Situation Awareness

 In Barcode Advice

Photo by Conor Samuel on Unsplash

What does a barcode verifier provide? A novel analogy that works for me is the radar detector. It was not my idea—I first heard it from my customer, Jeff.  He had a radar detector on his motorcycle, not because he intended to break the law but because it helped him monitor speed and alert him to an enforcement area. In driving, the “situation” can be a school zone, a residential area, or a high-speed limited-access interstate highway. The common ingredients are always a moving vehicle in a very dynamic, fast-changing situation.

In barcoding, the “situation” could be:

  • Printing operation
  • Inventory monitoring, replenishment system
  • Supply chain product movement environment
  • Logistics facility
  • Access control system
  • Manufacturing/assembly line operation
  • Process control/ingredients blending operation

The common ingredient is always a barcode.

Photo by Bryan Hanson on Unsplash

Change happens. That is the only constant. You may not be aware of the speed you have picked up on a long, downhill grade, but a radar detector will bring you out of complacency, into vigilance if a speed trap awaits you at the bottom of the hill. Situation awareness is best practices.

Printing processes experience changes over time: time measured in minutes and impressions as well as months and years of machine service. Printing plates degrade with use and storage. Thermal print heads abrade and fail; ink nozzles deteriorate and clog; rollers flex and warp, bearings wear. Suppliers’ sources change, the incoming substrates and inks are not the same today as they were last year, or last month. Like a downhill grade in a smooth, quiet car, the changes can be subtle but the consequences can be significant and expensive. Situation awareness is smart. And wise.

If you are involved in any way with barcodes, a barcode verifier is what you need to provide the situation awareness that protects you. A label or package printer’s liability is no less significant than that of the brand owner if the barcode fails to scan. A barcode verifier will detect and report subtle changes that may not be causing a failure yet—changes that a scanner or a smart phone do not detect and cannot report. Verification reports over time, during a print run, can alert you to a changing situation leading to a future failure. The verifier can effectively predicted a problem before it has happened. It provides situation awareness. This is true of off line static verification as well as online verification. The data is there. The trend is visible. You will know if preventive steps are needed.

Axicon 15500

Axicon 15000 series 1D/2D Barcode verifier

Is the cost of situation awareness justifiable? My objective in buying a radar detector was not to protect me from intentional speeding. It was to keep me alert and aware of my surroundings. A mid-range model of a known brand was the right choice for me. It seemed expensive but the cost would be saved if it prevented only 1 or 2 speeding tickets.

It is no different with a barcode verifier. They pay for themselves over time. Midrange models will amortize quickly. Expensive inline systems will take longer. Eventually all verifiers pay for themselves, by restoring the confidence of customers who have had to recover from bad barcodes, by maintaining the loyalty of customers who have never had a barcode problem, and  avoiding that stressful experience altogether.

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