Why Barcode Verification is More Important than Ever
Barcodes are everywhere. Thirty years ago, barcodes tracked inventories and enabled supply chains. In the ensuing decades, barcode use cases have exploded exponentially, and along with it, the importance of barcode quality.
Barcode verification is all about diligence: meticulously testing and confirming that the barcode performs correctly. Technology is a tool but does not replace diligence. For example, inline validation systems, many of which suggest they verify the barcodes, fail to provide the authentic quality testing they imply. More about this later.
New use cases bring barcodes into unanticipated, new scanning situations: surgical suites, outdoor activities, manufacturing, widely varied ambient lighting, airborne particulate, substrates and scanner types. Some newer barcodes are much smaller than in previously used. At the same time, newer scanners boast greater tolerance for poorly printed or damaged barcodes; ironically, the fuzzy logic involved also increases the frequency of misreads—apparently successful scans at the expense of accuracy.
High-speed inline validation systems are intrinsically not ISO compliant verifiers, although many of them can produce a report based on ISO parameters for barcode quality. The report is not what makes a scanner into a verifier: the testing instrument itself is what makes the verifier. To be an ISO compliant verifier, the device must demonstrate that it measures and grades to an international standard within published tolerances, under specific, controlled lighting conditions, scanning the barcode at a fixed, known distance and angle.
Compliant barcode verifiers eliminate the influence of ambient light; ten-scan averaging of 1D barcodes is recommended. All of the ISO parameters must be tested and graded; so-called “partial ISO grading” is simply not compliant.
Inline barcode validation is not without its merits but it does not replace verification. Knowing the grade for each ISO parameter and monitoring them over time is the only accurate way to determine authentic barcode quality—and that is the only way to predict barcode performance were it is used.
The successful scan of a barcode is not meaningful if “successful” means that data—some kind of data—was captured. Only an ISO compliant verifier can authoritatively decode and grade a barcode and predict future scanning success with virtually any type of scanner.
Having a mountain of validation data is no defense if that impressive, super-aggressive scanner misread and “passed” the barcodes. The supply chain still failed, the inventory is still incorrect, the customer is still not happy and the chargebacks are still due and payable.