We’ve written a lot about barcode quality, finding the right barcode verifier, interpreting the verification report and how to verify a barcode. But what is the single most important barcode verification tool? Hint: it is not the verifier.
One of the problems with technology is the implicit promise it seems to make. For reasons too complicated to go into here, technology seems to promise us that by using it, all our questions will be answered and we will have a clear understanding of (fill in the blank)…in this case, barcode quality. Even a high quality barcode verifier may to some users seem to fall short on this promise. The Average Grade is an F and the cause is a failing grade for Modulation or Decodability. Great—but what does this mean? What do I do to correct this problem?
The problem is, you aren’t using the single most important barcode verification tool: your eyes.
Here is a recent example that came through our barcode test lab. This symbol showed up as an email attachment and the client was complaining that their verifier wasn’t reading it at all. Was the problem print quality or data structure? With no verifier decode there was no verification report and therefore no ISO parameter grades. Take a closer look and voila! The rotogravure “waffle” pattern makes the barcode looks like a cacophony of random light and dark spots to a verifier–and a scanner.
In this example the verifier is reporting poor scores for Modulation. But what is that and how to correct it? The left, center and right guard bars in a UPC should all be the same width, as should the space between them. The problem is obvious with a quick visual examination.
This same symbol also failed the ISO parameter Decodability. What’s that? It could be a variety of things, but a visual inspection shows at least one possible cause. Again, the UPC guard bars should all be equal in width. Look how the barcode is more heavily gained on the right side than the left side.
This QR Code looks OK from a distance, but the verifier doesn’t like it at all. Taking a second look, one can readily see that there is virtually no quiet zone on two sides—and yes, QR Code is supposed to have a quiet zone.
Finally, these Data Matrix codes recently came through the lab. Like my car, they look better from a distance than close up—and they look really terrible close up! The verifier could not decode them and therefore could not provide any quality report. A quick look with a low power magnifier tells the take—is there any wonder they wouldn’t scan?
What is the single most important barcode verification tool? Your eyes–and maybe a low power magnifier.