Barcode Quality: Basics over Buzzwords

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Name the top supply chain buzzwords for 2018….

  • Omnichannel is a current trend according to Forbes.
  • Advanced Analytics and Big Data abide as popular topics
  • Blockchain still remains near the top of the list from last year
  • Supply chain visibility is the holy grail and promise of many systems
  • Optimization of everything, from management and software systems to hardware
  • Elastic strategies, scalable, collaborative and transformative systems, whatever those are.

It makes logical sense that integrating disparate systems, monitoring every operation and tracking every product movement improves the supply chain. But if we are not there already, we will eventually arrive at a plateau where supply chain performance can only improve incrementally. As we have witnessed in other complex systems, those final few percentage points to perfection are much more difficult, expensive and relatively meaningless to achieve.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Even more important is what is happening in the pursuit of that theoretical goal. The buzzwords distract from the basics. Barcode quality is a prime example. Virtually nobody is talking about barcode quality. Cross dock, intermodal, collaborative, scalable, adaptive warehouse or logistics operations all fail when the barcodes fail. All the highly automated, robotic big data systems come to a halt if the actual real trade items cannot be identified. Aggressive scanners that promise to read even very poor quality barcodes and suggest that barcode quality is no longer a concern—those can actually put supply chains in greater jeopardy. The fuzzy logic in hyper-aggressive scanning systems are prone to misreads. While that does not sound like a serious problem, consider the ramifications:

  • A real item in a real process is misidentified
  • A wrong part infiltrates an assembly line
  • An orphan item is included in what is promised to be a secure  or just-in-time shipment, or just as serious, a right part is not included
  • Something in an inventory system was subtracted but nobody knows what it was, where it went or what to replenish

A mis-decode of a barcode is far worse than a failed scan.

Some of those barcode quality assessment systems based on process control metrics actually make things worse, and for the same reason.They are not performing real, ISO-compliant verification so barcodes of unknown quality are escaping. Maybe they will cause a downstream problem, maybe not.The whole point of verification is to make an informed, standards-based prediction of how a barcode will perform. One hundred percent inline process control metrics is just more—it is not better than spot checking barcodes with an ISO compliant verifier.

Technological advancements in the supply chain are important but they do not replace the basics. Barcodes are the connective tissue that hold the entire superstructure together. If some other means of automatic identification replaces barcodes, it will be no different. Things must be correctly machine identified. Basics over buzzwords.

#barcode verifier #barcode verification #barcode grader

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  • Carlos Angel

    Totally agree John. Bar code is the weakest link. That’s why companies need to make sure their bar codes are of good quality according to ISO/IEC standards. That will make their shipping/receiving logistics systems work a lot much smoother since all of them rely on bar codes to accomplish their tasks.

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