Bar coding programs were developed back in 1962 to track railroad cars as they travel around the United States. When the bar codes started appearing rumors abounded and everyone thought it was a plot to take over and control the people. As in most rumors, it turned out to be false. Everyone later discovered that the bar codes were simply a future means the grocery stores planned to use to control their inventory. Imagine that, having a plan to better manage their business. Since the early 1960s bar coding has become a common method to monitor and verify information from the auto industry to the medical fields. Bar coding is a valuable tool in maintenance reliability to have real-time data on inventory control, work order status, production, and distribution activities at multiple sites.
Bar coding is available in over 40 symbolisms which give the customer and industry several options to choose from. There are two major categories of bar codes to choose from, a one dimensional (1D) and a two dimensional (2D). The 1D is the most common and least expensive of the two and serves all the needs of a large MRO inventory. The more sophisticated 2D bar code system is used by large parcel carriers like United Parcel Service and other commercial carriers that ship and track deliveries of millions of parcels each day. With technology advancing as quickly as it does, we would expect to see other businesses like the pharmaceutical and medical industry incorporate the 2D technology into their business operation in the future. The character set and code formats are described in the American National Standard Code for Information Interchange, ANSI X3.4-1977.
Bar code scanners are used to read bar code labels and in some cases, transmit the data in real time using a radio frequency (RF) to the CMMS where the transaction is recorded immediately. If the scanner unit stores the data internally, the data will need to be downloaded to the CMMS at a later time. There are two primary technologies used in bar code scanners. The laser scanner or the charged coupled devices (CCD) are available in today’s market. The laser scanner is most functional and can scan a bar code from over 20 ft away making it the choice of most storeroom employees. The CCD is useful at close range and is most applicable for office or scanning bar codes on documents on the shop floor. Hand-held scanners are capable of reading the bar coded information from left to right or right to left so it doesn’t matter if you hold the scanner unit upside down or right side up. The scanner can still do its job very well. Laser scanners can also be mounted directly to a vehicle like a lift truck where the driver doesn’t have to leave the seat to scan the location and product label. One of the benefits of implementing a bar code program in the MRO storeroom is to increase productivity of the stores employees. The big drawback to the bar code system is that the employees have to scan items to a location, scan inventory moved to another location, and record all issues and receipts for the system to maintain an accurate inventory. The system will only work as well as the people operating it use it.