Barcode Quality Shortcuts to Avoid

 In Barcode Quality Training

Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash

Everybody wants a shortcut. Something that gets you to your goal, whatever that may be, without undue delay, expense or obstacles. Shortcuts have trade-offs: that shorter route might be bumpy; that cheaper appliance might be flimsy; that alternative tool might not perform as well as the mainstream one.

Quality is the great equalizer. There are few if any real shortcuts. We cannot think of any when it comes to barcode quality—nor can we think of any reasonable compromises. Barcode verifiers are said to be expensive, but only in comparison to something that is not a verifier, such as a scanner. In actual fact, a barcode verifier will almost always end up costing nothing. NADA. You cannot say that about a scanner.

Shortcuts to Avoid

Here are some barcode quality shortcuts that promise a lot and deliver less—sometimes a lot less:

  • Using a scanner to “test” a barcode

A scanner will either decode the barcode or not. You will not know whether the barcode will work or not work on a different make/model/age scanner. If the barcode is failing certain ISO parameters, you will not know that. A barcode that is near to failing an ISO parameter, you will not know that. If the scanner decodes the barcode, you will not know if it is the correct barcode type, or if the data is correct.

  • Using your smartphone to “test” a barcode

At first glance, this seems like the scanner shortcut, but it is much worse. A smartphone does not use the required red light source that scanners use. The smartphone is able to read barcodes in colors a scanner cannot see. The smartphone camera is a camera (duh). Many scanners are lasers. Cameras capture data differently than lasers.

  • Customer-provided barcode file*

When your customer supplies the barcode file, that might seem to be a great shortcut for you. It seems to absolve you of barcode quality liability—until there is a barcode quality problem. Then the fur will fly and the fingers will point. Then the relationship will be in doubt and the shortcut will not seem so wonderful. When a customer supplies the barcode file, that could be viewed as a shortcut, but the work has only begun. Print gain compensation (bar width reduction) must match the print process. No needless truncation. Minimum bar and space widths and quiet zones must not be violated. If these important issues are ambiguous, blame will be sought when problems arise.

*The problem here is not that a customer provided barcode file is a shortcut. It is not intrinsically a shortcut. When it is believed to be a shortcut and treated as such, that is a problem.

  • “We have never had a barcode problem…”

This is the most egregious shortcut of all. Lacking quality issues in the past does not plot a future path of problem-immunity. If you have never tested and confirmed a quality result in the past,  you have no idea of how often or how close you have come to disaster. If you have been lucky in the past, the future will obligingly correct your thinking.

Quality is Karma

Quality is like karma—it is a cause and effect phenomenon, not magic. Quality is not the result of superstition. History does not predict the future when there is no learning. Diligence is the cause; quality is the effect. Your comments are always welcome. Contact us here.


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