A quick guide to proper barcode quality and grading

barcode quality and verification

In today’s marketplace, a problematic barcode could spell the end of a relationship. Many retailers are increasingly intolerant of products causing scanning errors — and you can’t blame them.

If a bar code cannot be properly decoded or scanned first time — every single time — it has costly implications for the supply chain. It’s more than just time at the cash register or the warehouse that’s lost. Every time a human has to manually enter data into a system, there is potential for error.

So how can you avoid this scenario for you and your trading partners because of poor barcode quality?

This is where barcode verification comes in

Barcode verification neutrally evaluates barcodes and helps ensure better reading rates by measuring its printed quality to international (ISO) standards. These standards — the ISO/IEC 15426 — have been especially developed to set the benchmark for quality and readability.

Perfect score

Retailers and manufacturers globally use these ISO standards to ensure barcodes can be read consistently — at all stages of the supply chain. This improves efficiency and productivity.

An ISO-based verifier looks at the symbol in the same way that a scanner does, but goes further by grading the symbol’s quality. The grade can range from 4-0 (A-F) based on how close the symbol is to perfect. The lower the ISO grade, the higher the possibility of scanning difficulties. The target measurement for all barcodes is ISO Grade 4, but a minimum acceptable measurement is ISO Grade 1.5.

What’s in a number?

There are several steps involved in achieving that one little number:

  1. While traditional testing relies on a single scan, the ISO-verification process involves a number of scans in both directions throughout the barcode’s height. This can be anywhere up to 10 scans, though three scans may be all it takes to demonstrate consistency.
  2. Each scan across the barcode comes up with a scan-reflectance profile. This plots the reflectance values across the barcode’s entire width.
  3. The scan-reflectance profile is used to measure and grade the following: decode, symbol contrast, minimum reflectance, edge contrast, modulation, defects and decodability.
  4. Finally, an edge-determination test measures whether the type of barcode uses the correct number of bars and spaces. For example, an EAN-13 barcode should have 30 bars and 29 spaces.

Getting your report card

Coles, Metcash and Woolworths are just a few retailers who ask for a Barcode Verification Report before they will work with suppliers. You can get this through GS1 Australia’s Barcode Testing Service.

GS1 Australia utilises the ISO/IEC method to assess print quality of a barcode, and also assesses other elements, that together, create the perfect barcode, including:

  • size
  • colour
  • quiet zones (light margins)
  • bar height
  • barcode location

As a GS1 Strategic Alliance Partner, Matthews has the knowledge and experience to guide you to the appropriate barcode solution for your business and ensure you leverage the full benefits of barcodes and GS1 standards. Contact us for more information on 1300 CODING.

Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley

General Manager, Operations at Matthews Australasia
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and heads operations at Matthews Australasia. With 18+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and heads operations at Matthews Australasia. With 18+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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