The Future of Barcode Quality
Quality Magazine, June 2019 published a great article entitled “The Current State of Quality,” by Michelle Bangert, Managing Editor. She makes the case that quality has changed over the years, both in terms of how it is done and what it means. In years past, the quality department was like a police force, looking for problems and often felt to be an obstruction. Today the quality department is mostly gone—now it is “everyone’s job.” Quality professionals are still necessary but they are more oriented to problem solving, not problem finding. That change rings true to me.
Standards have also helped redefine what we do and how we do it, regarding quality. When I started in this industry 45 years ago, I would not have believed that quality would ever change—or would ever need to change. But it has—and it has been good for the industry and for people like me. Those changes have created opportunities as well, for people and for the companies in which they work. It levels the playing field of quality versus price—now it is quality and price.
Time will Tell
One of the trends we are seeing in barcode quality is the proliferation of high speed, fixed mounted verification systems. Often these are integrated into scanning systems that also do other things. Do these systems really gauge barcode quality as well as they should? They are better than nothing but how good really?
One concern about inline systems is the disconnection they insert between the quality professional and the data they accumulate. The quality professional is still the problem solver but the data is aggregating—mountains of it—hands-off, automatically, somewhere. Is someone monitoring the data? Are subtle migrations in the grading of the ISO parameters being observed? Is the threshold of unacceptability being calculated? What do such systems gain? What do they lose? Often we have said that the best tool in barcode quality is a close, careful visual examination of the barcode. More data does not equate to more certainty. When the problem solver is summoned, will he or she have anticipated and planned the next move? Time will tell.
More Data or More Certainty?
As a guy who enjoyed working on my car 45 years ago, I have personally experienced the disorienting sensation of trying to diagnose, let alone resolve a seeming simple problem with my modern car. All that technology has made it last longer and run more efficiently, but impossible to work on in the driveway, without a computer interface. Where do you start? When the red light on the light stack signals a barcode problem, and the press stops, is the person responsible for barcode quality going to know where to start? How to diagnose? What to do to resolve it
These are the Good Old Days
Don’t misunderstand—I am not nostalgic for the good old days. Carol King had it right—these are the good old days. I can see the possibility of some new, unanticipated problems arising and it is going to be fascinating watching it evolve.
Michelle Bangert at Quality Magazine did a great job of describing many of the things that will make quality a very different job in the coming years. Social media is one of them. Big data is another. We can gather it—but that what do we do with it as quality professionals? What will be the impact of artificial intelligence? One thing for sure—quality professionals will be ever more important and they too will be different. But how? Time will indeed tell.
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John helps companies resolve current barcode problems and avoid future barcode problems to stabilize and secure their supply chain and strengthen their trading partner relationships.