7 Ways Barcodes Make Your Life Easier

Over the last 15 years, I seen many examples of barcodes improving business processes. That’s because bar codes are used to allow information to be transferred from printed media to another system or process automatically.

My first application that used barcodes in anger was at the Digital Print World exhibition. We created a Digital Show Guide that complemented the offset printed version which contained everything. The idea was that users could come and get their personalised booklets – on demand – digitally printed and finished.  Creating the booklet was quite simple, but the finisher was off-line which meant we fed it stacks of imposed duplex sheets that needed to be batch converted into books – each one being a different number of pages. In order to know when to fold and finish a book we had to use barcodes containing the set and sheet number set 1, sheet 1 of 8; 2 of 8 etc. which meant that the finisher – which had a barcode reader – was able to handle variable sized booklet production. It was all very cool – and at the time almost unheard of.

Here are other ways I found barcodes useful

Delivery notes: printed barcodes allow handheld scanners to check in stock without the need to enter the data manually – this saves time for checking in stock and reduces errors which means a more optimised stock profile.

Manufacturing: barcodes printed on assembly items allow machines to recognise which options or components need to be used on a specific build. Such innovations in the manufacturing process has resulted in customers being able to choose their products (printers, computers and even cars) which a much wider variety of options.

Envelopes & Inserters: when printing invoices or statements that need to go into envelopes, a barcode (or OMR) can be used to tell an off-line inserter how many pages should be inserted into each envelope. The bar codes can include sequence numbers as well as page counters to provide a high level of integrity – very important when sending an invoice!

Medical: Tracking of patient movements and test results have long been achieved through barcodes. When a patient arrives in A&E, the healthcare system will produce data from which several barcodes per patient will be produced on label stock. Without these bar coded labels, patient management would become a major headache.

Print to Web: I really like this one;  a QR Code, when added to a poster, allows people with smartphones to scan them and be taken to a web page where offers can be made in return for providing information. The QR Code can be unique to the point where it can provide a reference on location as well. If you know where a potential customer is and how to communicate with them – then you have a great prospect.

Incoming mail: By adding a client specific barcode before or after one or more scanned document, it’s possible to create an automated inbound mail workflow for routing hard copy mail to email. Such a solution can improve internal processes, but also enable your mail handling to be outsourced.

Closed the loop on Documents: by adding barcodes to documents that are distributed but expected to be returned (delivery notes, loan agreements, applications forms), inbound processes can be made much more efficient. The barcode (which is unique) can identify the document type and the specific client which means that when it’s scanned, a document management system can automatically route it to the next relevant stage.

I <3 Barcodes

As you can see barcodes are generally used to reduce data entry errors and improve processes whenever humans or different systems or workflows need to work together. Being small and perfectly formed and capable of such great things probably explains why I love bar codes so much 🙂