It might look like an insignificant part of every package, but a product’s bar code is a vital aspect of its manufacture: it enables traceability within the supply chain (from the manufacturer to the end consumer) and facilitates the smooth flow of goods.
At Matthews, we’re finding that the nation’s biggest retailers are becoming ever more intolerant of bar codes that simply aren’t up to scratch — those that cause scanning errors within distribution centres and supermarkets.
In fact, bar codes that don’t comply with GS1 quality can cause a range of problems, from damaging a manufacturer’s relationship with suppliers to costly re-design and product recall. Some retailers may even impose penalties on manufacturers whose bar codes fail to perform. That’s why it is imperative that as a manufacturer, your products scan correctly — first time and every time.
In the past, the only way to maintain bar code quality was to employ a team of people who would manually check products as they streamed down the production line. But this system came with the same flaws we find in many manufacturing systems left to the human eye, as the potential for error is far greater here than when utilising bar code scanning and validation systems. This is not to mention the fact that checking each product has the correct bar code manually and visually is both financial costly and time consuming.
Bar code quality has many elements:
- quiet zones*
- print quality
- check digit
- scanning environments
* “Quiet zones” on linear barcodes are the solid, light areas before the first bar and after the last one, while for 2D barcodes it’s the light area around them. Quiet zones are very important because they allow a scanner to recognise the beginning and end of the barcode; any reductions (or even obstructions) are likely to cause scanning difficulties.
How to ensure bar code quality
How the bar code is printed and the controls on that can streamline the process to ensure consistent quality and standards compliance.
There are 3 simple ways to ensure bar code quality:
- Use the GS1 bar code test facility to ensure GS1 standards are met for pre-printed bar codes.
- For cartons and pallets where bar codes are printed on the production line, use bar code scanning and validation systems to check every bar code printed.
- To ensure the bar code is the correct one, machine vision systems can be used for cross reference and pattern match.
In industries where accuracy is vital, systems that maintain bar code quality during the manufacturing process enhance productivity while eliminating costly errors.