Barcode Verifiers and Radar Detectors
Several years ago I got a speeding ticket on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I was driving an uninspiring car and it was, well, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, an inspiring stretch of road. I explained without success to the nice trooper that I had simply lost awareness of how fast I was going and he unceremoniously handed me a very significant violation and left me to contemplate what had happened.
I contemplated simply obeying the speed limit for the rest of my life but the violation I earned was not because I intended to go fast. Then I contemplated and eventually acted on buying a radar detector, the one which promises “situation awareness”. That made sense to me. It is a lot like barcode verifiers.
In the barcode quality business I encounter people who live in the belief that they will never have a barcode problem because they haven’t yet. I held a similar belief about speeding tickets for years before I met the officer in Pennsylvania. Most of the time I do not intend to speed, but sometimes I do speed unintentionally. Sometimes we think we perceive a trajectory of results that suggests to us a predictable future. It is just an illusion unless we take measures to control the variables. The cost of good quality radar detectors is often less than most fines, and this will also hold true for most barcode problems. The cost of barcode verifiers pales in comparison to the cost of bad barcodes, and in both cases the device will pay for itself over and over again during years of faithful service.
The return-on-investment ratio for barcode verifiers is quite a bit more favorable than for radar detectors because often recovering from a barcode problem is more than just the cost of a remake. Frequently there are collateral damages that include a fine, over-labeling your mistake, recovering (at least) the customer’s short-term confidence in your services and (at worse) the loss of that customer.
Situation awareness is a powerful description for what barcode verifiers and radar detectors can do for the user. Knowing that a problem is approaching before it actually arrives can help you make adjustments that will allow you to avoid the problem altogether.
Like most analogies, this one can be taken too far, but I am willing to conjecture about barcode verifiers: they will help produce more repeatable and reliably good barcodes. Barcode verifiers do this in two ways:
- they provide better tools for detecting potential barcode problems before they become real liabilities
- they help in diagnosing existent barcode problems to determine what happened, so they can be avoided in the future
While it is always better to anticipate and avert an unintended consequence, situation awareness also includes recognizing when a problem has occurred and having the information necessary to assure—with authority–all involved that you know what happened and know how to keep it from recurring.