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Choosing the right barcode type
BLOG / Feature | 3 min read
Jeffrey van der Veer
Marketer & Customer Success

Choosing the right barcode type

Barcode scanning is an indispensable tool to create frictionless workflows and reduce human error.

In 1948, Bernard Silver overheard a conversation between the owner of a local food chain and one of the deans at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, PA. They spoke about developing a new way to read product information automatically during checkout, helping to increase efficiency across the stores.

Excited by the idea, Silver turned to his friend, Norman Woodland, after which the two worked relentlessly to build such a system.

Four years later, inspired by Morse code, the first barcode was born. And now, decades later, they’re a universal part of our daily lives—from packaging and shipping applications to tracking and handling rental inventory.

Using barcodes to handle your rental inventory is a no-brainer. Not only does it decrease your time spent in the stock room, but it’s also a surefire way to reduce human error and make your rental operations more reliable.

As more rental businesses start to see the value, we often get the question which barcode types we’d recommend. Because there’s no unambiguous answer to this question, let’s explore the characteristics of the most popular ones, so you get an understanding of how they work when they’re used.

We’ll cover the most widely known one-dimensional barcodes. 1-D just means data is represented by parallel lines with varying widths and spacing. They’re the plain old code you’ve undoubtedly seen before.

1. EAN-8 and EAN-13

EAN-8 and EAN-13 If you’re outside of the United States, European Article Numbers might look terribly familiar. Primarily in Europe, they’re used for consumer goods that are scanned at a POS. Whenever you buy groceries, clothing, or virtually any other product, it’s likely there’s an EAN-13 or EAN-8 to be found.

EAN-13 (covering thirteen digits) is the default form factor, while you’ll find EAN-8 on products where there’s limited space available. Both types don’t take up too much space and work nicely for scanning rental inventory.

2. Code-39 and Code-128

Code-39 and Code-128 Where EAN only contains numbers, Code39 allows the use of digits, alphanumeric characters (uppercase only), and seven special characters. It’s the oldest and most common industrial symbology widely used around the world. Because of Code39’s substantial size, we’d argue that Code128 is a better choice for products with smaller surface areas. As one of the most compact and space-efficient barcodes, Code128 supports all 128ASCII Characters (0-9, a-z, A-Z, and some special characters). It’s a high-density barcode that provides a higher degree of data security, making them less prone to errors while scanning. However, you’ll need a more sensible printer as Code128’s elements come in four different widths.

Back to choosing the right barcodes for your rental business. At Booqable, we believe there’s no holy grail in the search for barcodes, so we’d be wrong to say one is better than the other. It’s a matter of preference and finding what works for you.

When you’re thinking about implementing barcode scanning to handle your rental inventory, your choice depends on factors like the surface area that’s available on a product, the conditions in which you’re going to scan them, and the amount and type of data they need to contain.

No matter which type you end up with, if you’re looking to increase productivity and reduce human error, all of them will help you get there.

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