Bar Code Verifiers: Five Most Important Things to Consider
Because there are not a lot of brands of bar code verifiers, one might think these devices are all pretty much the same. One would be wrong. There are significant differences between bar code verifiers (brands and models) but the marketing materials and even technical documentation can be confusing at best—some of it is misleading. Here are five considerations to help you understand bar code verifiers and find the right one for you.
1. Testing method and conformance
There are two issues here. Testing method deals with how the verifier reports its findings. The globally accepted testing method is the ANSI or ISO system. The two systems are virtually identical except that the ANSI system uses alphabetical (A-F) grades; the ISO system uses numerical (4.0—0.0) grades. One system is easily converts to the other. However, not all bar code verifiers test and report all of the attributes or parameters in the ANSI or ISO system. Believe it or not, some bar code verifiers only test a few and ignore the rest. Verifiers that use “partial ANSI” are not testing the full specification. Beware of any brand that does not clearly state full ANSI/ISO verification.
Some bar code verifiers don’t comply with the ANSI/ISO specification even if they use the ANSI/ISO test format
Many ANSI/ISO verifiers also use some or all of the Traditional verification method. Traditional verification was introduced in the 1970’s and evaluates bar codes based on measurement of bar and space widths and the print contrast between the bar color and the background (space). Traditional verification test methodology was never standardized, so test results varied widely. Furthermore, bar and space measurement is not how scanners work, so grades based on measurement poorly predict how a bar code will perform. Some traditional parameters are helpful in diagnosing bar code problems, but not as the primary (or sole) testing method. Beware of a bar code verifier that provides a Traditional Method of verification. It sounds like the bedrock “tried and true” method but it actually means the 40 year old system that was long ago replaced by the ANSI/ISO method—and for good reason.
The conformance issue is about the bar code verifier itself—not the test method it uses. Just because the report uses the ANSI/ISO format doesn’t mean the test device, the bar code verifier itself, is capable of measuring and grading each parameter accurately. Here again, some verifier manufacturers are less than crystal clear on this. Look for plain language that makes this claim in simple terms.
Speaking of the device itself, is it rugged enough for where you need to use it? Is it IP rated against dust or liquids in the user environment?
2. Form factor
Verifiers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are portable, some are tethered to a host PC or Mac. Some are one-piece. No one form factor is the best—but one may be best for you.
Ergonomics should be considered. One brand touts its one-piece design, but with all the weight in one enclosure, it can fatigue the user to move it all around with every scan. The two-piece portable may be the easiest to use in the field, and the tethered unit, with all the data processing and display in a separate box, may be the most user-friendly of all.
The bar code verifiers report is why you verify to begin with: get a verifier with a report that’s simple to use
3. Report format
The report is why you verify to begin with, so it should be easy to see and quick to interpret. Color coding can help a lot. Help screens and diagnostics can also speed up the process of figuring out what a parameter means.
User-configurable reports are a nice feature of some bar code verifier brands. Sometimes it’s best when the user can only see the essentials; at other times it is best to have every last detail displayed.
Accessibility of the report data is a big consideration, especially with portable bar code verifiers. Getting the report data out of the portable unit and into a computer is difficult if not impossible with some bar code verifiers. But it’s important if you need to archive, print or email those reports, or write them into a spreadsheet or data base.
This consideration speaks for itself. Get the longest and most comprehensive warranty and find out if the manufacturer offers extended warranties too. Find out if loaner equipment is included in the warranty, if your bar code verifier needs to return to the factory for calibration or service.
Bar code verifiers will last years–make sure the service and support will not make you crazy for years
Does the manufacturer have a help desk? What are the hours of operation? Where is it located? If “support” means you can always call the sales person, that may not be the level of support you need if you are a multi-shift operation or if the bar code verifier is critical to your process—and when isn’t it?
Sometimes support is the responsibility of the reseller—it’s the “value” they are supposed to add. That is not necessarily a bad thing—but ask and be clear what you’re getting.