Why, When and How to Verify Barcodes

 In Barcode Quality Training

Shaojie from Unsplash

Why, When and  How. These are each big questions, each deserving an entire article, so this one article will only skim the surface to answer each question.

Why verify barcodes?

Bad barcodes break supply chains, disrupt inventory systems, cripple access security systems and bring important processes to a halt. It is not hyperbolic to state that bad barcodes can cause injury and even death in critical care situations. They have. They could again. Prevent that!

Verify barcodes because bad barcodes are a significant liability and can inflict considerable damage.


When to verify barcodes?

The easy answer first: before they escape into the real world, where they fulfill a necessary function. Verify barcodes as they are being printed. This enables you to quarantine and replace bad barcodes before they get out and cause mayhem.

The comprehensive answer: verify barcodes in their “natural state”, as the end-user scanner will see them: affixed to the package, with product inserted, shrink wrap installed. That is when it counts most.

The practical answer: verify barcodes whenever you can. It is much better to verify a virgin barcode, not yet on the box or bag or product, than not to. Barcode problems discovered at any stage inform your actions. Knowledge is power. And protection.

How to verify barcodes?

Dr. Obvious: “With a verifier.”

Why not with a much cheaper scanner?  Even better: why not with the very convenient, already-paid-for and always-in-your-hand iPhone? Many important reasons not to go there:

–A scanner will either read the barcode or not. All you get is a comforting “beep” with no insight into whether the barcode is the right type of barcode, the data correctly sequenced using the specified bar and space widths for the application. And if the barcode scans but is near to failing any of these parameters, you do not know. It scanned on that scanner. That is all you know.

–A different scanner using a different technology (laser, CCD, camera) with a different usage history (clean/dirty environment, careful users vs dropped numerous times, etc.) may not read the same barcode your scanner can. When your customer calls and says your barcode does not work, you have no defense but lots of danger.

–Using a smartphone is even worse. They have no real scanner technology—they have cameras with decode software. In addition to the entire list of scanner deficiencies listed above, smartphones do not use the required red light source. A smartphone can read barcodes in colors scanners cannot see. When your customer calls and says your barcodes does not work….you know the rest.

Use a verifier. Use a barcode testing service, if you do not own a verifier. Testing services familiarize yourself with barcode verification while ensuring that your barcode-related liabilities are in control. You will learn about barcode quality without the initial expense and learning curve.

Verifiers are expensive but because they are a quality control device, they help you detect and avoid problems and the liabilities they bring. In this way, verifiers pay for themselves. They are an investment in your process, your reputation and your customer loyalty.

Do you have a barcode question or a problem? We can help. Contact us here.


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