The Future Cost of Little Compromises in Barcode Quality

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We’ve written previously about the total cost of ownership implications of various types of barcode verifiers. You can review that article here. The long term costs of seemingly minor compromises in barcode verification are an equally critical, yet oft-ignored (or unrealized) consideration. They can grow into major factors in purchasing a new verifier as well as in its daily usage.

Small Compromises in the Purchase Decision

A purchase decision based solely on cost is an obvious, seemingly minor compromise. A verifier that is not fully ISO compliant will not test and grade all of the attributes that comprise a passing or failing barcode. A critical attribute that is failing may not be reported, and what you think is a good barcode may not be acceptable to your customer. A wand-based verifier will produce variable results based on user skill and technique. Which verification report is accurate, the one with the better grade? The one with the poorer grade? Neither? A used verifier—even a high quality, expensive one—bought from an auction site or a private seller may not be worth the great price if it is out of specification and no longer ISO compliant. Furthermore, older verifiers did not have the ability to test for data structure such as GS1, UDI, HIBC or other industry standards.

Small Compromises in Usage

It is a common mistake to consider a verifier to be nothing more than a scanner; scanners require no maintenance but verifiers need daily or weekly reflectance recalibration, and should be re-tested for ISO conformance in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Deferring these basic maintenance steps can have future consequences in the form of unexpected charge-backs.

A stealthy form of compromise is when your customer’s barcode quality requirements are vague, optional or altogether unstated. This can lull a supplier into believing that barcode quality isn’t important, and poorly performing barcodes bear no consequences. What seems like the perfect customer is actually the perfect storm that probably will eventually strike and do damage. And there is no justifiable reason for being unprepared. More to the point, as a vendor, this scenario offers a fabulous opportunity to proactively educate and nurture that customer, for three very important reasons:

  • If you don’t somebody else will
  • a bad barcode will abruptly end the dream and the customer will seek blame and compensation
  • a proactive supplier can earn loyalty and justify a realistic level of additional compensation

Reliability has Value

Reliability has value. Although it is the owner of the package who bears first-line responsibility for a bad barcode, a barcode failure infects the entire food chain. Create a conversation that champions reliability, starting with yourself: you hold yourself accountable for the quality of the barcodes you supply (or buy, or use, or receive). State your barcode quality expectations clearly and simply: “We require (or create, or supply) ISO compliant barcodes at a C or better grade level.” Trust…and verify: require a verification report to accompany every order (or shipment, or invoice) bearing your barcodes.

Little compromises can sabotage the future reliability of your system–and your reputation.

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