Improving warehouse organization with new barcode scanners, databases

Traditionally, suppliers and distribution centers have used laser scanners to manage inventory and cargo. When labels are damaged or compromised, however, lasers aren't particularly efficient or accurate. Recently, there's been a wave of new scanners that not only process codes faster and more precisely, they're also widely available. As a matter of fact, you may have one in your pocket right now.

Imaging is a type of scanning that takes a picture of a barcode, translates the information into a digital form and decodes it into readable data. Perhaps the most common relative to imagers are smartphones and tablets that feature a barcode scanning application and a camera.

"Imagers are better able to adjust to the harsh conditions often found in the warehouse and manufacturing environment. Bad lighting, damaged labels, incorrect label types, faint or faded labels, each offer a degree of complexity when it comes to decoding the label," Kevin McArdle, an applications engineer at barcode and wireless solutions provider Supply Chain Services, told Supply Chain Digest.

When a label is damaged, laser scanners read and re-read the barcode until it can get an accurate reading – and sometimes it never does, McArdle explained to the source. On the other hand, imagers take one picture of the barcode and apply a series of algorithms to the image to decipher it. According to McArdle, this is much faster and more efficient than laser scanners.

Using the wireless connectivity of iPhones, iPads and iPod touches in addition to access to a primary database, employees equipped with a mobile device can scan and quickly record warehouse information with custom database software.

If your warehouse still uses laser scanners and you are interested in implementing a imager scanning system with mobile devices and database software, a FileMaker developer can build a custom application that works for your business's specific operational needs.

How to make your business stand out in the crowd

According to a government-issued Canadian wildlife guide, people who are approached by an offensive bear should shout, wave their arms and feet, look the bear in the eye and raise their jackets to make them look like larger and more threatening. What (hopefully) works in the wild may also work in the business world.

When companies have tight budgets and limited resources, it can be easy to feel outmatched by larger companies that can afford to be aggressors in the industry. But, if small businesses can find a way to make themselves appear to be bigger, they can stand out in the crowd and keep up with the big wigs according to an article on by Scott Steinberg, CEO of consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global and author of "The Business Expert's Guidebook."

Think of of the internet as your business's jacket for the sake of this metaphor. While your company is small in physical size, the internet allows clientele to develop their own image of your establishment based on its online presence.

The first way to do this is by designing a visually striking and user-friendly website. This will likely be the first image potential customers will have of your business so it's important to make the first impression count. Secondly, make your products or services available through an online store. If your business isn't prepared to keep track of online sales, talk to FileMaker developer who can use custom database software that's optimized for your website design and the product or service you provide.

Steinberg said that updated communication technology is also a solid way to improve your business's presence next to your competitors.

Study: Tablets most sought after device for businesses

As technology continues to change rapidly, businesses have been constantly adjusting their operations to fit in with the trends. In the past few years, mobile devices have transformed from simple phones to technological Swiss army knives, and as more individuals purchase them for personal use, businesses are catching on and integrating them into their offices. But, which of these devices has been the most sought after by companies?

According to, a recent survey by research firm Captivate Network revealed that phones aren't at the top of the business tech wish list. Tablets turned out to be the number one most coveted item in the office, but the website indicates that this is probably because most employees have phones already.

"Managing the expectations of employees afflicted with 'gadget envy' is not always easy," Captivate Network research director Scott Marden told the source. "Technology helps employees balance their work and personal lives, keeps professionals connected to the world outside their office, and can improve employee retention and overall productivity. Small business owners must be open-minded to personal technology in the workplace."

The study showed that small businesses said that laptops were desired more than both tablets and phones. And actually, according to the results, small companies are 2.5 times more likely than large ones to pick laptops as their favorite devices. One could probably assume that's due to smaller budgets and less room to invest in providing tablets or phones for their employees.

While the initial cost of adding tablets or phones to a small business's operation may seem daunting, using them effectively can produce a speedy return on investment. It's important to make sure that the devices are running adequate and appropriate software. Before your business invests in mobile technology, talk with FileMaker consultants who can help you customize an application utilized for iPads, iPhones and iPod touches that can be used to streamline productivity.

Smithsonian turns to FileMaker to store image archives

Museums are the ultimate database of the world's history, but keeping a record of all of the material requires a database of its own. So when the largest museum and research complex in the world needed a way to keep a detailed and easy accessible archive of all its images, it turned to FileMaker Pro for a solution.

The Smithsonian Institution's Office of Photographic Services generates hundreds of images each day, John Jones, the office's Chief of Image and Photographic Collections, explained for an article featured on the FileMaker website.

With FileMaker Pro, Jones said that he and his team log orders, keep track of customer information, archive images and organize their extensive film library. Continuing advances in the software's functionality and stability have made archiving incredibly easy, he said.

"Our photographers deposit their finished images in them and an AppleScript then processes the Web derivatives used for FileMaker's search display and uploads the full size images to our image archive," Jones said for the story. "During the upload process, information about each image including, file size, creation and modification dates, pixel dimensions, etc. are loaded into FileMaker via AppleScript."

In doing that, he explained, the process of archiving and updating the databases is automated. With just a single click, he can find any image in the database with the program's search feature.

Businesses that are interested in experiencing the same efficiency and organization improvements that Jones and the Smithsonian were able to benefit from should talk to a FileMaker developer. Using custom database software, these programmers can build an application for storing any information from financial figures to images that are specific to any individual business's needs.

Ohio counties cleaning up transportation system with database software

Managing public transportation is among the more important functions of a town's leadership, but keeping track of, literally, all of the moving pieces can be very difficult. Oftentimes, problems arise from residents that displeased with the routing, stop frequency and operation schedules, but town managers can only make adjustments based on the complaints they receive and feedback from their drivers.

That's why decision-makers in one area of Ohio are coming together to clean up their public transportation systems using special database software. On Tuesday, Mike Paprocki, transportation study director for the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson (BHJ) Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Shawn Price, senior engineering technician for BHJ, told the Regional Access Mobility Partnership that there would be a training program in place for the parties that will need to know how to use the systems so that it can be used to its full potential, according the Herald-Star, a periodical that reports on news in the Upper Ohio Valley.

With the new software, which is being financed by a federal economic stimulus funds, the collaboration between the cities and towns in BHJ is expected to improve public access between the counties and make schedule planning easier, the source reported.

Cleaning up the public transportation system in the BHJ area now is important if news reported by local NBC affiliate WTOV-9 is accurate. The media outlet said that while drivers in the Steubenville and Weirton, Ohio area were faced with 1.2 miles of congestion per lane of highway in 2003, they are predicted to experience 9.3 miles of congestion per traffic lane by 2030.

It could be reasonably hypothesized that more traffic means a larger demand for public transportation, but at the very least, the increase in travel congestion indicates that the area should be prepared to manage its own vehicles more efficiently.

Rethinking how mobile apps can help your business

By now, most businesses have at least heard about others mobilizing part of their operation with custom application development. It might be impractical for some organizations that only have a few employees to use iPads for inventory tracking, but many enterprises are taking advantage of mobile apps thanks to the availability of database software programs like FileMaker Go and the network of developers that use these products to make programs for task-specific solutions.

Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research, wrote in an article for InformationWeek that businesses need to take a better approach when developing their own mobile apps.

"…Developing mobile apps isn't a strategy, and IT will be buried if it takes an 'app at a time' approach to the demand for mobility," she said. "A successful mobile strategy requires companies to evaluate what business processes are working, what needs to be changed, and how mobile can improve how the business runs and executes its strategy."

One of Lopez' suggestions was for business owners to consider mobilizing a process or part of a process, rather than recreating an application. With custom mobile apps, developers can combine the functions of multiple applications into one that can be accessed remotely.

Another of Lopez's tips was to consider if some apps would be more or less helpful when accessed through a mobile device. Luckily, programs like FileMaker Go have interfaces that are optimized to complement a FileMaker Pro-based data center, but still, there may be some tasks best carried out with a larger screen and a keyboard.

The best way to figure out how a custom application can help your business is to talk with FileMaker consultants who can help you brainstorm different solutions to your operations' problems. With their expert experience, they may have a better idea that may streamline your productivity and even provide a solid return on investment.

Small businesses shouldn’t shy away from tech upgrades

One of the fundamental differences between large and small businesses are the ways they manage their budgets. Of course, a local retailer has far less financial wiggle room to invest in new technology than a global corporation, therefore, one may assume it's best for the small business to make the most of what it has. President of SurePayroll Michael Alter says, however, that the truth is quite the contrary.

In an article for, Alter said that small business owners rely on "organization, a solid business model and an ability to adapt," and while a system that's been in place for years may still be functioning, it could be nearing the end of its lifespan and there's probably a better one available anyway.

Alter explained that there are a few specific processes that small business owners should put serious thought into upgrading. The first is data storage. Many businesses may still be saving their information on a local server, a hard drive or even a filing cabinet, but not only can these options be very pricey and require a lot of maintenance, they don't protect any data in the instance of a fire or theft. Remote storage in the cloud is cost-effective, in that it only requires users to pay for the amount of space they are currently using, and it's safe.

Alter said that small businesses should also look into changing their customer relationship management system. Oftentimes, companies use spreadsheet software to keep track of customer information, but those programs are vulnerable to inaccuracies and are difficult to manage.

If your business stores its important information in a system that is outdated and you think you may be ready for an upgrade, talk to a FileMaker consultant and explain what data your operation relies on. With that information, FileMaker developers can use custom database software to build a user-friendly and reliable program for your business.

Company increases efficiency collaborating with partners

Communication and collaboration are two integral pieces of any successful faction, whether it be a family of four or the entire food supply industry. That can difficult without the right means to connect with associates, but developing technology continues to give us more and more methods of accessing each other and working together.

Using an IBM-hosted business-to-business (B2B) cloud service, Gist Limited, a third party logistics company that specializes in distributing chilled and frozen goods, was able to work more efficiently with its clients and improve critical internal operations.

The B2B cloud system allows Gist to exchange business documents with its partners securely and in real time. The IBM service translates the files into the appropriate format or protocol that the receiving party requires, and as a result, Gist’s document error rate has dropped by 20 percent.

“Third party logistics companies deal with a complex network of partners, each with a unique set of requirements, and need real-time visibility into constantly evolving processes,” IBM commerce solutions regional leader Ronald Teijken said in a press release. “With these concerns addressed, Gist can now focus on meeting the stringent standards of the food industry, using cloud services to ensure that goods are delivered on time.”

Gist was able to streamline productivity and improve its overall service by working with its clientele on a large scale, but smaller bodies like retailers and schools can benefit similarly from an in-house system. Using database software, a FileMaker developer can create a custom data system specialized for specific needs of any organization, which can be complemented with a mobile application that can be accessed by all necessary parties directly from their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

Data storage increasing dramatically in recent years

The amount of data stored, the capacity of the servers in which it's kept, and the ways that it can be accessed and stockpiled have amplified exponentially in the past decade, meaning increasingly more changes for the way both businesses and consumers maintain the storage of their information.

Back in 2001, Apple's first version of the iPod could hold roughly 5 gigabytes of music or about 1,000 songs. Today, their latest MP3 players can hold up to 160 GB or around 40,000 songs. Consumers can easily find hard drives that have storage capacities in the range of 2 terabytes (2,078 GB) at common retailers. Individuals are buying into data storage more and more frequently as different forms of information are increasingly becoming digitalized.

But, what's appealed to consumers has also appealed to the corporate world on a much larger scale. Data storage has become the backbone for many businesses already, but that's only the beginning.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that the volume of the world's digital information will grow to an astonishing 35 trillion GB by 2020. In 2010 alone, the amount of digital information created and replicated grew by 62 percent to more than 838 billion GB, which the IDC said would fill enough DVDs to make a stack that reaches from the earth to the moon and back.

Businesses that have questions about increasing or improving their own data storage should talk to FileMaker consultants that specialize in developing and organizing custom database software. From there, they can reap the benefits of an accurate, modern information storage system that can even be accessed from mobile devices like iPads and iPhones.

Businesses finding new uses for tablet computers

The emergence of the tablet computer has meant big changes for the way both individuals and corporations use technology. Many businesses have found interesting ways to integrate iPads into their operations, but there are still quite a few others that may believe while the new technology may be advantageous in some fashion, the price tag on that kind of tech upgrade is a bit too steep. Along with custom application development, iPads can be a worthy investment if business owners use it for the right reasons.

Making big sales is one of the best functions a company can use a tablet computer for, as long as it has the right software. With the ability to access a remote database right from an iPad, the sales team can update or search for information at the point of sale. This could be also done on a laptop, but the nature of using a tablet during a sale make a conversation more one-on-one, according to an article from InformationWeek.

Using database software, the warehouse can become a streamlined operation with all workers on the same page. The iPad can scan barcodes with its camera, and log that information into a main database using a custom application.

Tablets are great for customer relations, too. Some businesses like Royal Caribbean are actually providing customers with iPads to check schedules, book activities and find promotions, reports the news source. But, other clientele uses could be for waiting room entertainment or for taking service satisfaction polls.

Business owners who are interested in using tablets for any of the aforementioned uses should talk to a FileMaker consultant that can develop a custom FileMaker Go application that's optimized for iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.