Avoiding the Unreadable Barcode

With so much modern technology going into the labels we use, it can become easy to forget that the barcode was one of the first security labels. Barcode technology has endured, even as new forms like holographic and tamper-evident labels have come onto the scene.

However, as simple as barcodes are, the effects of an unreadable barcode can be utterly disastrous. If a barcode cannot remain readable from warehouse to final destination, it can, in effect, become ‘lost’. And this directly affects a business’s bottom line. But this can all be avoided by keeping a few things in mind.

Barcode Orientation and Size

There are two ways a barcode can appear on security labels; it can either be placed horizontally much like the rungs of a ladder, or vertically like a fence. The latter is preferable, because the likelihood that the barcode will be unreadable is far less.

The size of a barcode can also affect its readability. Generally speaking, barcodes become more difficult to read the smaller they get. In order for a small barcode to be readable, it must be incredibly clear. And this is where image resolution comes in.

High-Res Images

The more dots per inch any image has, the more clarity it will have. This is certainly true of barcodes. Small barcodes need to be of incredibly high resolution in order to be able to be read by scanners. As well, any numbers situated beneath the barcode should be readable as well, but by the naked eye.

Printer Maintenance

One of the most common and yet overlooked causes of unreadable barcodes is lack of print quality. And lack of print quality can often be attributed to poor printer maintenance. Specifically, there are two printer parts responsible for the clarity of all printed items including barcodes. These are the platen roller and the thermal print head. Both will have a dramatic effect on the print quality of your barcodes.

A worn platen roller can cause areas of missing print, or in the case of barcodes, missing gaps. This can render a barcode unreadable. If the thermal print head is dirty or contains foreign objects like dust particles, a fuzzy printout will be the result. This can be especially disastrous for small barcodes.

Both the platen roller and thermal print head can be cleaned with wipes specifically for this purpose. It is recommended that this type of cleaning be done for the roller and the print head whenever your print media changes.

Printer Calibration

The way in which a printer is calibrated can also contribute to poorly-printed barcodes. Things like print head pressure, temperature and other factors can make the proper printing of barcodes nearly impossible. Where the calibration of a printer is in question and more input is needed, it can help to have a professional take a look and calibrate the machine.

Media Type

Another very common cause of unreadable bar codes is using the incorrect media or ribbon. Some ribbon materials can work well with a label type, whilst others do not. If this is the problem, it can help to consult the information that came with the printer, which can sometimes reveal the answer. The information included with the ribbon can also provide clues as to which media may work best. A good way to determine if the media/ribbon combination is incorrect is when the printed bar code is difficult to read. Another indicator is if the ink smudges easily.

When combined with the right label material, the ink of a bar code can sink into the substrate, allowing it to remain readable for much longer, thereby allowing it to be tracked regardless of the distance an object must travel.

Asset Tag, Or Barcode Label?

When considerbarcode taging the right security labels for your application, you will be faced with two choices: the asset tag, or the barcode label. Each has its advantages, but which label type is right for you?

Barcodes
There are many different products that fall under the barcode label definition. Barcode labels actually make up an incredibly large part of the market today, and can be seen on virtually every product we buy.

But in general, the bar code label communicates data in a machine-readable, fast and virtually error-free way. When a bar code label is scanned, a data set is revealed, or it references some sort of content located in a central database. But that’s the only use for barcode labels.

Tracking
Barcode labels are used in the mailing industry to track all manner of items, whether it is stock on pallets in a store, containers in a warehouse or an envelope or parcel being delivered to a home or office.

Organising
Barcode labels can also be used to organise things like inventory in a warehouse, items located on racks or shelves, and even items that may be sold on a showroom floor.

Systemising
The central database access that barcode labels contain can also be used in offices where there are many folders or files. From that central database, information about the location, date and time of modification and other attributes of files and folders can be revealed.

Expediting
The fact that bar codes can be so easily read and information so quickly revealed make them ideal for environments where commercial or retail products need to be or tend to be sold quickly.

Asset Tags
In situations where valuable property needs to be tracked, asset tags can provide a secure method of doing so. The tracking and securing of asset tags occurs via an asset management system. Commonly-tracked items include:

  • Fixed machinery;
  • Tools;
  • Vehicles and construction machinery;
  • Medical equipment, computers and electronics;
  • Office furniture.

Asset tags can also be used to track property information like a description of the item, where it is located, what kind of condition it’s in, service records and similar information.

Physical Differences of Labels and Tags
Where bar code security labels are often pressed down onto an object, a tag will normally attach to an item via a ring and dangle loosely. However, the asset tag is a little bit different. These too are usually pressed to an item’s surface.

Due to reasons of efficiency and economy, most bar code labels are inexpensive as well as lightweight. In an indoor office environment, barcode labels are usually printed onto paper with an adhesive backing. These types of barcode are not intended for long-term use.

The asset tag, however, is of a more permanent nature. Because they are used to secure and identify property, asset tags must be able to withstand the weather, as well as any upset due to transportation or inventory.

Ease of Creation
The bar code label can be printed from virtually anywhere using software as simple as a word processing programme. Of course, there are more advanced options available that allow for more complex barcodes to be printed.

The asset tag must last over the long term, and as such, must be printed on a more durable material, usually aluminium or polyester. Some asset tags contain images for greater security, which are embedded in the tag’s material itself.

The tag you choose will depend entirely on what is being labelled, and how secure that labelling needs to be.

How to Protect your Assets using Custom Tracking Labels

asset trackingAsset tracking is a highly useful tool for companies to perform a variety of tasks ranging from inventory control to loss prevention. As modern technology continues to provide new and better ways to track assets, businesses today have many cost-effective options for using asset security labels and custom tracking labels to improve their systems.

A custom tracking label is an excellent resource for any type of business or organization. Using customized security labels can help companies retrieve stolen or lost assets as well as prevent theft and loss; aid in accurate record keeping and inventory management; streamline your tracking system into a unified process, and even keep track of maintenance and repair.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if your business is considering using custom tracking labels to protect your assets:

Determine which of your Assets Require Custom Tracking Labels

In addition to valuable or important assets, consider your moveable assets; for example, office equipment such as computers and phones can be moved multiple times within the same company, making it necessary to track their movement and verify ownership.

Decide which Type of Label Material Best Suits your Needs

There are specialized tracking labels for a variety of environments, indoors and outdoors, to withstand even the harshest conditions. For assets with a lesser risk of loss or damage, you might use barcode labels, which can be made of metal, plastic or vinyl, and contain a unique barcode and serial number. Barcode labels can also carry your company name/logo and contact number. Microchips also have a unique number that can be scanned and can be more tamper-proof than barcodes. Metallic labels are among most durable and long-lasting; your information is sealed into the label, making it resistant to harsh weather, chemicals, abrasion, and more.

Include Customized Information on your Labels

Many businesses use a title, such as “Property Of” or “For Service Call,” along with the company name, location, and contact number, for their asset tracking labels. Some labels can also feature the company logo. Serial numbers can provide an added measure of protection, provided a high-quality label is used.

Properly Apply your Asset Labels

If applying the custom labels yourself, keep in mind that many adhesives will take up to 72 hours to be completely adhered, especially with an irregular surface. Be sure to follow the instructions for application and storage to achieve the best results from your asset security labels. Also, carefully consider the location before placing your labels on your equipment. They should not be put in a spot that is hard to get to, but asset tracking labels should be placed in a location that is not very easily seen, and away from areas that encounter frequent wear.

Considering you have chosen the best type, material, personalized information, and location for your custom labels, asset tracking should be a cinch for your business. More and more companies are taking advantage of the benefits and peace of mind provided by asset tracking with custom labels.