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The end of the queue?


Computer technology in the form of bar code systems has had a marked impact on retail stores and their efficiency the world over. Especially at the checkout queue did bar code systems show their worth. Whereas before each item had to be manually entered into the cash register, items are now bar coded and scanned by a bar code scanner instead, significantly reducing process time.

Besides saving time at the queue for the customer, and getting a properly itemized receipt, this system has the added advantage that it can be linked to the - central - warehouse, in the case of retail chain stores, allowing a much more efficient stock or inventory control and reduced ordering times. This means that items can be restocked before they run out.

Smaller stores benefit similarly by a bar code system because it automatically produces reports and overviews of sales traffic and inventory levels so that administrational and marketing activities can be fine-tuned quicker and more precisely.

As is the case with many automated systems, it's the human link in the chain which is the slowest. Despite advanced checkout systems such as bar coding, the wait at the queue is still dependent on the speed of the cashier or packer.

Bar code systems speed up retailers

Many companies and organisations with diverse markets and goals now use a bar code system in order to keep a better control of (ticket) sales, transport tracking and customer behavior.

In high volume enterprises, such as postal systems, bar coding has enabled domestic and international postal services to automate their sorting and routing demands to a high degree by placing bar code labels on each letter or parcel. This label is read by high speed readers and the package is automatically distributed into zoning bins for further transport.

Transport companies use bar code systems to keep track of where goods are - in the warehouse, waiting to be shipped, in a container on a shipping vessel, or at a destination sorting office for final delivery. Linked to a central database you can look up where your document or parcel is via the internet, for example.


U.S. Postal Service before and after bar coding

Source: USPS
Old style mail sorting. U.S. Postal Service. Links999 bar code.
Old style mail sorting.
New style mail sorting with bar code technology - Links999 bar code systems.
New style mail sorting utilising bar coding and other technologies (notice the reduction in employees).


Concert halls, cinemas and movie theaters, sporting clubs and events, and theme parks use bar coding on their tickets to keep track of visitor behavior and purchases, for example. Libraries use bar codes to keep track of books. And so on.

Different companies use different bar code systems and symbologies depending on their needs. See our Bar code glossary and symbologies page for more on this.

As with all new and improved, and often necessarily upgraded, technologies, there is a reduced need for human workers in the system. With an ever increasing world population this is a problem which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. See also our page on the Ethical Aspects of Robot technology in our Robotics section.

As far as bar code systems are concerned the future looks bright.


Barcode system manufacturers and sales

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