Barcode Quality More Important Than Ever

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We exhibited our barcode quality products and services at a local trade show recently. One of the visitors commented that barcode quality wasn’t any longer as important an issue in recent years as it had been in the past. I chuckled to myself, exchanged pleasantries with the person, and left it at that. Any pushback from me wasn’t likely to convince this visitor that he was missing the point.

It is a widely held belief the barcode quality is no longer a problem

Print technology has indeed improved, to the point where there may be fewer problems with barcodes. That unqualified statement needs, well, qualification; is there a lower percentage of problems with barcodes or is there a smaller total number of problems with barcodes? It makes a difference because there is a much larger population of barcodes circulating in a constantly growing universe of new applications and evolving formats—and I’m using the term “barcode” loosely, to include the newer stacked and matrix formats.

Back in the early days barcodes were a new technology that found a reason d’être in consumer products and the retail channel that supports it. Barcode problems were a supply chain problem but customer inconvenience and retailer lost revenue were the most serious outcome.

Now and more than ever, barcode technology has matured into a broader arena of applications where its presence and performance are essential and where lives are literally at stake.

Poor barcode quality is no longer just a consumer supply chain inconvenience

Currently there is a debate taking place in the pharmaceutical industry about how best to use barcodes to prevent counterfeiting—the debate focuses on what symbology to use and how the encodation scheme should be structured, but the barcode itself will be mission critical.

Pharma is also using the barcode to track the movement of drugs in case it is necessary to recall a faulty batch. Tracing and tracking of products is also very much on the minds of food industry suppliers and government regulators. The consequences of poor performing barcodes in either application could be dire.

New uses of barcode technology have made barcode quality more important than ever

While it might be true that barcode quality isn’t nearly as widespread a problem as it was some years ago, the consequences of poorly performing barcodes are greater than ever, and are increasing. Barcode quality isn’t more—or less—important according to how prevalent barcode problems are; the importance of barcode quality is a function of the seriousness of the consequences of barcode failure.


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