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Definition: Bar Code
Bar code is one of the ways to represent data in an optical, machine-readable form. It began with the use of only parallel lines representing data only by varying the width of parallel lines. Though there has been an evolution and the current format also makes use of 2d-figures such as rectangles, hexagons etc.
Barcodes date their presence back to the time when they were used to label railroad cars but were unsuccessful until their commercial usage in supermarkets.
The image below shows a typical barcode.
Barcodes are classified as numeric-only barcodes, alpha-numeric barcodes and 2-D barcodes. Linear barcodes make use of lines and spaces of varying widths to create unique patterns for mapping product information. Matrix barcodes are a two-dimensional representation of product information and can covey more information per unit area of the pattern. Barcodes offer several operating advantages such as ease of use, scalability, efficiency, asset and security tracking, reduction in losses, productivity improvements and cost effectiveness.
The process of mapping product information to barcodes is called symbology. The process involves encoding the alpha-numeric product information into its equivalent barcode graphical representation. The product information and the mapping relations are stored in a database for quick recovery at the time of retrieval via optical readers or scanners. Compilation of historical data through the product database can be used to accurately predict seasonal sales fluctuations. Barcode verification is the process of ensuring that the barcode quality and readability is in compliance with established industry standards.
Barcode usage has become ubiquitous in retail outlets for quick customer billing and service and also to reduce instances of shoplifting. The below figure shows a list of barcode types, the corresponding symbology and applications.