Tips & Tricks: These topics are very important from the ICT exam point of view.

1.  Describe the usage of computers in retail industry for automatic stock control using barcodes ?

Barcodes appear on most products sold in shops.  They allow quick identification of product details once the barcode has been scanned by a barcode reader. Supermarkets, use electronic point of sale (EPOS) terminals which incorporate a barcode reader which scans the barcode and retrieves the price of the article and also relays the information back to the computer system allowing it to update its files.

A number underneath the barcode usually consists of four parts; a country code, manufacturer’s code, product code and a check digit.  The check digit is a form of validation which is used to make sure no errors occur during the reading of the barcode.

Some examples of barcode applications are:

  • administration systems
  • passport/ID cards
  • automatic stock control system
  • library book system
  • equipment checking systems (safety records on maintenance of equipment)
  • some burglar alarm systems.

The following lines details out the steps as to how barcodes are used to automatically control stock levels in a supermarket:

  • Barcodes are attached to all the items sold by the supermarket.
  • Each barcode is associated with a stock file which contains details such as price, product description, stock levels – the barcode will act as the primary key in the file.
  • A customer takes their trolley/basket to the EPOS terminal once they have completed their shopping.
  • The barcode on each item is scanned  at the EPOS.
    • If the barcode can’t be read, then the EPOS operator has to key in the number manually.
  • The barcode is searched for on the stock file, record by record, until a match is found.
  • Once the barcode has been found, the appropriate record is accessed.
  • The price of the item is then found and sent back to the EPOS together with a product description.
  • The stock level for the item is found in the record and is reduced by 1 and the new stock level is written back to the file.
    • If the number in stock of the item is less than or equal to the re-order/minimum number in stock, then the computer automatically orders a batch of items from the suppliers (supplier information would be found on another file called the order file or supplier file – the barcode would be the link between the two files).
    • Once the goods have been ordered the item is flagged on the file to indicate an order has been placed.  This now prevents re-order action being triggered every time this item is scanned until the new stock arrives.
    • When new goods arrive, the barcodes on the cartons will be used to update the stock files; also any flags associated with these goods will be removed so that the stock checks can start to be made again.
  • The above procedure is repeated until all the items in the customer’s basket/trolley have been scanned.
  • When all the items have been scanned, the customer is given an itemised bill showing a list (with prices) of everything they have bought.
  • The computer also updates the files containing the daily takings.
  • If the customer has a loyalty card, the system will also automatically update their points total.

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