Moving Beyond Bar-Code Design
Bar-code labeling software enhancements include new layout tools and different printer options. The result is an easier product for VARs to sell.
Using bar codes as a means of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) has become standard in many business markets. Accompanying the growth in the use of bar codes is the increased functionality in bar-code label design software. Updated versions of the software offer more comprehensive layout tools and also support more bar-code printers. The software also plays a critical role in connecting a company's mainframe applications to bar-code printers.
Layout Tools Continue To Improve
In 1982, a bar-code label design software company called Tharo was founded. Looking back to that date, Tom Thatcher, president of Tharo, couldn't have predicted that his company would still be trying to enhance its software 17 years later. "I thought we would come to a point where all the features that customers wanted would be in the software," says Thatcher. "I always knew there would be a need to support additional printers and bar codes. But, the need for additional features in the software has surprised me."
For example, constant enhancements in desktop publishing software have led users to ask for similar features in their bar-code label design software. Some of those enhancements are snap-to grids, font previews and thumbnail previews of graphics.
However, Thatcher warns that customers must not lose sight of the real purpose of bar-code label design software. "The job of bar-code labeling software is not design. It is printing. Some end users only have to design a new label once or twice each year. Yet, they will be printing labels every day." Tharo is located in Brunswick, OH and has 25 employees.
Offer Customers Printer Options
Currently, some printer manufacturers are packaging Windows-based label design software with their printers at no charge. As a result, end users can immediately print labels with an out-of-the-box solution, says Terry Pruett, director of marketing at CIE America.
He says many VARs and integrators are using this packaging as a way for them to eliminate much of the time it takes to develop drivers for printers. "It used to be that customers had to hard code drivers for your printer. And, that was often a hard thing to make happen," says Pruett. "Customers might have loved your product and your business case, but they didn't have time to hard code all their bar-code compliance formats using your printer control language."
The ability to use another company's printer has opened up new markets for VARs, says Pruett. "VARs can offer an alternative to the printer customers are currently using. All VARs have to do is make the business case for their printer. Users can now scroll down a menu and choose another printer driver. Everything is there for another competitor's printer. That didn't used to exist," says Pruett. His company is headquartered in Tustin, CA, and has 50 employees.
Taking Responsibility Bar Codes
Despite the advancements in bar-code label design software, Thatcher says the biggest problem is that bar-code verification is not stressed to end users. Some industries, such as retail, will fine companies that ship products with unscannable labels. He says other industries should similarly stress the importance of scannable labels.
"A VAR can sell the best bar-code labeling software and printer on the market. But, if a customer uses poor media or has the printer settings wrong, then the labels might be unscannable," states Thatcher. "I believe that end users have to accept responsibility for the quality of what they have printed. It is no different than any other product they manufacture."
In an effort to eliminate unscannable labels, Thatcher says VARs should sell end users scanners and verifiers in addition to the printer and software sale. "Customers don't send out documents without running spell check and grammar check. They are asked to verify documents of their authorship on an ongoing basis. The technology exists to prevent unscannable labels. It is a matter of getting end users to use it," states Thatcher.