Less is More: Why 2D Warehouse Barcode Labels Are Increasing in Popularity

“More” is a word that aptly describes the expectations placed on today’s warehouses and distribution centers.

More inventory. More throughput. More rapid order fulfillment. More pressure on warehouse operators to meet increasing demands.

Luckily, “more” is also a word that describes the capabilities of today’s barcoding solutions.

2D barcode image
2D barcode images have several advantages over traditional linear barcodes.

“Warehouse workers like 2D barcode labels because it translates into faster, easier scans. They can also typically read a 2D barcode that might be slightly damaged from, say, a close encounter with a lift truck. That means less manual data entry and less opportunity for errors.”

– Malcolm Aitken, ID Label Inc.

Barcoding’s Vital Role

“A warehouse barcoding system is essential today,” said Malcolm Aitken, ID Label’s vice president of sales. “With its automated data capture, it supports inventory visibility and tracking that can greatly improve operational efficiency and speed.”

Warehouse management software can cover a great deal of information about each product, case or pallet. And that means today’s barcodes must be able to contain copious amounts of data.

“With many of our warehousing clients, we’re seeing an increase in use of two-dimensional barcodes, which can support greater data requirements in a smaller barcode image,” Aitken said.

1D vs. 2D Barcodes

Warehouse rack location label
A traditional warehouse rack location label with a linear barcode

Traditional linear – or 1D – barcodes contain a limited amount of information, roughly the equivalent of up to 20 characters.

Two-dimensional – or 2D – barcodes, on the other hand, can store thousands of characters of information. That’s because 2D barcodes encode data vertically and horizontally.

Not only do they contain more data, they’re typically smaller than 1D barcodes. This can be beneficial if a rack bay or bin area contains a dense number of positions.

A 2D barcode can contain information like: product name, serial number, lot number, date of arrival, date to be shipped and more. A single scan captures all the pertinent information, which is then easily accessible in the facility’s inventory management software.

2D barcode labels can store thousands of characters of information and are easier to scan.

Easier Scanning with 2D Barcodes

2D barcodes require imaging scanners to read them. An imager doesn’t use reflected light like a traditional laser scanner.

“An imaging scanner can read a barcode in any direction – even upside down,” Aitken said. “Warehouse workers like them because it translates into faster, easier scans. They can also typically read a 2D barcode that might be slightly damaged from, say, a close encounter with a lift truck. That means less manual data entry and less opportunity for errors.”

2D imagers have the added benefit of being able to read linear barcodes, too.

“One thing to watch for is glare,” Aitken added. “Occasionally, imaging scanners have difficulty reading barcodes with any glare that might be reflecting off a glossy finish. We typically manufacture our labels with a matte finish to avoid those potential problems.”

Ideal for Vertical Location Labels

2D barcodes are particularly beneficial on vertical (totem) location labels where space on the upright rack is limited. The larger information capabilities allow for a compact barcode that contains both a location ID and a multifunctional data string.

“2D barcodes are being used more broadly for a reason,” Aitken said. “They’re a perfect solution for today’s complex, smart warehouses.”

Not Sure What’s Right for Your Organization?

Consult with ID Label to review your specific environment, objectives and needs. We’ll design a custom solution

The ID Label Advantage

ID Label manufactures extremely durable warehouse rack and bin location labels. Our materials have been tested and used in warehouse operations around the globe.

We also provide warehouse signage and turnkey nationwide installation services to provide a complete solution to our many clients who rely on us for all their warehousing needs.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today.