ANSI Barcode Verification: What’s Missing?
I presented a workshop on barcode quality at a trade gathering last week. During the Q&A after my talk an attendee asked if a passing ANSI grade “guaranteed” that the barcode was good. The word (and concept) of “guarantee” is one of those hyperbolic words that should give us all pause. I answered that even an ANSI grade of “A” on a barcode did not “guarantee” that all barcode liability was removed—and time prohibited me from further explaining it. But the question is important. Here’s a better answer.
ANSI Barcode Verification does not guarantee quality
ANSI barcode verification is the successor to the Traditional verification for barcode quality. Traditional tests were based on linear measurement of bars and spaces and while there are specifications and tolerances on them, barcodes were passing traditional tests and still failing to decode. Enter the ANSI system that evaluates barcodes on reflective attributes—the same way scanners work and a much better basis for evaluation.
ANSI barcode verification is better–but not perfect.
There are other attributes such as symbol location that could cause a retailer to write-up a supplier, effectively reporting a failure and supporting a non-compliance fine. This is not what I’m talking about here. Neither am I talking about validation errors—that is discussed elsewhere: this is where the barcode scans perfectly and achieves (let’s say) an ANSI “A” grade—but it’s the wrong barcode for the product. Now there’s a failure and ANSI barcode verification was useless to detect it!
ANSI Barcode Verification Does not check all the ctitical attributes which could cause a barcode failure
There are other circumstances in which a barcode could earn a passing ANSI grade and still fail. Specifically, it could fail an industry application standard, the most ubiquitous of these being the GS1 application standard. Probably the most violated GS1 standard is the one for couponing, but there are others. The barcode is a perfectly valid symbol but the Application Identifier (AI) is in the wrong place (or missing), the Family Code is either the wrong invalid, etc. This is what I’m talking about—and it happens all the time.
Such errors are not covered by the ANSI specification so an ANSI-compliant verifier doesn’t have to check for them—and most of them don’t. But—and here’s the critical point—some of them do!
ANSI Barcode Verification does not include industry Applications such as GS1 and HIBCC
Industry Applications are special and specific variants of a particular symbology. Many symbologies have them. The UPC system is probably the most prevalent. There are variants for the book publishing industry, variants for the music publishers, variants for couponing and over-the-counter drug products, etc. The generic UPC may pass all 9 ANSI barcode verification parameters but fail an industry-specific attribute. If your verifier doesn’t check industry applications, you will be blind to this—and liable for it.
This is what I would have said to the questioner at last week’s workshop, if I’d had more time. Where do you look for meaningful help, for confidence, for assurance? Look for a reputable reseller—not just the lowest-price e-retailer.