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What Is Portable Data Collection (PDC)?

Overview
Portable data collection terminals have been designed to collect and transfer information electronically where previously it would have been done by hand, using paper and pen, or requiring the movement of the goods to the point where the information is required.
The most common portable data terminals devices in use today have built in barcode scanners. These can either be linked to a remote computer by radio (RF) or can store the data internally so that it can be transferred easily and accurately to a computer later (batch).

Example Application
A common application for portable data collection is stocktaking. Previously (and still too frequently), a sheet of paper is carried around a store or stockroom and the item numbers or description of each item, together with the quantity in stock, is written down. This information is then keyed into a computer later. This process is slow and allows for errors at the point when the number is written down, and again when it is keyed in at the computer.
If all products are barcoded, then with a PDC terminal each item can be simply and accurately scanned, a quantity entered if required, and the data quickly downloaded to a computer for automatic entry into a database or spreadsheet, printing or e-mailing.
A PDC terminal can also be loaded with data before a stocktake, such as a list of the items on the main stock file and their details, therefore giving the user instant feedback on discrepancies in quantities, price checks etc.

Barcoding
Most products today are barcoded by the manufacturer but if they are not, they can easily be labeled with barcodes printed on standard printers or specialised barcode label printers. A variety of barcode standards exist but the major ones can be read by most PDC terminals. The data held in a barcode may be numeric or alphanumeric, it is even possible to barcode the items description. This will allow a PDC system to be introduced in most cases without the need to change the existing numbering system.

Benefits
Reduced paperwork
Increased data accuracy
Time saving:
–   Quick data entry
–   Data entered only once
–   Accurate data entry – no time wasted on corrections
Cost savings:
–   Reduced staff time
–   Reduction or elimination of paperwork

Applications
Applications are varied and by no means all included in this list:
Stock control
Receiving goods
Stocktaking
Ordering
Delivery
Asset management
Document tracking
Item price checking
Item or shelf labelling on the shop floor for markdowns etc. Scan the item for instant price verification, apply a discount and print an updated label instantly.
Mobile point of sale for stores where it is inconvenient to take the goods to the checkout, such as building supplies.
Membership schemes
Post and parcel tracking

Environments
PDC can be used in any environment where a large number of items need to be tracked, such as:
Supermarkets and other retail outlets
Offices
Warehouses
Factories
Hospitals
Schools and Universities
Post and sorting offices