Learning about Shipping Barcodes and How They Work - ChicagoShipper

Barcodes are crucial for any enterprise promoting bodily goods. They are utilized in brick-and-mortar shops as a part of the acquisition and returns process, in warehouses to tune stock and packages, via way of means of transport companies to find and tune shipments, and from time to time on invoices to help with accounting. 

Without barcodes, modern shipping and inbound and outbound logistics processes are inefficient and error-prone. Third-party logistics companies (also known as 3PL) depend on barcodes to operate their warehouses efficiently, allowing businesses that provide fulfillment services to better serve. 

This shipping barcode usage guide explains why 3PL uses shipping barcodes and why they should also be used. 

Shipping Barcode Definition 

Shipping barcodes are unique machine-readable patterns of parallel lines of various widths that are printed on shipping labels to identify the shipment. Shipping barcodes are scanned at all stages of delivery until they arrive at the customer’s shipping address. 

How Do Shipping Barcodes Work through 3LPs? 

Anyone who ships e-commerce inventory or online orders uses shipping barcodes to improve e-commerce order tracking. Due to the large number of e-commerce brands affiliated with 3PL, they may encounter many shipping barcodes. The main use cases are as follows: 

1. Inventory Receipt in the Warehouse 

When receiving inventory from a manufacturer, supplier, or retailer, 3PL must scan the barcode, whether from parcel or freight. Due to the variety of processes in 3PL, you must comply with 3PL to avoid order delays, unidentifiable inventory, and potential charges from 3PL. 

2. Forwarding Consumer Orders to Carriers 

When your order is selected, packed, and ready to ship, you will see the shipping barcode on the label affixed to the package.  3PL delivers the cargo to the correct carrier (often daily), which usually scans the cargo as it leaves the 3PL facility. 

3. Returns Receipt From Consumers 

Ecommerce returns will range via way of means of the merchant, however for the ones who’ve customers deliver their back objects again to the 3PL, the 3PL will want to test the delivery barcode at the go back label, packing slip, and/or something documentation the 3PL calls for to get hold of returns. 

Main Types of Barcode 3PLs Run Into 

The 3PL Fulfillment Center has multiple types of barcodes. But let’s focus on these top 2 common barcodes 3PLs encounter. 

1. Shipping Barcodes 

As stated above, 3PL receives inbound inventory and scans using shipping barcodes when  shipping outbound packages (both direct customer orders and wholesale orders). This helps them track everything from restocking to out-of-stock to exceptions to deliveries that get stuck on the way to the end customer. 

2. Product Barcodes 

3PL uses warehouse location barcodes for each individual bin, rack, or pallet location in a fulfillment center, but using barcodes at the individual unit level is a safer and optimal warehouse method. 

All new SKU barcodes sent to the 3PL fulfillment center will help improve accuracy. Because 3PL processes orders from multiple brands (rather than a single warehouse used by one brand), barcodes help ensure that the right product is shipped from the right brand to the right customer. 

Warehouse workers can roam with a handheld barcode scanner that automatically updates systems such as warehouse management systems by simply scanning the barcode. 

Importance of Product Barcodes for 3PLs 

  • Stock Level Counting 

Barcode scanning is an easy way to automate inventory tracking and automatically update inventory numbers, rather than physically counting pen and paper inventory items and sending them to retailers. As an alternative, retailers can see the latest inventory on the 3PL dashboard. 

  • Putting Together of Reports 

Barcodes can contain much more information than just  SKU numbers to aid in inventory management. Barcodes allow you to generate reports on sales and inventory levels more quickly, allowing you to quickly replenish inventory  based on  reorder points, whether with fulfillment technology or the ERP inventory system. 

  • Error Reduction 

Manually counting and tracking inventory can cause many problems, especially if you have hundreds of products in stock. Human error is the order of days for which counting or sorting works. Barcodes allow 3PL and other shippers to easily record the receipt and issuance of error-free goods. 

Adding Barcodes to your Items 

If you’re including barcodes in your present merchandise for the primary time, make sure to speak together along with your present 3PL when you have non-barcoded merchandise of their success center. This way, they are able to use up any final stock first and save you commingling gadgets from the brand new batch with the vintage batch. Or else, you may have problems identifying inventory and returning the correct inventory level. 

Barcode Journey Through the Ordering Process 

Barcodes relate to almost every step in the supply chain. These are present as soon as the product is shipped from the manufacturer and also when the package arrives at the end customer. 

You need a digital version for remote historical tracking of all physical movements that occur in your warehouse. 

1. Products are shipped from the manufacturer or the supplier. 

Barcode products are available at the manufacturer’s or supplier’s facility this way. When the stock lot is ready to be shipped from the manufacturer to the next destination, the shipping barcode will be added as part of the label along with the documentation required for  3PL (which may include additional barcodes). 

2. Items arrive at the fulfilment center. 

Inventory is received by warehouse staff and scanned upon arrival to ensure that the product and quantity that the retailer says arrives have arrived as expected. Barcodes are also  scanned when inventory is stored in the  storage location. 

3. Products are retrieved from storage location. 

A picking list is created when a customer’s order is received. The picker assigned to the order knows exactly where to get the ordered item and quantity. When the picker arrives at the stock location, it scans for the product or location ID before proceeding to the next item or order. 

This removes the ordered unit from the available inventory. When out of stock, retailers can trigger alerts to place new orders. 

5. Products are picked up by carrier from the warehouse. 

After the order is packed, the label will be affixed to the box or shipping carton. The carrier must pick up the cargo from the warehouse and  scan the package as it leaves the facility. This may mean that the package is not in the hands of 3PL and is in progress. 

6. Products are in transit. 

Cargo needs to travel long distances and often travels throughout the country. Luggage can be transported from a sorting facility in one area to a sorting facility in another area. Carriers need to scan this little by little to get a more accurate picture of where the cargo is. This is especially useful orders are held for some reason. 

Last mile delivery is the final segment of a package delivery where the package is transported from the carrier’s hub to its final destination. At this point, items should be scanned at a local facility before they can start moving to customers. 

7. Shipments are finally delivered to their destinations. 

When the shipment arrives at the destination, the carrier scans it again at the end to confirm that it has arrived at the destination. At this point, the order must be received by the customer. If a delivery attempt fails, the package may be returned to your local sorting facility until the next attempt. 

If the shipment was for a B2Be commerce partner, they can use the shipping barcode for their inventory number and attach their barcode to the new inventory. 

Most Common Barcode Formats When Shipping and Storing Items 

There is a extensive variety of barcodes, every with their very own pros and cons. Depending on the goods you promote and fulfilment centers you work with, you can select a specific type (e.g., what works for clinical merchandise won’t be wished for different much less regulated merchandise). 

  • Alphanumeric barcodes 

These barcodes can be used to monitor and gather information. They can hold bigger amounts of information than their numeric cousin. They are comprised of UPC, EAN, MSI, and Codabar barcodes. 

  • Numeric barcodes 

Numeric barcodes are the same barcodes you use to tag shirts and other things in the store. These are simple barcodes used for basic inventory control and self-checkout functions. 

  • Datamatrix barcodes 

Data Matrix codes are used to identify small parts and goods. Due to its small footprint, it is ideal for small products in logistics and operations. In fact, the  Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) recommends using these to mark small electronic components. Like custom QR codes, it has high error immunity and quick readability. 

Options For Physical Barcodes 

Based on the products you sell, the barcodes used for them may vary. For example, clothing usually has a barcode on the label associated with the object to prevent the barcode from actually being embedded. 

  • Adhesives 

Adhesive barcodes stick to packages and boxes. They are usually made of synthetic materials and will not wear out over time. They are easy to find and  can be peeled off if needed, so they do not affect the product. 

  • Hangtags 

Hang tags are typically used for clothing and other retail products that are ready to use after the purchase with scissors. They are normality attached with a short string or a piece of plastic. 

  • Other Packaging 

These barcodes are placed directly on the product packaging but are not part of the content itself. A good example is a candy bar wrapper where the barcode is discarded just before the product is consumed. 

RFID: An Innovative Technology for Shipping Barcodes 

Radiofrequency identification, also known as RFID, is a new barcode technology. Barcodes and RFID are different, but they are similar in many aspects. RFID is much more uncomplicated to read than barcodes and can be read in batches, but it requires much more advanced technology to read. 

RFID tags do not need to be scanned at close range like barcodes, so they can be read remotely to process inventory quickly. Where technology is supported, inventory management, counting, and shipping verification can be performed quickly and automatically for better visibility and the potential for more frequent updates and scan locations. 

RFID tags are significantly more costly than barcode labels and use a dedicated reader that needs to be purchased from a limited number of RFID device manufacturers. Given the incredible upfront costs, it’s probably far from going mainstream soon.