So here is the scenario. You spent months deciding on your new parcel-shipping platform. The hardware is in place, the software runs like a champ, your new printer fires out perfect labels � at least, that�s what you thought.
In today�s parcel marketplace, most of us continue to look for more service from our carriers at less cost. In order to provide what we expect, the FedEx�s and UPS�s of the world continue to strive for more productivity gains. And why not? One productivity gain your carrier continues to target is the number of packages per hour moved through the hub. So over the years, the sortation systems have continued to gain speed in an effort to decrease hub cost per package.
Direct thermal labels (runs with no ribbon) continue to gain market share in the shipping arena due to their ease of use. The difficulty of direct thermal bar quality is more of a challenge to control when compared to thermal transfer applications (runs with a ribbon). This is primarily due to vast direct thermal material options that confuse users and label converters. There are plenty of label materials my company knows of that can produce a quality parcel shipping label that will scan in the carrier�s system depending on the printer.  There are only two materials that we have total confidence offering in all parcel applications for all printers.
A few families of direct thermal material are available today. The least expensive general-purpose material can print a perfect-looking label. The problem is, most times, it will fire out as a reject within your carrier�s hub. I am sure it will scan when sitting in place, but the best scanning equipment simply cannot pick up the space between the bars every time if the label material was never intended to be scanned at high rates of speed (500 feet per minute and rising).
If rejected, the scanner can�t relay information about your package, and therefore, the sortation equipment doesn�t know where it needs to go. So generally, your box will go to a specific area within the hub to have a new label assigned and inducted into the sortation system. The other option is to manually move your package to the correct outbound portion of the hub. If done manually and your package needs to travel through multiple hubs, the problem could happen all over again.
Remember, carriers are running on strict cut-off times to make the next sort, delivery vehicle or airplane. That is now in jeopardy and so is on-time service. In addition, we are now increasing the number of handlings, which raises our chance of damage. Bottom line is, we have increased our odds of having an unhappy customer. Your carrier�s productivity is now lost, too.
You can jump many of the hurdles before you ship your first package. First, if you are developing your own system, contact your carriers of choice for barcode specification manuals and follow them exactly. Second, talk to a label converter with experience in the parcel-shipping arena to insure you are using the right material for your printer. Third, read the  �How Low Can You Go� article on page 28. Last, PLEASE have your carrier or carriers test samples. Most carriers have barcode label testing facilities, but they can only help you if you let them.
Your customers count on you to get them product on time and damage-free. Don�t let a 3� product stop you from getting the job done.