• July 14, 2024

A barcode: what is it?

A barcode is a tiny image of lines (bars) and spaces that is attached to retail store items, identity cards, and postal mail in order to uniquely identify a certain product number, person, or place. It is frequently written as two words, bar code.

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Numbers and other symbols are represented in the code by a series of vertical bars and spaces. A quiet zone, a start character, data characters (which may include an optional check character), a stop character, and another quiet zone make up a conventional barcode sign.

The operation of barcodes

All that is a barcode is an image. It needs to be decoded by a barcode reader or scanner in order to make sense. A laser beam that is sensitive to reflections from line and space thickness and variation is used by the reader. The reflected light is converted by the reader into digital information that is sent to a computer for instant processing or archiving.

Readers can be standalone and portable, which stores the data they read until it can be input into a computer, or they can be connected to a computer, as they are frequently in retail environments.

Common uses for barcodes include the following:

by stores and supermarkets to monitor inventory and sold goods

By libraries to recognize and monitor checked-out books

by shippers and manufacturers to monitor goods movements

Employers should confirm and monitor workers’ working hours.

hospitals in order to detect patients

To compile the outcomes of direct mail marketing returns, marketers

Researchers use small barcodes to track honeybees.

Barcode guidelines

A single standard barcode does not exist. Rather, a variety of barcode standards known as symbologies are available to meet the needs of various businesses, purposes, and geographical areas.

Most retail establishments employ a standard barcode that has been provided by the Uniform Product Code (UPC), which is governed by the Uniform Code Council, an industry association, since 1973. The first barcode system creator, Joe Woodland, created the European Article Numbering system (EAN), which is increasingly in use and provides for an additional set of digits. The common barcode used in the US for ZIP codes in bulk mail is POSTNET.

The Function of Barcodes

The black bars’ width typically denotes a number between 0 and 1, and the order in which they appear indicates a number between those two values. The item associated with that particular combination of bars and spaces is all stored on a computer that is connected to the scanner. This computer may then add, multiply, or divide those numbers to get the proper result, which is displayed on the screen.

In order to give the business a thorough picture of its present inventory and enable prompt order fulfillment or physical inventory counts, a warehouse’s barcode may contain an item’s size, color, and other characteristics in addition to its position. This information can be the product name and price that a store associate needs to know in order to check out a customer. Barcodes enable businesses to trace products at every stage of their life cycle, from production and distribution to acquisition and maintenance.

How Barcodes Are Made

Businesses who require a limited quantity of barcodes can create them with a mail merge or a free online tool (opens in new tab), then print them using a regular printer. But as your needs increase, this can quickly become ineffective.

A more efficient way is to generate barcodes using your accounting or inventory software; most basic systems can do this, and it will be easy to associate each barcode with individual item entries in your product database. It will make sense for the majority of firms to combine this technology with a barcode printer, which can be purchased for as low as a few hundred dollars and is made expressly for printing labels.

GS1 registration is required for companies who require barcodes for external purposes, such as tracking goods sold to third-party retailers. The company charges a one-time fee and a yearly renewal fee, and the cost varies based on the quantity of barcodes required. All of your barcodes will include a GS1 Company Prefix, which is a special ID that GS1 will provide for your business. With this subscription, you can also create, manage, and export barcode files to a printer through the GS1 Data Hub.