Barcode Quality as Risk Management
This is not the first article we’ve published about barcode quality as risk management, but this one takes a different tack on the subject—an important one that puts a finer and sharper point on the issue. What is the different tack, that finer point? In previous articles we’ve delved into what barcode quality is and involves, and we’ve delved into what the risks are. The new tack is a deeper discussion about risk management.
Traditionally risk management has been a defensive endeavor based on policies and procedures, often expressed as rules or bullet points. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but it is incomplete. In barcode quality, risk management usually is a “final filter” operation, assuming a barcode verifier is available, calibrated and used. And while this is better than allowing bad barcodes to reach the supply chain or even worse, the end user, it is a retrograde practice. By the time the barcode is verified, the barcode file has already been designed, the plates have already been made, the ink is already on the substrate—all the money has already been spent. If bad barcodes escape, it will only get worse in the form of consequential costs exacted from trading partners, loss of confidence and credibility as a vendor and possible future business implications. If there is no “final filter”, no verifier or no discipline around using the available verifier, all hope resides in a well written errors and omissions clause in your product liability insurance policy.
The point is that barcode quality as risk management is only partially achieved, inefficient and wasteful if viewed as defense. For it to be effective to its full potential, barcode quality as risk management must also be executed as offense. All the tools necessary are already present when a barcode verifier is available. Ironically they are often used only for defense. What is barcode quality as risk management from a defense perspective?
The short answer is, testing the barcode as early in the process as possible, before a lot of money has been invested. Not infrequently the barcode design file is provided by the customer. This practice is intended to avoid errors but often has the opposite effect. Barcode design files should be created specifically for the printer-vendor’s process. Bar width reduction must be optimized to the entire pre-press and on-press operation. A printout of the design file cannot anticipate or replace verification later in the process, but it can tell a lot: is BWR present? Is the check digit correct? Are quiet zones intact? Is the symbol needlessly truncated? Is the symbol needlessly small? Have the customer’s specifications been correctly executed (minimum X dimension, symbol location in graphics or on label, location, font and size of human readables, etc.?).
If the customer specifications are not available, offense-oriented barcode quality as risk management can make a pre-press and printer-vendor more valuable and more difficult for a competitor to dislodge with just the promise of lower prices.
Barcode risk is managed when the whole process is involved—the entire loop is closed. Like a world-class sports team, that occurs when offense and defense work together.
John helps companies resolve current barcode problems and avoid future barcode problems to stabilize and secure their supply chain and strengthen their trading partner relationships.