construction barcoding in a warehouse

Why Typical Barcoding Solutions Don’t Work for the Construction Industry 

If you work in the parts department or handle materials for a construction company you’ve probably thought about barcoding systems once or twice.  Whether you’re already using some sort of barcoding technology or have considered it in the past, there’s no doubt these solutions can add significant value to almost any type of construction organization. 

So why don’t more construction companies have them in place? 

For most barcoding solutions, the typical scenario for managing inventory involves a warehouse where items arrive and are stored until needed.  Then items are requested, often through an order when is then packed and shipped.  This describes a retail type environment where inventory is being quickly bought and sold.  This is the purpose of most inventory management systems.  But, of course, that’s not how construction works. 

Construction companies purchase, track, and consume parts and materials to complete jobs.  That’s much different than maintaining sales inventory. It involves completely difference processes, different actions, and different accounting entries.  It means sometimes you track inventory inside a building, in a yard, from a truck and often on a job site.  Your business isn’t retail, it’s construction. The system must be flexible enough for all the different ways a construction company uses parts and materials. 

Here are some examples of the unique needs a construction company has when it comes to parts and materials tracking: 

Tracking of Different Things 

Construction companies need to track a lot of different things.  You have parts, materials, tools, and equipment.  Most tracking systems simply track widgets for an external customer and have no ability to simultaneously track these things.  

Tracking for Different Purposes 

Construction companies track items to use and consume themselves on a job or within their fleet.  Tracking how parts and material consumption is charged and how equipment and tools are used is unique to construction and often even unique to the construction company.  These activities need to be defined for each Parts team, Accounting team and Project Manager. 

Environment and Processes 

The physical environment and internal processes are different in construction.  Maybe you have a warehouse, maybe you don’t, or you might have a dozen.  Maybe you store stuff in the yard, or only on-site.  Items may be inside and outside.  Some areas are clean, and others may often be dirty.  Additionally, processes vary widely.  Pallets may or may not be used.  Perhaps certain items have unique serial numbers and others only have a part number and quantity.  Frankly you need to track parts and materials of any type, in many different locations, and on the fly.  Typical inventory tracking and barcoding systems simply are not able to do that. 

Non-Inventory Inventory 

Many retail and distribution organizations who use inventory management systems do so to track items in a warehouse which are considered assets until they are sold.  Although construction companies may keep some frequently used parts and materials on hand before they know where they will be used, many items are purchased for a specific job or equipment.  This means you might have lots of parts and materials on hand that cannot be tracked by a typical inventory management system because they are not actually in inventory, at least not from an accounting perspective.  This non-inventory inventory poses a problem because you still need to track these items which may sit around for days or weeks before they’re used. 

For further information on how smart barcoding solutions can make tracking construction tools, parts, and materials a more efficient process, read Construction Tools Tracking: Have You Ever Barcoded a Backhoe?


The way the construction industry defines “Inventory” is different.  Typical inventory management systems simply won’t work for tracking construction parts, materials, equipment, and tools.  Construction companies need a barcoding solution designed for their industry that focuses on managing items for use on jobs and equipment which is flexible enough to handle all the unique aspects of construction.  

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