Barcode Quality: The Cost and Risk of Compromises
The total cost of ownership of a barcode verifier varies, but the right verifier can pay for itself over time. Minor compromises in selecting the right verifier can increase risk. The wrong device and compromises in care and use can significantly increase the cost of ownership.
Small Compromises in the Purchase Decision
A purchase decision based solely on cost is an obvious compromise. The rationalization that “…it is better than nothing…” could be exactly wrong. A verifier that is not ISO compliant will not test a barcode completely and accurately. A marginal attribute may not be reported, or be reported inaccurately. What you think is a good barcode may not be acceptable to your customer. Wand-based verifiers are inaccurate and non-repeatable. Which verification report is accurate, the one with the better grade? The one with the poorer grade? Neither? A used verifier—even an expensive one—bought from an auction site may not be worth the great price if it is out of specification and no longer ISO compliant. Some older verifiers do not have the ability to test for data structure such as GS1, UDI, HIBC or other industry standards.
Small Compromises in Usage
A common mistake is to consider a verifier to be nothing more than a scanner; scanners require no maintenance but verifiers need regular reflectance recalibration. Verifiers should be re-tested for ISO conformance annually. Deferring these basic maintenance steps can increase the risk of chargebacks.
Another silent form of compromise is when your customer’s barcode quality requirements are vague, optional or altogether unstated. This can lull a supplier into believing that barcode quality is not important, and poorly performing barcodes bear no consequences. What seems like the perfect customer is actually the perfect storm that probably will eventually strike. There is no justifiable reason for being unprepared. More to the point, as a vendor, this scenario offers a valuable opportunity to proactively educate and nurture that customer, for two very important reasons:
- If you don’t somebody else will
- a bad barcode will abruptly end the dream and the dissatisfied customer will seek blame and compensation
- a proactive supplier can earn loyalty and justify a realistic level of additional compensation
Reliability has Value
Reliability has value. Although it is the owner of the package who bears first-line responsibility for a bad barcode, bad news infects the entire supply chain. Create a conversation that champions reliability, starting with yourself: you hold yourself accountable for the quality of the barcodes you supply (or buy, or use, or receive). State your barcode quality expectations clearly and simply: “We require (or create, or supply) ISO compliant barcodes at a C or better grade level.” Trust…and verify: require a verification report to accompany every order (or shipment, or invoice) bearing your barcodes.
Little compromises can sabotage the future reliability of your system and your trading relationships.
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