Simple Ways to Improve Your Maintenance Operations, Part 1: Mobile Barcode Scanning


Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. I was reminded of this notion recently during coffee with a long-time friend and customer, Carl.

Carl and I are old enough to remember a time before barcode scanning was as prevalent as it is today. I helped him install a barcode system back in the early 1980s.

Carl, the general manager of a local store for a national chain, was ahead of his time. He understood that information was his most important asset.

Believe it or not, barcodes were relatively new back then. Carl saw the potential, so he invested in a barcode system to help his employees manage inventory.

Simplifying Data Entry

Carl’s operation stocked thousands of items, and they reordered constantly from multiple suppliers. Keeping track of that information was mind-boggling, and staff members would often go looking for an item only to discover it wasn’t there.

The organization’s annual inventory count was a serious undertaking, with a dozen employees or more writing down numbers while Carl and his assistant typed in information on a spreadsheet from handwritten notes.

The barcode system allowed them to automate the process. The time it took to physically do the inventory was cut by a third. The time it took to enter data and create the reports took minutes instead of days. And Carl’s employees knew what needed to be ordered when, streamlining the purchasing and receiving process.

Carl’s corporate offices were so impressed, they ended up implementing a nation-wide system that closely resembled what Carl set up.

“At the time, it felt like a huge undertaking,” he said. “But looking back, it was a relatively simple change that helped the company grow.”

What’s Old is New Again

Today, what Carl accomplished is simpler than ever because…

  • Technology is cheaper
  • Barcode label printing is widely available
  • 2D barcodes (like QR codes) can store and track even more data
  • Data is easily synced with CMMS software

When we implemented Carl’s system, barcode scanners required wired connections. Downloading the data meant plugging in the device to the computer.

Today barcode scanners easily transmit data wirelessly. What’s more, modern maintenance software includes mobile device barcode scanning capability so maintenance personnel can use a smartphone, tablet, or barcode scanner to input data into any CMMS field.

Carl is still looking for ways to make his team’s workflows more efficient. He listed off a bunch of things he can track today with barcode technology—from tracking employee time to managing the check in/check out process of tools, keys, and vehicles.

Next time, I’ll share more simple solutions that have a big impact on maintenance operations.

In the meantime, share your story. Leave a comment or contact me.