Barcode Verifier Alternative
Bad barcodes are a risk to be avoided. They break the supply chain, endanger hospital patients, disappoint customers and cause needless, preventable stress. You know you should have a verifier but the process is complicated and time-consuming, and verifiers are expensive.
Isn’t there a better way?
Glad you asked—yes there is a better way. Use a barcode testing service.
There are some tradeoffs, but they can be clearly and honestly explained. An informed decision can be made. And the testing service must be responsive. We prefer to call these factors with considerations to be made.
We cannot claim to have “seen it all” — we learn something new almost every day. But in 25+ year of testing barcodes, we have seen quite a bit. There are two ways to do barcode testing. The preferable procedure is to test samples of real, final-version barcodes. This means an inevitable delay of at least 24 hours and the considerable cost of an express shipment. The alternative is to test email-attached PDF or JPG file images of the barcodes. We have long resisted doing this but while it is not as good as the real thing, neither is it meaningless.
Barcode verification involves two essential evaluations: print quality and industry compliance. Print quality is the ISO portion of a verification report. It examines a set of attributes or parameters, each of which relate to tolerance on aspects of the barcode’s legibility. This includes things like contrast: there must be at least a minimal amount of reflective difference between he barcode and its background. Other parameters include modulation, which grades the uniformity of the two reflective values, and some other reflectance-related attributes.
The second essential evaluation is compliance. This deals with how the data in the barcode is arranged. Simple barcodes have a single data field of a specified type (numerical or alpha-numeric). More complex barcodes can have multiple data field, each with a specified prefix, type, and length. A barcode getting good ISO print quality grades will fail if the data is incorrectly encoded. Likewise, perfectly structured barcodes will fail if the printed image doesn’t scan.
- It is impossible to verify the image of a barcode on a computer screen. The barcode testing service must print the barcode file, so the ISO print quality grade is not a perfect evaluation of the customer’s barcode. Your barcode may be offset, flexo, thermal, ink jet or printed by some other method that will influence the final image. A testing service will probably print the file on the office printer; the result will have different final image properties and not represent the barcode in its authentic form. A lot depends on the source of the image file. A prepress or proof file will be different than a scanned image of the barcode label or package.
Consideration: While it is impossible to verify the attachment image as completely as an original barcode, the attachment image will be uniformly changed everywhere. It may be uniformly gained but discrete changes just to narrow elements, for example, or specific areas such as a left quiet zone cannot happen. Decodability detected in the attachment image will also be a factor on the original image. Where present, check characters can usually be accurately validated or refuted.
- Again, the testing service’s printer may render a color barcode as black on white.
Consideration: Color is one of few, if not the only non-negotiable attribute of printing the barcode at the testing site. Even if a color printer is used, the original color values will not be reliably replicated. The testing lab cannot be held responsible for Symbol Contrast or other reflectance-based grades.
- Artifacts and other weirdness from image conversion. It’s a well-knows fact that saving images as PDF’s can reduce image quality. Image scanning is also known to cause random dots and speckles in the final image. Sometimes there are extraneous artifacts in the customer’s original, sometimes they are introduced when the file attachment is created.
Consideration: If the barcode is downgraded at the testing facility due to defects such as visual noise or voids, these can be easily confirmed visually by the customer. If they were imposed in the file conversion, this parameter can be safely ignored.
Conclusions: Barcode verifiers are expensive. Inability or reluctance to make the expenditure prolongs the risk of a bad barcode damaging your business. A barcode testing service immediately eliminates that risk at a small fraction of the cost of a verifier. We send verification reports within hours of receiving your barcode samples, whether via express or by email.
Questions and comments are welcome. Contact us here.
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.