Do you use barcodes and barcode scanners? Are you aware of the barcode scan failure rate? Do you know the cost of barcode scan failure? A few barcode scan fails might seem trivial but once you start looking at the total impact over an extended period of time, you’ll find that it has an extremely high cost in terms of efficiency, inventory management and other important things.
This is why you should not take barcode scan failure lightly and take steps to improve barcode readability. This blog post will explore the common causes of barcode illegibility and what you can do to improve the readability of barcodes in your business.
What Is Barcode Readability?
In simple terms, this may be defined as the rate of success when a barcode scanner is used to scan a barcode. If the reader is unable to scan it properly, it will be counted as a failure. It could be due to a problem with the positioning of the reader or a problem with the printed barcode. While a few barcode scan failures at the supermarket checkout aisle isn’t that big a problem as the staff can punch in the code manually, frequent failures could add a lot to the cost of inventory management when added across the supply chain.
Common Causes of Barcode Illegibility
There are several reasons for barcode scan failures. Other than the positioning of the scanner and use of the wrong scanner, most failures happen due to problems with the legibility of a barcode. Here are a few common causes of barcode illegibility:
Printing error — When a barcode isn’t printed properly, it could lead to issues with readability. Some of the most common printing errors include fuzzy edges, printing in the quiet zone, and selection of wrong ink or wrong substrate.
Low contrast — A barcode will be read properly only when there is proper contrast between the light and dark areas. If the contrast isn’t enough, the scanner will find it difficult to read the code properly leading to scan failure.
Other issues — Sometimes, barcodes are covered with a plastic film leading to high reflectivity which interferes with the readability of barcodes.
This is why standards exist when it comes to barcode printing. Certain industries also prohibit the use of reflective packaging and have particular guidelines in place to ensure proper readability. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to fix all such issues but efforts need to be made to improve the readability of barcodes.
Ways to Improve Your Barcode Readability
In most cases, improving barcode readability isn’t that difficult. With the right equipment and proper quality control processes in place, it shouldn’t take long to improve barcode readability. Here are a few tips to increase the accuracy of barcodes:
Using the right barcode — Even though all barcodes might look the same to an untrained eye, people in the industry know that there are several different standards that are used across one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes. Make sure you choose the right one for your specific needs which is most likely going to be based on the industry you belong to.
Choose the right printing technologies — In most cases, scan failures happen due to problems with barcode printing. This is why you should always use high-resolution printers that are able to print out proper contrast ratio to ensure proper readability.
Choose the right size — Make sure the barcode is always of the right size.
Separate layer — Make sure the barcode is always printed on a separate layer to enhance readability.
Legible printing with the right colour combination — You need to make sure that the text or numbers printed below the barcode are also legible. The use of the right printer should allow you to achieve legible text. While most barcodes are printed on a white background, there are cases where a coloured background is used due to branding or other such issues. This is why you should always make it a point to choose the right colour combination to ensure a proper contrast ratio.
Right material — You need to choose the right packaging material if the code is going to be printed directly on the packaging material. Reflectivity and textures have a huge impact on the readability aspect.
Respect quiet zones — When it comes to barcodes, quiet zones refer to the empty space around the barcode. Technically, it might not have an impact on the readability but it does set the boundaries and if there are smudges or other patterns in this quiet zone, it could affect the readability of that barcode.
Overall, barcode scan failure has a high cost cumulatively. Whether you are using a barcode system in your retail store or inventory management or in a healthcare facility, scan failure may lead to bigger issues. This is why it is important to pay special attention to the accuracy of barcodes including barcode printing as well as scanning devices to ensure a high success rate.
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Are you aware of the differences between different types/brands of barcode scanners? Do you understand the difference between technologies used in various scanners? Our team can help you choose the right barcode scanner depending on your unique business needs.
ASP Microcomputers specialises in inventory management solutions and offers a wide range of barcode readers and other related products.