Barcode Quality: A Problem and an Opportunity

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Written by John Nachtrieb in Barcode Tutorial


What a suitable moment in which to pause and say “thank you” to you, our new and loyal readers. It makes all the difference to sense the presence of people out there who are reading, commenting and advancing this amazing industry.

In that same spirit, I invite you to pay special attention to your encounters with the retail marketplace this season—we have a lot of those encounters this time of year, so it is an opportune time to see how those encounters work. The sheer volume of retail transactions and product movement all compacted into a finite slice of time brings everything into sharper focus. This is the time when everything must work perfectly—and probably won’t. Is barcode quality involved in things not working properly? This is a problem that is also an opportunity.

There is a lot at stake.  In brick-and-mortar retail, barcodes enable the tracking of incoming inventory from the manufacturer to the warehouse, then through the store’s receiving dock onto the sales floor, into your shopping basket and through the front end of the store. Product movement in e-commerce is only slightly less complex and no less critical. Barcode quality can make or break the experience in both venues. But the goal is so much more than just smooth sailing in a stressful season.  The goal is to satisfy (at least) and exceed (if possible) the expectations of a shopper with too little time and too little money to buy something exceptional for too many people. Somehow it always gets done, but the part that gets remembered and reported in those post-event conversations are not the successes but the disasters, and “…where we will never ever shop again because of the unspeakable inconveniences we endured there this year.”

What’s at stake is far more than the bottom line of 2013 holiday sales. This year the seasonal sales are predicted to be worse than in recent years. That’s why Black Friday 2013 sales started just after Halloween.  What is at stake is the future sales from loyal customers and the leveraging of their good shopping experiences as reported to their families and friends.  Supply chain failures and checkout counter glitches jeopardize all of that and they re a stealthy and immeasurable problem.

There are two primary causes of these failures and glitches: poor print quality of the barcodes on the SKU, inner carton, master carton or pallet, and database product lookup errors.  There is nothing furtive or inestimable about these problems: they are detectable and preventable.

What is there to be thankful for? If you are a shopper (and who isn’t?) be thankful that you can choose to shop at retailers who care enough about your business enough to have quality systems in place in their vendor packaging and logistics systems. If you are a vendor to retailers like that, be thankful that you have an opportunity to make a difference and be a valued supplier.

About John Nachtrieb

Mr. Nachtrieb has 30+ years of hands-on experience in barcode technology. His team imaged the film master for the first commercially scanned barcode in North America (1974). His specialty is barcode quality. He created and hosts a highly customized barcode quality seminar which has been presented to 100's of companies, reaching thousands of quality-concerned people, helping them to avoid barcode problems and manage barcode-related risk.

Other articles by John Nachtrieb

Bar Codes and Packaging
How Do You Test a Bar Code?
When to Verify Bar Codes
Want to Use Bar Code Colors? What Works?
The Most Common Cause of Barcode Failure
What is a High Performance Bar Code?
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