Labeling is important to your product's packaging, whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer. Ensuring that the labels comply with barcode standards is also crucial. Barcodes are common everywhere these days. One can see it on concert tickets, restaurant menus, shipping boxes, candy bar covers, and many other places.
Evolution of Barcode
The barcode has come a long way since its inception in the 1940s. It was originated by Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland using the Morse code symbols. In the mid-1970s, when grocery stores began experimenting with barcodes, they began to gain significant attention. At the same time, the National Association of Food Chain (NAFC) created an 11-digit barcode standard for the sector. Only a very small number of supermarkets were using barcodes then. But by 1980, thousands of retailers were adding them every year. Later, healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics industries also started using barcodes.
It has transformed the retail industry with technology and has become indispensable to every business. It is also expected to evolve further in the future. Whether monitoring stock or doing transactions, barcodes change how businesses handle data.
So, what is this barcode that businesses are keen to add to their supply chain process?
What exactly is a barcode?
A barcode is a square or a rectangle shape composed of vertical black lines. These lines vary in thickness and height. It also adds white space and numbers that, when combined, identify and give information about a particular object. These liner codes provide each product with a special identification number. These codes can be read when it is connected to a scanner. The scanner reads the precise placement of bars, spaces, and numbers to extract the product information. Each barcode identifies and encodes significant information about the product.
How do barcode labels work?
Data is encoded into parallel lines and gaps with various lengths and patterns in barcodes. A barcode scanner uses a beam of light to illuminate a barcode when it scans. The white gaps in the barcodes reflect light to the light-sensitive sensor of the scanner. The dark bars on the barcode absorb this line. Sensors detect this reflected light. It is then transformed into an electrical signal corresponding to the pattern of bright and dark regions of the barcode. This electrical signal is subsequently translated by a decoder built-in feature in the scanner. Later, it is translated into the original information. The data is transferred to a linked computer or system for additional processing, enabling quick and precise results.
Understanding the components of a barcode label
Barcodes must be precise and consistent so that the scanner can read them accurately. The scanner can identify information like the manufacturer, product category, and country of origin from different parts of the barcode. Therefore, it is important to understand barcode elements and why your label should have them.
An ordinary barcode includes:
These are the blank spaces at the edges of a barcode symbol. It has the same color as the background of the code, usually seen in white. This helps the barcode reader distinguish the code from other printed information.
- Number system digit
The symbol itself begins with a start character and ends with a stop character. The first digit represents the product category. The characters may be different according to the type of barcode.
- Manufacturer code
The product manufacturer can be identified based on the first group of characters after the initial number.
- Product code
The next set of characters identifies the specific product. The manufacturer creates these data characters. It is represented in number and character, which separates it from others.
- Check digit
A check digit is a part of most barcodes to ensure data integrity. The check digits confirm the accuracy of data and detect potential errors.
Exploring the barcode types
To decide the correct barcode type for your business, you must consider the amount of data you want to transfer through that barcode. It mostly depends on the product label size, the need of the company, and the country where this barcode will be used.
- Linear or 1D barcode
One-dimensional (1D) or Linear barcode is the original version with black vertical bars with numbers beneath them. The linear barcode consists of numbers, letters, and symbols, giving detailed information about the product name, type, size, and color. The 1D barcode must be linked to a database to function properly.
- Matrix or 2D barcode
Two-dimensional (2D) or Matrix barcodes can add more data at less pace, including quantity, image, and website URL. It does not need to be connected to a database to get this information. Manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals need detailed tracking, so they use 2D barcodes. Advanced scanners and smartphones are required to read these barcodes.
As the world becomes more data-driven, barcodes must be upgraded as per the demand. Maximum scanners can read linear barcodes, but some limitations exist with them. Consider upgrading to a 2D barcode, as it will enable the 1D features and provide the benefits of the 2D one.
Significance of barcode: efficiency, accuracy, and beyond
Adding barcodes to your labels will improve the supply chain process, help manage stock efficiently, and ensure customer satisfaction. Products can be traced easily through every supply chain point using these barcodes. They help transfer large data faster and speed up the transaction process.
- Barcodes bring accuracy
Entering product information manually may lead to human error. Tracking such errors becomes a costly affair for businesses. Barcodes reduce the opportunity for any error. Thus, it is a cost-effective approach for businesses.
- Real-time data
The barcode tracking system allows tracking quickly and lets businesses stay updated in real-time. When one scans the barcode, inventory details and sale numbers get updated immediately in the business management system.
- Reduced training time
Businesses don't need much time or money to train their employees using barcodes as they are easy to understand.
- Inventory control
Companies that need to maintain a huge amount of stock will have to scale back without barcodes. It improves stock management by quickly tracking the stock which is outdated or damaged. Businesses can achieve long-term profitability.
- Low cost
Companies need a limited number of barcodes to use internally. Also, the company doesn't need to hire employees to manually track the stock, as scanning the barcodes can be done easily.
Labeling Upgrade Solution: Are you using the right one?
The process of label creation and printing must be improved to meet industry standards. Selecting the right labeling software will help to fetch data correctly while decoding. It will help check errors on a real-time basis.
Adding a barcode to your packages builds customer trust. Using a 2D barcode will improve efficiency. Investing in high-quality printers and labels improves barcode quality and durability.
Here are some benefits of upgrading your labels with barcodes:
- Enhanced compliance
The demand for more information is increasing. But the available space on each label is decreasing. As content expands, the content the manufacturer wants to add is also increasing. Label designers are looking for ways to reduce field size while maintaining readability. 2D barcodes can grow in two dimensions, letting more information be packed into a smaller space. It enables alphanumeric characters and symbols to be included in barcodes.
- Improved efficiency
A properly streamlined labeling process will reduce errors and improve overall efficiency. 2D barcode verification also reduces the time spent on label verification. It ensures all printed barcode labels are readable and offers a completely automated process.
- Increased productivity
The lack of a proper tracking process can lead to tracking the stock multiple times. Proper processes and barcode verification systems in the business will save time. Using 2D barcodes, errors can be controlled as even if a part of the barcode gets damaged, it still can be read.
- Scanning flexibility with 2D barcode
Barcode improves accessibility and is user-friendly, as a mobile or smartphone can scan these barcodes easily.
- Improvement in Product Quality
It is important to ensure products reach customers with accurate scannable barcodes. It will enhance product quality and ensure customer satisfaction.
- Cost saving
Labeling upgrades will lead to cost savings over time as errors will be reduced and efficiency improved.
Barcodes bring more authenticity, reliability, and value to your product packaging. They are crucial to supply chain management, customer service, and inventory control. They bring efficiency, accuracy, and data management control to your business. Many businesses changed their mode of operation to add barcodes to their packaging. As technology evolves, barcodes will further evolve to keep pace with demand.