The fact that bar codes are so ubiquitous today is the business case for barcode verifiers. When you say “ubiquitous” most people readily agree and yet still not comprehend the width and depth of the presence of bar codes in virtually every human endeavor.
Everybody knows about bar codes used to track product movement in a supply chain culminating in a transaction, updating inventory and communicating replenishment back to the supply chain. Everybody knows about barcodes for document tracking in the doctor’s office, barcodes on retail store customer loyalty cards, security access control cards, patient wristbands in hospitals and nursing homes, library books, physical assets In the work place, airline boarding passes and checked luggage, event tickets, mail, rental cars, posters, billboards and magazine ads (if you consider a QR Code a “barcode”).
Fewer people are aware of barcodes on a production line, enabling a computer system to monitor product assembly and manage ERP and Just-In-Time parts inventory and replenishment in the factory. Vehicle manufacture is one of many examples–peek under any American made car or truck and you will see a barcoded label on the sub-frame.
Late last month the Health Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives held a hearing to discuss the National Pharmaceutical Track and Trace Bill that is before congress. At stake is the security of the nation’s prescription drug supply chain—this is the system that will be put in place to protect us from counterfeit drugs that are dangerous because they are ineffective, drugs that are dangerous because they are overly effective, drugs that were not manufactured in regulated facilities, drugs that are out of date, drugs that have not been properly handled or stored.
A similar barcode-based system is also being discussed for food safety. The presence of bar codes has already helped food distribution to be more efficient, but barcode technology is being leveraged as a food traceability solution so that food can be traced and recalled with precision, down to the pallet, case or item level. Barcodes are also providing product information so consumers can access nutritional and ingredient data they need without lots of unnecessary paper or packaging.
No doubt there are myriad other legacy as well as new, cutting edge applications where barcodes are playing an essential role—please comment below and enlighten us all. But there is a larger point to be made: the growing presence of barcodes only makes barcode quality ever more important—and that’s the business case for barcode verification.
Back in the early days of automatic identification technology, barcode verification was considered a highly technical, highly specialized activity. That attitude follows barcode verification to this day and it shouldn’t. The often-heard push-back about barcode verification is that it just isn’t necessary as digital printing technology has improved while at the same time scanners have become more fault tolerant. These arguments miss the point entirely. Barcodes are present in situations where there is no fault tolerance—and besides that, why should we be satisfied with 90% supply chain integrity when 100% is within our grasp?