In its fullest sense, bar code quality is a broader topic than just the quality of the printed image. There are two additional considerations where the bar code plays an important role. One of them is what I call validation: making sure the encoded data in the bar code is on the right package. The other is what I call code match: making sure the right items are going into the case packages. Except for mixed cases, the same item package should go into the case, and this is best done by scanning the bar codes using a code match system.
A code match systems can be a simple and inexpensive portable data terminal (PDT), or a bank of scanners mounted over the packaging line conveyor. There are also mid-range solutions we’ll discuss later. But first, why is code match so important? It’s a matter of supply chain accuracy. The retailer requires the shipment to match the purchase order accurately. A case of 12 SKU’s should contain the correct number of the correct item. If it doesn’t match, a non-income-producing, expensive, time-consuming chain of events occurs—and that’s before the collateral damage to the relationship is done.
How a code match system works is simple: “teach” the system the bar code it should expect to see, run the system while the items travel down the conveyor to the packaging operation. A light stack signals green for a match and yellow or red for a warning or mismatch. Some code match systems are configured to shunt non-matches to a rework area or stop the line.
PDT-based code match systems are great for smaller, manual or semi-automated and lower volume packaging operations. Basically these are commercially available PDTs. Some come standard with code match software. Although these are portable, they can collect and dump data to a host PC via a USB-connected cradle which also serves to recharge the PDT. Here is one example.
At the upper end are high speed, multiple-scanner systems that can cover a wide conveyor and capture barcodes at all angles. These systems usually interface to the warehouse management system which archives the data for quality assurance. Some high speed code match systems can also perform bar code verification.
Mid-range systems are relatively rare, probably because the costlier high-end systems are more attractive to the systems integrators who design and install them. While it is also true that there is a cost threshold to a code match system there are situations where a highly customized system with network integration is not needed. Recognizing this, there are now a few solution-in-a-box systems. They are greatly simplified systems with a laser scanner, a sensor and a control box. In some systems no PC is required and with scan rates of up to 5 barcodes per second so they are not exactly slow. Some mid-range systems have 2D imagers, a range of sensors, Ethernet connectivity and an I/O port to activate an ejector arm or line stop.
We all know that there is no “one size fits all” solution but some of the mid-range systems are one-size solutions that could fit a lot of users at an attractive price. For more information, follow this link.