You have seen it on your box of cereals, on the back of your music CD jewel case, on your flight boarding pass, on your luggage airport sticker, and even under the bonnet of your car. Discover how the barcode has been helping our universe stay organized for nearly forty years, and why it remains our favourite track and trace solution.
Barcodes – leading the way for four decades
The barcode system was first commercialized in 1974 on a packet of chewing gum. Over the past four decades, the barcode became ubiquitous as a track and trace tool, from the supermarket to automotive production lines, and even the most advanced medical labs in the world. Why do multi-million dollar MNCs continue to prefer traditional barcode systems to other technologies?
Barcodes offer simplicity, universality and low cost – unmatched by any other track and trace technology. The benefits of implementing a barcode system make a powerful argument for any company wishing to:
- Improve production efficiencies
- Improve management and reporting
- Improve accuracies and reduce mistakes
Improved logistics and customer experience in retail stores
Often the most common use of barcodes, retail stores employ barcode for fast checkouts by scanning barcodes instead of manual input of price tags to improve customer experience by shortening checkout time. By integrating the barcode checkout process with the backend inventory system, the store manager knows which stocks have been selling and require replenishment, greatly improving the logistics process and preventing loss of sales opportunities when inventories are not replenished on time. Retailers also depend on barcodes on their membership cards to identify consumers and create profiles for customized marketing efforts and to understand consumers’ shopping patterns.
Increasing productivity in automotive factories
Track and trace barcode solutions help businesses track and trace the goods from production to sales and distribution. For production lines, barcode stickers on the products help to track and trace mistakes and faults along the production line quickly. The automotive industry makes extensive use of barcodes along their complex production lines, applying barcode stickers to each body frame and component added down the line. Each time an error is spotted, the barcode immediately identifies the faulty riveting or stamping machines, or a batch of faulty components. This greatly simplifies the process of identifying the problem and rectifying the error, and in turn increases productivity
Enhanced lab sample tracking accuracy
The South East Asian Influenza Clinical Research Network (SEAICRN) is an excellent case study of how a barcode system can handle even complex track and trace requirements. The researchers required complex label information of sample type, date and time of collection, participant information, and storage location – all on a small barcode label pasted on biological samples which are to be stored in a freezer. SEAICRN worked closely with their vendor to procure labels designed for sub-zero conditions, and integrated the track and trace solution with SEAICRN’s existing software to identify the storage location of each biological sample. Even with complexity of multiple labs and urgent timeline, the barcode track and trace solution enabled the researchers to monitor and retrieve specific samples easily and quickly, making it possible for researchers to determine the effectiveness of a promising influenza treatment and reap enormous benefits for the health of millions worldwide.
Before you implement a barcode track and trace system…
It is easy to see the potentials of how the barcode system will help your business, but you should understand that the barcode label represents only part of the track and trace process. It is critical to work with a vendor that can deliver a system that fits into your process instead of the other way around. Here are three key considerations when selecting your vendor:
- The vendor should have labels that work on various substrates
Do you need labels that are freeze-proof, corrosion-proof or greaseproof? Consult your vendor to ensure their labels can adhere securely and withstand your operating environment.
- Look for a track and trace solution that is simple and efficient
Numerous staff in your organization will use your barcode track and trace solution, so it is critical that it is simple and efficient in order to be effective. Ask for case studies to ensure your vendor has a good track record in delivering such a system for your needs.
- A good vendor must provide the best hardware and software
A barcode track and trace solution comprises of the label, label printer and software. Your vendor should have a range of label printers that comes with user-friendly labeling software to customize labels if required, instead of pushing you off-the-shelf solutions. And we cannot over emphasize the importance of the vendor having good supporting software systems and data collection tools to integrate barcode systems with backend logistic software for a seamless and complete track and trace solution!