Bar Code Verification - Jump-Starting The Slow Link in the Supply Chain
For manufacturers facing 100% bar code readability demands, VARs can prove a vital source of knowledge and technology.
VARs and systems integrators looking to expand their service should consider embracing bar code label verification as a core business competence. Needs throughout key industries for 100% bar code reliability are acute, but confusion sometimes exists regarding bar coding requirements. Indeed, bar code verification is generally recognized as the slow link in a manufacturer's supply chain. Meanwhile, technology has emerged that makes 100% bar code verification possible.
VARs and systems integrators equipped to advise organizations facing verification mandates, and to provide solutions, will possess a powerful service offering. Such channel services may be in demand among makers of hardgoods, apparel, and softgoods, whose retailer customers have imposed strict requirements for 100% bar code reliability. Fines and potential loss of future orders loom as penalties for non-compliance.
The need for these types of mandates lies in today's integrated, highly automated retail supply chains, where bar codes identify products, packages, shipping cartons, and pallets as they move from loading docks and receiving areas to store shelves. Poor quality bar codes result in low read rates that cause delays and impede supply chain velocity. Ultimately, 100% scannable bar coding is essential to a retailer's distribution timeliness and efficiency.
Conventional Bar Code Verification
Achieving 100% verification has proven to be a particular challenge to retailer suppliers. Early generations of verifiers often lacked the technology to verify every bar code while keeping pace with high-speed packaging and labeling equipment.
The typical verification process involves a verifier using a laser beam to scan a bar code and evaluating the data collected according to a fixed set of quality criteria. When a poorly printed bar code is detected, the verifier signals the printer and interrupts the print run. Previous generations of bar code verifiers were relatively slow and allowed users to set only basic quality parameters.
A newer approach involves separating the bar code scanning and analysis functions. Here, the verifier continues to test bar code quality parameters, but the decision-making portion of bar code analysis is shifted to the label printer. Users can specify the requirements for each of the quality parameters to match the needs of the application. The label printer then evaluates printed bar codes in real time according to these user-selected quality criteria. When a poor quality bar code is detected, the printer automatically stops and alerts the operator so corrective action can be taken if required. There is also the option to reprint the label.
The Impact Of New Verifier Algorithms And Processing Power
New algorithms and increased processing power enable some online verifiers to operate faster and more accurately than older versions. Instead of only having time to analyze a single location on a bar code, today's verifiers can gather data from multiple locations and then average the measurements, ensuring greater verification accuracy. Even with this improved thoroughness, some verifiers can operate at twice the label speed of older verifiers.
Integrating these new verification systems into existing packaging and labeling production lines requires careful planning. In particular, synchronizing print/apply bar code labeling systems with high-speed conveyors presents special challenges, but provides new opportunities for VARs and systems integrators with bar code verification knowledge. Once installed and operational, these new bar code verification systems can reduce the threat of costly fines from retailers.