Using a Barcode Test Lab
Using a barcode test lab is not unlike using barcodes in a supply chain—it’s all about communication. Tell everybody that needs to know what you expect and don’t neglect to ask them to confirm. This also extends to any vendors you may be using to print your barcode labels. Referencing barcode quality, a wise person once said, “You get what you enforce.”
Barcode technology—and therefore barcode quality—used to be a simpler matter. It was pretty much just a matter of print quality, has also advanced: barcodes are being imaged in new ways on new substrates. And as the technology has been adopted into more and more usages, barcodes have evolved into much more complicated data carriers: not only have the limits of data capacity expanded, but data formatting has also become an important attribute of barcode quality.
These factors have made barcode verification more important and more complicated, and they are a good reason to use a barcode test lab. At the same time, they also make communication with the test lab more important. Here is a partial list of things to communicate to your barcode test lab:
- What symbology (barcode type) are your barcodes supposed to be?
- This might seem overly obvious but not infrequently the test lab is expecting, for example, Code 128 barcodes but the arriving samples are ITF or Code 39.
- What substrate are your barcodes printed or imaged on?
- This helps the test lab anticipate equipment and personnel scheduling if, for example, DPM or other specialized equipment will be required
- To what grading specification are the barcodes to be tested?
- Sometimes the supply chain or trading partner requires a specific ISO or other testing and grading specification
- To what industry standard should the encoded data be formatted?
- Should the barcodes be compliant to the GS1 Gen Spec, or GS1 Healthcare? HIBCC?
- Should the barcodes be MIL STD 130N compliant?
- How many test samples are you sending, and how many do you want to be included in the test population?
- Do you want to test lab to select a representative sampling from a larger number of samples submitted, or do you want everything submitted to be tested?
- How do you want the verification report to identify your samples?
- Linking the verification report to each individual sample can be important—how do you want that accomplished?
- Do you want the samples archived, returned or destroyed?
- Who is the contact person or persons to whom the verification report will be sent?
This is a partial list of important information to communicate to your barcode test lab. Having this information up front will help the lab respond quickly and accurately.
If you have experiences with a barcode test lab you can share, or other relevant information, please comment.