Barcodes vs. QR codes: Which is better for manufacturers?

For many manufacturing businesses, tracking inventory and orders is a high priority on any list, especially in physical inventory management. As a result, there are many reasons to attach a tag on an item for use in inventory or even production. For example, customers will be able to know where their order is located on the assembly line and when it should be in their hands. More importantly, customers can use tracking data to find bottlenecks and other problems. This information can also be beneficial to the organization when it comes to improving efficiency and productivity. But a company should decide on a tagging system that works best to track the information they need most. The most common is the use of barcode labels. But what kinds should a business use? Is it better to run with the classic one-dimensional system, or should a company utilize two-dimensional quick response codes?

A matter of dimensions
The main difference between barcodes and QR codes is one of physical dimensions. Barcodes can be scanned in a line. This means that data is limited to what can be placed in that one stretch of stripes. QR codes, on the other hand, add another dimension from which information can be written and scanned. Instead of a single line, these labels can be read both vertically and horizontally.

As blog Schooldude notes, a company can store a lot more in a single QR code than in a barcode. For example, a standard barcode may be able to tell a product number and its expected location, but that would be it. A QR code, on the other hand, would be able to provide the condition of the product when it was made, and any repairs done, among other things. This means that a business can get a more precise understanding of its inventory overall.

One of the major drawbacks of QR codes, until recently, was the ability to scan these codes fairly limited. The scanners used for them were quite a bit more expensive than those utilized for standard barcodes because of the need to cover two dimensions instead of one. However, with the development of mobile WMS, these limitations are greatly mitigated. Mobile devices are able to do the scanning work now, according to tech blog Infinigeek. An employee just needs a smartphone or tablet with camera to view and scan the code entirely, providing all the information he or she would need. While barcodes remain an extremely affordable option for inventory tracking, QR codes are an increasingly attractive alternative.