Why barcode verification is essential in the supply chain
Barcode quality is essential to ensure label legibility at every point in the supply chain, where poor quality barcodes can incur severe financial penalties from retailers.
Barcode validation and barcode verification are two important factors in ensuring best practice with barcodes. Traditionally, manual verification checks have been implemented to check barcode quality at regular intervals on the production line. Validation scanners are also employed to ensure the correct barcode information is applied to the correct product.
Validation alone is not enough
Howard Jagger, Sales Director at leading Print & Apply experts Logopak, explains why validation scanning is no guarantee of barcode quality; “A worrying number of print & apply labelling machine users still seem to rely on scanning alone to check their pallet and case labels,” He adds, “Just because a barcode scans correctly on the production line does not mean it will necessarily read correctly at every point in the supply chain. It simply tells you that the barcode is the right code and good enough to be read by that particular scanner, under the conditions at that time, but nothing more. Along the supply chain the code will need to be read by different types of scanners, at varying distances and angles and at different conveyor speeds.”
This is where verification comes in. It reads the black and white bars but then goes on to evaluate characteristics such as nominal/actual print contrast signal, light and dark reflectance, ratio and magnification variation, check-sum analysis and metric deviations. This information determines the quality of the barcode.
Organisations which do carry out barcode verification often use manual sampling methods. These methods use instruments which require calibration and controlled lighting conditions such as a QA lab. Consequently, manual sampling methods are often employed off-line to ensure that labels read correctly.
Even with these checks in place, there is no guarantee that all labels would meet the retailers standards, and rogue labels could pass through undetected.
Integrated verification means 100% QA for barcode labels
Recent developments mean that verification can now be carried out automatically to ISO and ANSI standards as part of the labeling process, using integrated quality control systems such as Vericoder from Logopak.
With Vericoder, labels are graded to ISO or ANSI standards as laid down by GS1, (the international barcode standards organisation) as they are printed in real-time.
Vericoder replaces scientific instruments with an integrated unit using technology licensed from verification experts Axicon. The system ensures controlled lighting, an essential requirement for verification. The Vericoder checks every label to ensure 100% quality thus avoiding the risk of penalties from retailers. It also removes the need for manual intervention.
Vericoder provides a full evaluation of the barcode characteristics to give a quality grading. If a barcode does not comply with the minimum quality standard, diagnostic data for remedial action is provided.
“There has never been a short cut to verification,” explains Jagger, “It can only be carried out with an instrument that conforms to the international standard ISO/IEC 15426-1. The difference now is that, with the Logopak system, every single barcode can be verified.”
The ability to ensure 100% barcode quality through every step of the supply chain helps address a thorny logistics issue, and offers a considerable advantage over manual checks.
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