This question is asked each week to our project team when planning or implementing an inventory management software system. One prospect recently had this issue - they make insulation (silver layer on the outside and something like fibre glass in the middle). Their warehouse holds stock up to about 50 feet high and is a few football pitches in size. The products are large bulk and forklift trucks are whizzing around constantly for 24 hour despatch post production.
The challenge: where to put location barcodes so they can be scanned when picking items.
Option 1: Hang barcode location labels from ceiling. Popular where possible, using retro-reflective labels. These barcodes will need to be about 50cm wide to read them with a barcode scanner from 45 feet. The ambient light needs to be reasonable as well to get a good read - lasers do not like too bright lights. This option was not practical for this manufacturer due to the height of the stacked inventory.
Option 2: Barcode the locations with a placard on the floor of the warehouse. You may read about rugged placards made from steel that are heavily glued to the ground. Having seen more than 1,000 installations of inventory management software systems, I have seen only 2 of these, so not a popular choice. Expensive and often damaged by the aggressive nature that most forklifts are handled!
Option 3: The one that many forget...do not barcode the locations, just have the locations painted on the floor and have the operator type it in to the mobile computer (handheld). We see this in about 30% of cases with an additional check digit to remove errors of possible wrong location being entered. The accuracy is surprisingly great with this, the speed is almost as good as scanning a location barcode and it is inexpensive.
Whilst option 1 is normally the best choice, depending on your operation there are these other options which are proven to work when implementing an inventory management software system in a warehouse.