what parts are currently in their van. 

Without having to waste time physically searching in the back of their van to see if they have a certain part or not, checking their app is an easier and more efficient solution. 

Additionally, this app allows technicians to transfer parts to each other while in the field: the part doesn’t have to return to the stock room, creating a time-saving and organized process that cuts out the middleman.

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Track Parts Everywhere

Managing inventory is only half of the problem. The ability to track multiple locations, allows you to track parts across all your warehouses as well as technicians’ trucks. 

Knowing which parts are in stock or on the truck, the parts that have been installed, and which have been requested from the site allows you to manage inventory across all of your locations comprehensively.

A Reliable Returns Workflow

Without a reliable returns workflow, technicians will leave unused parts in the back of their trucks. These parts often get forgotten or broken and are unable to be used later on. 

With the right inventory management software, returns can be monitored and technicians can even be prompted to return unused parts to the warehouse.

Increased Cash Flow

Because a barcode inventory system can stop your techs from unnecessarily ordering new parts, it can help improve your business’s cash flow. 

This allows you to reduce stockpiling by guaranteeing you use existing parts first. Additionally, proper management of returns reduces the associated expenses of lost and damaged inventory.

Improved Customer Experience

Real-time inventory levels and a streamlined check-in process can help improve customer service by letting you know if parts are available for a scheduled work order. 

With the right data, you can know in advance if parts will be ready in time for a work order and can give the customer notice if the appointment may need to be delayed. No customer likes finding out on the day that the work cannot be completed.

Choosing the Right Inventory Management System for Your Business

To decide what sort of inventory management software your business needs, it’s important to first understand the problems that you have with your current solution. Here are some common issues that field service businesses face when managing inventory:

  • You don’t know what (or how much) is in stock
  • It takes too long to check in new inventory
  • You don’t use up existing parts before ordering more
  • Parts are lost, broken, or stolen
  • You have to cancel work orders due to low parts availability

If that sounds like your business, it may be time to consider changing your inventory management process. 

A barcode inventory system can help solve many of these challenges by giving you access to real-time inventory levels, barcode scanning, and a returns workflow.

Explore Commusoft’s Inventory Management Software

If you’re looking to drive efficiency in your business with a new barcode inventory system, consider Commusoft’s field service inventory management feature, which is offered as part of our work order management software. 

It handles the entire inventory workflow, from requesting and ordering parts, checking parts in and out of the warehouse, all the way through to returns and inventory audits. 

Our software includes a barcode inventory app that allows warehouse managers to organize their daily tasks and quickly check in parts with a mobile barcode scanner.

Learn more about Commusoft’s inventory management by clicking below!

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Thanks for checking out the Commusoft blog - I’ve been helping business owners improve their strategies for a few years now, so I hope you were able to take something away from the content I’ve written. Feel free to continue exploring the blog - or reach out to us with any questions!

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