Bar Code Standards
Corporate Bar Code Standard:
Symbology, Print Quality, and Application Standards
There is an overwhelming need for bar code standards when a major industry, trading partners, equipment manufacturers like Sauer Danfoss and end users all require the same information. Everyone in the supply chain must know what information is contained within the symbol, what it signifies, how to read the symbol and utilize the information. Every bar code standard has three parts. With bar code there must be a bar code symbol standard, a print quality standard, and an application standard.
A symbology standard explains in great detail the data elements needed to print and scan the code. The format of the encoded data, bar widths, required measurements, and how data is decoded are a few of the many details found in this part of the overall specification. Normally these technical specifications are of little importance to end users like POT’s, but are important for engineering and IT when matching up printers and scanners like the Zebra printers and the Symbol scanners that are used in our manufacturing locations.
The print quality standard determines allowable printing tolerances and sets the quality level required by everyone who needs to scan the symbol. The goal is to be able to use the same symbol standard information in a standard format at a standard quality level. Zebra printers use a direct thermal transfer process that has a polyester ribbon interposed between a thermal print head and the label. The heat from a print head occasionally needs to be calibrated to release the ink from a Mylar ribbon and make it adhere to the label surface accurately. By correct selection of the label material and the ribbon a very strong bond is obtained between the ink and the label surface. A polyester glossy label requires different sensitivity to heat than a plain paper label and the print head needs to be adjusted to match the characteristics of the label used. Operators need a trained eye or a calibration tool (bar code verifier) to guarantee printer performance especially when using multiple types of labels. Standards reduce errors.
The application standard describes how to apply the code. It will explain what data must appear in the symbol, who generated the data, the format, what data must be on what line, the maximum characters per line, etc. It directs how we apply the code to meet our own unique internal and external customer needs. It describes the varied range of label materials and any special (oily) requirements that can drive up the price as SD recently discovered with the polyester/glossy labels vs. paper labels used to print dispatch labels on the M46 line. Low quality bar codes on a factory line can usually be traced to poor workmanship or lack of understanding of bar code symbol requirements. Standards reduce costs.
Industry Standards provide a common means of communication of business data between partners. Standards are available from industry associations like the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG). There is nothing new about industry standards to Sauer Danfoss but there are no corporate bar code standards that exist at SD. Symbology, Print Quality, and Application Standards will help make fewer mistakes and help eliminate mistakes.
Scott T. Olson