When you scan a barcode, you expect everything to work. However, there have been occasions when scanning fails. It could be due to a variety of reasons. In certain situations, barcode scan failure can have devastating consequences. Think of scan failure in a laboratory that handles patient samples.
Regular scan failures can play havoc in the supply chain. It can have potentially disastrous effects on product integrity and that may lead to legal implications. It is estimated that over 5 billion barcodes are scanned daily across the globe. A 1% failure rate means that over 5 million scans fail to read and that is simply not acceptable. In simple terms, barcode scan failures have a high cost that might not be visible immediately but can have potentially disastrous consequences.
Most Common Causes of Unreadable Barcodes
Barcodes may be unreadable for a variety of reasons. A variety of environmental and technical factors impact the readability of barcodes. It could be the positioning of the reader, inconsistencies in the substrate or various other reasons. Here’s a list of some of the most common causes:
- Low contrast — The scanner needs to be able to read the light and dark elements and if the contrast is low, the code may fail to read.
- Quite zone issues — This refers to the no print zone around the barcode. Issues with this no print zone may lead to no-reads.
- Positioning of scanner — In some cases, improper positioning of the scanner results in scan failure. Correct positioning is determined by the depth of field of the barcode reader.
- Inconsistency in print — Improper printing or variations in printing may lead to barcodes that cannot be read by scanners due to low contrast issues or other problems.
- Damaged barcodes — Sometimes, environmental factors result in the degradation of barcodes which may render them unreadable.
Cost of a Failed Barcode Scan
Barcode scan failure at your local supermarket for one or two items might not seem like a big deal but once you start looking at the big picture, you will realise the immense cost of failed barcode scans. Here’s a quick look at various costs of failed barcodes:
Efficiency loss — Barcodes exist to improve efficiency and when the codes don’t scan, it requires manual tracking and that leads to an increase in wait times. In short, the overall effect is a decrease in efficiency and productivity.
Excessive returns — Nobody likes returns but if the barcode fails to scan, the item might be returned directly to the supplier. It not only adds an extra cost but may quickly translate into a serious problem if not fixed right away.
Errors with invoices — Automated scanning systems are not only used for inventory management but also for enhancing the accuracy of payment and invoicing systems. Scan failures may lead to mistakes in invoices that may cause payment delays and disputes.
Things move slow — Scan failures delay everything. Consider the chaos in the checkout line at a supermarket if only a small percentage of items fail to scan.
Inventory management — The biggest use of barcodes is in inventory management. These codes allow you to find stored items quickly as you know where the item is. Scan failures have the potential to significantly impact the cost of inventory management.
Business reputation — If the rate of barcode failure for your products is high, your customers might start looking at alternatives as it affects their operational efficiency. A high failure rate can seriously impact your business reputation.
Possible Solutions to Barcode Failures
As we have established, barcode failures have a high cost. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to fix. Most problems require some simple adjustments to ensure an almost negligible rate of scan failure. Here’s a list of possible solutions:
Proper printing — The printer or marking equipment should ensure the even application of ink to avoid low contrast issues.
Use of 2D barcodes — For proper reading of linear barcodes, 80% or higher contrast is needed whereas 2D barcodes may work with as little as just 20% contrast.
High-performance barcode readers — Scan failures also happen due to quiet zone violations but there are barcode readers equipped with sophisticated algorithms capable of decoding barcodes with minor infringements in the quiet zone.
Proper positioning — Sometimes, failures happen due to improper positioning of the scanner which is often a result of the barcode being out of the scanner’s depth of field. Check the specifications of the reader to determine the right position and distance at which the reader should be placed.
Right printing setup — In many cases, scan failure happens due to a lack of maintenance of the printing and marking equipment. This is why equipment should be regularly inspected and serviced.
Choosing the right substrate — Environmental factors may also lead to barcode degradation which may result in no-reads. This is why it’s important to choose the right substrate that is capable of resisting harsh environmental conditions.
Overall, barcode scan failure has the potential to seriously disrupt operations and may have disastrous consequences. In most cases, unreadable barcodes happen due to issues that can be easily fixed. If you are experiencing a relatively high level of unreadable barcodes, you should determine the root cause of the issue and address the issue by taking preventative measures. It is also important to invest in the right barcode printing and marking methods to ensure the production of high-quality codes with negligible chances of failure.
Buy the Best Barcode Scanner in Australia
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