5 Jun 2019

Choosing a barcode or price scanner for your small business

If you’re just getting into the world of barcoding, it can be a little overwhelming to look at all of the scanners that are available for use. This article breaks down the different form factors and types of scanners on the market, and discusses the best fit for your small business.

Once you’ve decided to invest in a barcode system, (and you really should!) one of the most important aspects of that system will be the type of barcode or price scanner you choose to use. We won’t dig into the really technical details of different systems right now (there are plenty of other articles on that), but this article will make the case for the type of of scanner to purchase for your small business’ needs.

Types of barcode scanner technology

There are four main technologies used for actually scanning and identifying barcodes:

1. Pen / wand barcode scanners

You won’t find these scanners in most smaller businesses because of the way they read barcodes. With a pen or wand you end up having to run the tip of the scanner over the whole length of the barcode, much like you would use a highlighter on a piece of paper. This means that these types of scanners actually take a little longer to use, especially for transactions with multiple products.

2. Stationary / embedded / in-counter price scanners

These types of scanners are more industrial or big-box retail oriented, and they’re usually lot more expensive as a result (with costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars). If you’re just starting your small business your wallet will hurt when you think about these, but they’re good to at least have on your radar. They won’t help you with a manual count of your warehouse inventory, but they are the scanners to beat when it comes to checkout speed at grocery stores or businesses that sell a lot of smaller items.

3. Handheld (pistol-grip) barcode scanners

CCD, linear image scanners, and laser scanners are three different types of technologies, but they all read basic barcodes. CCD scanners are short-range, Lasers are probably the most common type and can have much longer ranges (enough to reach the top of a warehouse shelf), and linear image scanners actually take pictures of barcodes and analyze them (for better accuracy).

You’ve probably seen a lot of handheld price scanners in business both big and small because they’re fast enough to scan a lot of items quickly at checkout, but they’re also maneuverable enough that you can also scan larger items that may not fit on a business counter. These are the scanners most small businesses should probably start out with, since you can usually pick up a single price scanner for under $100 (although prices can definitely go much higher).

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