Barcode Validation—the Newest Barcode Quality Attribute
When barcode technology was new, the concept of barcode quality was limited to the print quality of the symbol. In the ensuing years barcode data structure also became an important attribute of barcode quality. Barcode validation is now becoming a significant barcode quality attribute.
What precisely is barcode validation? It means different things to different people. To some, it means making sure the encoded data represents a bona- fide look-up item in a database. To distinguish it from other forms of barcode validation, let’s call this barcode authentication. Barcode authentication assumes that print quality is not a factor since it is usually done with a scanner, although we know of ISO compliant barcode verifiers that are capable of also performing barcode authentication.
The other form of barcode validation is sometimes called barcode matching or what we refer to as code match. This is a way of using the barcode to test whether the item or package belongs where it is or where it is going, for example an inner carton, a master carton or a pallet. In these instances, print quality and barcode authentication are assumed not to be factors.
These two forms of barcode validation—what we are calling barcode authentication and code match—are two new barcode quality attributes that have rapidly gained importance as in food and drug safety and supply chain security. For example, medical device shipments must accurately include just the right items both in type and quantity. Code match is the most efficient way to assure that only the right items are packaged for shipment, and in the correct quantity. If an incorrect item is found in the package at destination, did it infiltrate the shipment at some way-point? If an incorrect number of valid items are discovered in the shipment at destination, was something added or taken from the shipment at some way-point? Has the supply chain been infiltrated?
Code match is a relatively recent barcode quality attribute because the risk factors and consequences are so considerable. This will increase as barcodes are adopted into more–and more mission-critical–applications. Code match is relatively easily accomplished on automated packaging lines, but what about smaller, smaller volume and higher change rate packagers? The agility they require in code match set-up and testing is best done with PDT’s and other small handheld devices equipped with special code match software.
Is barcode validation really a barcode quality attribute? ISO verification of barcodes is testing the tool (barcode) to make sure it does what is supposed to do. Barcode authentication is making sure you are using the right tool; code match is making sure the right tool goes in the toolbox (shipment). Technically these are not barcode quality or performance attributes. In fact a barcode that passes the ISO barcode verification tests with flying colors and scans perfectly could be a substantial liability if it fails the barcode validation parameters. Ironically it would be a better problem if it failed to scan.
But barcode validation is very important in ensuring the integrity of a supply chain, inventory system and other ways in which the presence of a barcode can be very useful.
There are other barcode validation attributes that could be important but are not tested in any of these protocols including ISO barcode verification. One of them is symbology or barcode type. For example the barcode might pass all ISO verification parameters and both barcode validation types but be the wrong symbology. If the use- system is expecting Code 128 but the presenting symbology is Code 39, the user system could fail.
Your comments or user experiences are always welcome.