Why Is Barcode Quality important?

The accuracy of barcodes remains fundamentally important because when a barcode fails to scan it adds time and cost to the trading process. At best, data has to be keyed in manually, and at worst vendors may reject a complete consignment of goods, resulting in lost sales and possible financial penalties. Remember – barcodes are also used to re-order and replenish stock – so it makes sense to help your customers to make buying from you quicker and easier!

What is Barcode Verification?

Barcode Verification is testing the quality of a printed barcode using an instrument that measures the lines and spaces and reports the quality in a clear and detailed scale – it also is used to detail what needs to be done to fix and improve the barcode quality if things have gone wrong!

In today’s retail sector, its estimated that large chain stores lose over $20 million per year in revenue due to poor quality barcodes – and these businesses are now striking back with large fines for failing to meet industry requirements. Verifying your barcodes ensures that they meets all ISO quality standards, it ensures they can be read by all barcode scanners and provides peace of mind that your codes will function properly on your product anywhere in the world.

It’s essential that barcode quality is checked at all levels of the supply chain – from raw materials through to the finished product. Owning an ISO Barcode Verifier also allows you to produce Barcode Verification Reports in-house allowing more frequent testing and its easier than you think: Checkout the following video for a quick run down on how this can be achieved!

Why do I need a Verifier?

There are many reasons for having an ISO grade Barcode Verifier in your organisation – as well as providing for prompt and timely testing of your barcodes, it ensures that issues are discovered and fixed immediately prior to production. Many substrates (surface material) can effect a barcodes printing through bleed or shrinkage – only a Barcode Verifier can detect these deformations! While ISO grade Verifiers are not cheap and for new or small businesses, using a third party for this service is the most easy and economical way – however for companies with large product ranges – self verification assists with substantial savings in administration and distribution costs as well as enabling more frequent and timely testing.

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Even prior to package completion – Barcode Verifiers are an invaluable tool that assists in pre-testing of samples and packaging design analysis. An Axicon ISO Verifier can tell you if your packaging background is suitable for a Barcode even before one is printed onto it! Issues with printing bleed or shrinkage are measured quickly and can be adjusted prior to the costly printing process starting.

Testing of SSCC (GS128) labels is often missed by companies due to the print and apply times being generally too short to involve GS1 or other third party testing. Having an in-house verification system allows immediate and regular testing of not only the barcode quality but also the content of the label such as; Best Before Date, Batch Number, Quantity or Weight ensuring are all correct prior to dispatch of goods.

Many companies today use automated production systems and rely on barcodes to identify different stages of the work in progress – having an in-house verification system ensures that barcode issues can be identified and rectified immediately – saving huge time and money in production losses.

Non Retail Item applications – such as loyalty cards, discount coupons, asset labelling etc, all require accuracy and quality in the barcode production to ensure the success of the solution. Regular In-house testing ensures that these areas are also covered and mistakes are identified quickly.

I need a Barcode, but don’t know where to begin?

Do you intend to use your barcodes ONLY within your own business or will they be used outside as well – this is the first question? This is an extremely important question as it will dictate if you can use a FREE generic barcode symbology (such as code 128 or code 39) or if you need to get a GS1 Barcode. GS1 barcodes are assigned with unique numbering to ensure that they remain assigned only to your companies products and will not be used by anybody else in the world. 

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Choosing the right Barcode is an important decision and one that should be made with a clear direction.

Click the following link to view the GS1 General Specifications guide: GS1 General Specififcations Guide

Internal use ONLY Barcodes:

If your wishing to use barcodes within your business for; stock locations, in-house identification, in-house item tracking or work in progress tracking – then you can use a generic symbology, such as Code128 or Code39. These codes are easy to produce, are free to use and have a strong structure that will ensure accurate reading. Code content can be Alpha/Numeric and can be designed to best suit your business needs. There are no particular sizing constraints when producing internal barcodes – however it is important to consider what scanners will be used and ensure codes are large enough to suit the reading criteria of the model used.

Note: These codes should not be used for any external or retail application that may be used external to your business, as your numbering system may conflict with an existing system!

External use Barcodes – GS1 Barcodes:

For all external retail requirements, you need to use a GS1 barcode to ensure your products comply to the retail standard and are uniquely identified anywhere in the world. To attain these GS1 barcodes for your business you must either attain your barcodes from a reliable source or register your company with GS1 and become a member.  Membership will also provide you with support in how to use the GS1 systems and assistance on code placement on your product. You will also be provided with a limited access to their test centre to ensure that your barcode read correctly and meet the necessary standards.

Where ever you attain your barcode – the onus is on you to ensure that the code is unique and can read correctly!

If you want to attain GS1 Barcodes, we have provide a link to the GS1 Australia website to get you started – JOIN GS1 and Get a Barcode!

Online Barcode Sales:

The large Retail organisations have now changed their wording to that the supplier of the barcoded goods are responsible for the Barcode being unique and readable – failure to meet these requirements is your responsibility!

In recent years a business has evolved of selling Barcodes Online – while not illegal, this practise sells American GS1 Barcodes that start with a zero or they sell the old UCPA American Barcodes. The use of thyese barcodes has now generally been accepted by all retailers and so there should be little issue in using these – they certainly do cost less than an annual subscription the GS1 – however you should check with your customers if they have any issues before you start printing them on all of your packaging – just to be sure.

Further information on type of barcode is provided in the next section – “What type of barcode do I need for my business”.

Getting a barcode image to use in your package printing:

If you have received your Barcode numbers and you wish to get an image of your Barcode to provide to your packaging designer or printing company to include in your design – you will need an EPS image. We can either provide the image service on a one by one basis or supply you a system that will create these images for you on the fly. Contact us for more information.

Getting Barcode labels that stick on your products:

If you are just starting out or have a limited number of products and simply want to attached printed barcode labels – we can assist ! Whether you need 10 or 10,000 we can design and print the labels to your requirements.

If you have larger quantity requirements but still want to use adhesive labels – we can set you up with a cost effective printer, the software to design your labels and all the consumables to allow you to do this in-house just as easily! Simply contact us for more information – Click Here

What type of Barcode do I need for my business?

There are approximately 30 linear (1D) barcodes presently in use in the world, plus a number of 2D codes. All of these codes perform a similar function in that they automate the reading of the embedded code – however they are not all open to be used by anyone in any industry; and in fact most are designed for specific tasks and should not be used while others may not function as required due to restrictions in their abilities.

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Standard Linear Barcodes:

In general; if you are going to use a barcode ONLY within the walls of your business AND you know that these codes will not be used in any other way outside of your business – then you can use a standard linear barcode. The symbologies most suitable and openly available are Code 128 or Code 39 Symbologies. Both of these codes are able to handle Numbers and characters (and some symbols) – so they can be used for items or location labels. There are other 1D codes available – such as Interleave 2 of 5 (code 2of5), however the structure of this Symbology allows for a scanner to read partial reads (only part of the code) if the reading beam cuts diagonal through the code without cutting all lines from start to finish; this can cause unnecessary reading issues. This issue can be omitted by either printing a thick box around the code to defeat this happening or by setting a minimum/maximum reading count in your scanner – however it is much easier to pick one of the previous options. There are other linear codes that couyld be used, however most have been allocated to special requirements or industries and would not be suitable for general use.

Standard 2D codes:

2D codes are relatively new to the industry and were predominantly created to hold much larger amounts of data than just a short numerical or Alpha/Numeric string. There are formats in existence and these have different benefits; PDF417 is a stacked linear format and is basically thin strips of normal linear barcodes stacked on top of each other – where as; a QR Code or Datamatrix Code both are true 2D codes having a physical x,y structure. These types of codes have the ability to hold a few characters of informations out to many thousands of characters.

2D codes are now becoming popular in industries that wish to have greater amounts of changing information – such as use-by or production dates and the courier industry is now using these for holding address information – that would be too large for a normal linear code.

GS1 Barcodes – 1D and 2D:

Barcode numbers (GTINs) are unique identifiers for items (single units, packs, pallets or global “addresses”) which ensure that any coded item can be tracked, traced and identified from its source to its final destination – be it on a supermarket shelf or in a factory being assembled into further finished product. When allocating identifier numbers you need to determine the type of trade item you wish to number.

There are different GS1 ID Keys to suit different uses. You can use GS1 ID Keys to identify anything from a product or place to a consignment note or crate.  ID Keys identify objects within the supply chain.For a detailed listing of these ID Keys – please click on the following link – Types of GS1 ID Keys

A separate unique barcode number (Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)) must be allocated to every different variant of an item (e.g. colour, size, model, pack size, style).

It is strongly recommended that someone within your company be assigned to manage the allocation of barcode numbers (GTINs) and keep accurate and updated records of the numbers created to avoid duplication.

For guidelines on items requiring separate numbers and when to change a barcode number (GTIN) on an item you are advised to contact GS1 or download their GTIN allocation guide – GTIN Management

If you are already have your numbers but require some more assistance, please feel free to contact us.

If you need to attain your GS1 Barcodes, we have provided a link to the GS1 website to get you started – Join GS1

If you have received your numbers and you wish to get a GS1 Barcode image to provide to your printer to include of your package design we can help with that too! Likewise if you have a limited number of products and simply want to attached barcode labels – we can help with that too!

A GS1 Barcode will guarantee that your code remains unique to your item and that it will not be read by mistake as something else.

How can I check if my number is registered to my business?

To check a GTIN for its registered ownership credencials – simply goto the below link and add the Global Trade Identification Number.

click the following Link – Search by GTIN

For Barcodes that have been purchased online – this may not be so easy to check – as the codes supplied are likely to have been allocated from previous US companies – and therefore they are not registered to you. This does not mean that you cannot use them or that they are not legal – its just that you will not see your company listed on the GS1 search Database. Some of the businesses selling these codes online offer their own Databases to track and identify these codes.

Why can’t I use a Barcode Scanner to test that my Barcodes read?

The issue here is that while your scanner may read the code the next scanner to try may fail – it does not provide any real result to gauge how well the barcode has been created and does not ensure that other scanners will also read your barcode. Many of the new handheld scanners on the market use a “fuzzy technology” to assist in reading poor quality barcodes – they guess the code with a fairly high level of accuracy. The expensive retail store scanners work in the opposite way – they are calibrated to NOT read poor quality barcodes – this is to ensure that an incorrect read is avoided!

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Unfortunately, many suppliers test codes this way only to find that it fails in the store or the distribution centre. What happens next?? The item has to be either recalled to be repackaged, be relabelled or be sent to the reject shop – an expensive exercise! Just remember, all that expensive scanning technology is in the stores to assist selling your product!

The truth is that people will usually do what they think is right – until they are proven wrong; and here ends the lesson. ISO Barcode Verifiers are quite expensive laboratory devices that are designed for the very purpose of verifying quality and they work extremely well! They not only indicate that your Barcode passes the required grade but also diagnose the reasons your Barcode may fail – so you can fix it before its sent out into he world. If it saves you just one instance of a product going out with the wrong number or poorly printed – then its just paid for itself many times over!

Can I use a 2D Barcode on my products?

2D Barcodes offer an attractive alternative to linear codes – they are generally smaller and yet hold significantly more data – so why not use them on everything?

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A 2D (two-dimensional) barcode is a graphical image that stores information both horizontally, (as one-dimensional bar codes do), as well as vertically. As a result of this difference in construction, 2D codes can store significantly more data; (up to 7,089 characters in some), much greater storage than is possible with a linear (1D) barcode.

Using these 2D codes on products requires careful consideration:

If the product is to be used in the outside world, then it must be ensured that the 2D code, (as with 1D codes), remains unique to your product. To ensure this you should register with GS1 and use the GS1 standards for 2D codes.

As 2D codes are still fairly new and not widely accepted in all areas of business, you must consider who will be scanning your products and whether your customers will have the necessary equipment to be able to read 2D barcodes.  2D barcodes require a different type of scanner to standard 1D readers and while most new devices are now able to read both, a huge amount of the old technology still exists in the field and these will be unable to read your codes!

If your application is to be used solely for your own internal use, where equipment levels can be ensured and the codes will only be used for your own systems – these are a great choice.

An area where 2D barcodes are growing rapidly is in advertising. The QR 2D barcodes, also known as quick response codes because they enable fast data access, are being used in stores and on magazines to offer more information on the product when used in conjunction with smart phones. The user simply photographs a 2D QR barcode with the camera on a smart phone equipped with a QR reader App. The reader interprets the encoded URL, which directs the browser to the relevant information on a Web site. This capability has made 2D barcodes revolutionary  for mobile marketing. Some 2D barcode systems also deliver information in a message for users without Web access.