From the US Department of Defense, to libraries and blood banks, the postal service and even scientists tracking the movements of bees – barcodes are used in a wide variety of applications and across many new formats. Today we take a look at how and why they work, and investigate some of the newer barcodes formats like datamatrix and codabar.
Retail outlets use these barcodes to keep track of large numbers of stock without the need for a tedious, time-consuming and costly manual stock-taking process. Can you imagine how long the lines at your largest local shopping centre would be if every item had to marked down and kept track of individually? Also, the chance of human error is eliminated – no-one is perfect and having to enter every single price manually – while there is an increasingly antsy queue of shoppers lining up – will naturally lead to mistakes. Because stock can be re-ordered automatically when the available units of a certain product reach a pre-set minimum, the chances of the shop running out of a popular or essential product are vastly reduced.In addition, barcodes can be used to track internal assets; at the post office to register mail; by venues to scan in and validate visitor’s tickets; and for stock control of medicines, chemicals, and equipment in the scientific sectors; amongst a myriad of other applications. In all honesty modern society would be entirely lost without them.
Barcodes come in a variety of different formats. The ones you are most familiar with are the 12 digit UPC (Universal Product Code) and 13 digit EAN (European Article Number – now referred to as the International Article Number) barcodes which are found on practically everything you can buy from a shop. The UPC barcode system is the original format, which was developed in the United States, and is still widely used. The EAN system includes the additional digit to allow for use in countries across the rest of the world, barring Canada which also uses the UPC.
If you are selling your product in another country it is advised that you utilise the 13-digit EAN code. However, it is always advisable to check with your retailer in any case before you embark on your packaging or label print run as some shops worldwide still use the UPC system. SA Barcodes of course provides you with both formats when you buy barcodes through us. However, the vast majority of barcode scanners today can read both.
In addition to UPC and EAN barcodes there are various new types of barcoding from codabar, datamatrix, PDF417 and of course the increasingly popular QR code. Tomorrow we look at some of these and their applications from libraries to blood banks and even the US Department of Defense.
Read Part Two here.