Barcode Quality as Risk Management
This is not the first article we’ve published about barcode quality as risk management. But this one takes a different tack on the subject. Here we put a finer and sharper point on the issue. In previous articles we have discussed what barcode quality is and involves; we’ve touched on what the risks are. Here we dive deeper.
Risk Defense is Incomplete
Typical risk management is defensive, based on policies and procedures. It is rules and bullet points. Not intrinsically wrong, but it is incomplete. In barcode quality, risk management is typically a “final filter”. A barcode verifier reads and grades the printed image. Better than nothing, but so much lost opportunity for meaningful improvement. By the time the barcode is verified, the barcode file has already been designed, the plates made, the ink is on the substrate—all the time and money is spent. Undetected bad barcodes multiply the costs: chargebacks, lost customer confidence and credibility as a vendor, compromised future business. If there is no “final filter”, no verifier or no discipline around its use, your last hope is a well written errors and omissions clause in your product liability insurance policy. That just pays for past mistakes. The future is uncertain.
Proactive Risk Offense
The point is that barcode quality as risk management is only partially achieved, inefficient and wasteful if viewed as defense. For it to be effective to its full potential, barcode quality as risk management must also be executed as offense. All the tools necessary are already present when a barcode verifier is available. Ironically they are often used only for defense. What is barcode quality as risk management from a defense perspective?
The short answer is, testing the barcode as early in the process as possible, before a lot of money has been invested. Not infrequently the barcode design file is provided by the customer. This practice is intended to avoid errors but often has the opposite effect. Barcode design files should be created specifically for the printer-vendor’s process. Bar width reduction must be optimized to the entire pre-press and on-press operation.
Risk Management: Cover the Whole Process
A printout of the design file cannot anticipate or replace verification later in the process, but it can tell a lot: is BWR present? Is the check digit correct? Are quiet zones intact? Is the symbol needlessly truncated? Is the symbol needlessly small? Have the customer’s specifications been correctly executed (minimum X dimension, symbol location in graphics or on label, location, font and size of human readables, etc.?).
If the customer specifications are not available, offense-oriented barcode quality as risk management can make a pre-press and printer-vendor more valuable and more difficult for a competitor to dislodge with just the promise of lower prices.
Barcode risk is managed when the whole process is involved—the entire loop is closed. Like a world-class sports team, that occurs when offense and defense work together.