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Use Shortcut Barcodes to Accelerate Your Work

December 4, 2018 by Larry Silverman

If you only think of a barcode as a tracking ID, think bigger. Shortcut barcodes can be used as work accelerators enabling great gains in worker productivity.

A shortcut barcode is a custom barcode that speeds data entry or makes the software do something other than just collect data. Whenever there's a chance to scan a barcode rather than type or tap on the screen, we try to use a shortcut barcode.

TrackAbout's mobile apps support shortcut barcodes in many places. We’ve worked with our customers to accelerate mobile workflows in dozens of ways through the clever use of well-placed custom barcodes.

This chapter will discuss several uses of shortcut barcodes that we've implemented in TrackAbout.

Part Number Flip Books and Posters

Tracking your assets starts with getting those assets into the asset tracking system. It's data entry. Anything you can do to speed things up here in mobile workflow pays huge dividends.

Typical applications require users to pick choices from lists. A part number catalog, for example, might contain thousands of items. Picking from lists on a small mobile device screen is usually slow, no matter what user interface tricks are used.

Here's where shortcut barcodes can shine. Print out the most commonly used part numbers as shortcut barcodes and scan them into the app instead of slowly poking at the screen.

You might print a flip book and hang it near where the work takes place. But be careful — long flip books full of custom barcodes can take a while to flip through, so keep them as short as you can. Or print them huge, like a poster. Consider using a printing company (like a Kinkos) to create books larger than your standard sheet of printer paper. The extra effort to create easy-to-use flip-books or posters will pay off in saved time by your workers.

Scanning Barcodes on a Screen

In some factory or plant production systems, a mounted computer screen displays the current state of the job being performed. Explore whether the application can be modified to display barcode accelerators, so workers can scan them with mobile devices and accelerate mobile workflow.

In modern factories, workers manufacture to orders displayed on a Kanban board on a large screen. What if the Kanban board could also display custom barcodes, which encode facts about the job, perhaps part numbers, an expiration date, a lot number. All these values could be scanned and collected by the mobile device to accelerate the worker's data entry workflow. Perhaps the board simply displays a job code, which when scanned, fills all the job details into the mobile device's record.

Know that laser barcode scanners (as opposed to imager scanners) typically cannot read computer monitors. Light doesn't reflect off a computer screen the same way it does a label. You probably need either an imager scanner or smartphone camera scanner for this kind of work accelerator.

Truck Selection

Dock workers load and unload trucks using TrackAbout. The first step in the Load Truck or Unload Truck mobile workflows is to select the truck to be loaded from a list. Next, the worker scans the assets to be delivered and loads them onto the truck. Upon return, the workflow is similar except the worker scans the returning assets off the truck.

Make it easy on the dock workers by sticking large barcode shortcut labels to the backs of the trucks. Let them scan the truck's ID, eliminating the need to pick the truck from a potentially long list.

Similarly, truck drivers using TrackAbout need to select which truck they're driving for the day. Enable the driver to scan a truck's barcode instead of making a manual selection. Put a copy of the truck's ID barcode inside the truck's cab. If the driver forgets to scan the barcode before getting in the truck, he can do it later before exiting the cab, or he can scan it off the back of the truck at his first stop.


Speed to the finish with shortcut barcodes


Barcoding Fixed Objects

Another powerful example of shortcut barcodes is placing them on fixed objects (as opposed to in flip books). In the packaged gas industry, some of our customers put shortcut barcodes on fill racks to aid selecting the correct rack while filling gas cylinders.

Barcoded Delivery Data

Some of TrackAbout's customers use our Proof of Delivery module. With Proof of Delivery, all the delivery order, route, asset and hardgoods information is loaded into the driver's mobile device. For these customers, barcode accelerators are not strictly necessary as all the data is on the device. Still, some customers print a list of barcodes for each stop on the driver's trip. The driver can scan the barcode for the customer he's visiting to bring up the data for that delivery on the mobile device.

Drivers of our customers who have not yet adopted Proof of Delivery do deliveries using printed order forms. Putting shortcut barcodes on these order forms can accelerate data entry of customer IDs, order numbers, and other kinds of order data. We encourage these customers to work with their order entry system vendor to get customer and order barcode numbers printed directly on the order paperwork.

Scanning delivery order info from paperwork is much less error-prone than manually keying in the data. It results in fewer mistakes, which means you can bill the customer faster and more confidently.

Other Shortcut Barcodes We Support

TrackAbout's mobile apps have the ability to accelerate many kinds of data entry using barcodes, such as:


  • Customer Number
  • Order or Invoice Number
  • Lot Number
  • Expiration Date
  • Product Code
  • Location ID
  • Truck ID
  • Manufacture Date
  • Next Retest Date
  • Pre-Fill Number
  • Rack Number
  • Trip Number
  • Asset Type
  • Ownership
  • Asset Family
  • Asset Family Collection
  • Product Prefix


We are adding more accelerators all the time.



TrackAbout has added barcode accelerators in many places throughout its asset tracking software. We're always on the lookout for new and clever ways to accelerate your work.

If you have any ideas for ways we can help you accelerate your employees' workflows, let us know.


Images Copyright: luislouro / 123RF Stock Photo


Topics: Barcodes

Written by Larry Silverman