kimball tag


Functions of an Organisation

There are four basic functions of an OIS (similar in nature to the Commercial Data Processing Cycle) relating to gathering data and storing, processing and outputting information.  Remember that we start by gathering data, and from storing it onwards it becomes information.

Gathering data

In the past there was a wide range of methods for capturing data before bar codes became almost universal on goods for sale.  Many large companies employed large teams of data-processing staff often entering data from turnaround documents (like utility bills filled in and returned with a cheque).

The original mail-order companies were another area of business that used data-processing staff.  Customers chose goods from a catalogue and sent the order forms in.  Operators typed in the order, and when the goods were despatched documents including a bill were produced.  The customer received the goods and in time paid the bill, filling in a document to enclose with the cheque (or to pay in at the bank).  The company eventually received the documents and the payment could be recorded against the customer account.

In shops there were several different ways of recording sales and stock control.  Some large shops used kimball tags, which were strips of cards with holes punched in them. 

These cards were fed into a reader at the end of the day and the reader interpreted the sequences of holes as stock numbers and stored the data on a type of disk.  The disk was sent to head office for processing and at the end of a week sales figures and stock levels could be calculated.  A similar system was employed with metallic stripes on the cards, which were similarly read and used.

The main disadvantage of these methods is the time delay between the goods being ordered, dispatched (remember ‘please allow 28 days for delivery’) and the company banking the money; also shops were forever either overstocking or running out of stock.

The current methods that are employed to capture data for an information system will be investigated.

Bar codes

Bar codes are small labels printed on food, books, newspapers and magazines and nearly all product packages. They are made of lines, which represent numbers. A bar code stores four pieces of information:

  • country of origin
  • manufacturer’s code
  • item code
  • check digit.
The bar code is scanned (the numbers can be entered manually as well if they won’t scan). The bar code data is then used by the point-of-sale terminal to search a database of products for the name and prices. It then prints an itemised bill and uses the data to update stock levels and a sales file which can be used there and then to calculate all sorts of statistics (daily sales by department, hourly sales, etc.).

Ordering goods

What are the other methods of gathering data in common use? Mail order has all but disappeared and has been replaced by telephone and Internet ordering.  Companies now rely on customers telephoning an order and paying over the phone with a credit or debit card.  The goods are ordered instantly, the stock position can be given to the customer instantly, the money is transferred to the company’s account almost instantly, and the goods are usually despatched within a few hours and received usually within 48 hours by the customer.

When goods are ordered over the Internet a similar situation occurs except that even more of the process is automated.  The customer orders the goods from the Internet site, pays by credit or debit card and the goods often arrive either at a prearranged delivery time (supermarkets), or within a day or two.

barcode scan




Intermediate II Home
Database | Using Information | Internet | NAB/Coursework| Revision
Log into Glow | School Website | Contact Us