There are two misconceptions in the consumer goods supply chain: First, a barcode scanner and a barcode verifier do the same thing. Second, verifying barcodes is a complicated ordeal.  From packaging to parcel delivery, bad barcodes slow processes down, and in the case of the parcel industry, time is of the essence.


Why cant a scanner verify?  Because thats not its designed function; its function is to capture the encoded data from a barcode. A scanners decoding software varies depending on the brand and model.  Some scanners are more aggressive or more capable than others. Symbols that can be read by aggressive scanners may be unreadable with a different scanner. More importantly, a scanner cannot quantify quality or identify specific problems if the symbol doesnt read.


To address this and provide a reliable predictor for readability, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) X3.182-1990 was developed. The standard provides for a numeric or alphabetic grade of symbol quality. The grade itself is made up of eight parameters (AIM symbologies have nine), with intimidating names like modulation, edge determination and reflectance minimum and requires up to 10 scans.


A properly configured verifier handles all these requirements. Barcode verifiers measure and compare the ANSI values of a printed barcode symbol against set values to determine print quality. Youll know with the pull of a trigger or the wave of a wand the symbols ANSI grade. In its simplest form, a verifier gives you a go/caution/no-go result that anyone can understand.


Verifiers are essential to help you troubleshoot as well. Most verifiers can tell you, with the press of a key or two, the values of each parameter and which are causing quality problems. More advanced verifiers offer benefits such as format checks, check-digit calculators, a printed element-by-element report and may even interface to PC verification software.


As far as verification being complicated, its not. Once you purchase a verifier and establish your baseline quality, proper random sampling is all thats necessary. If youre printing individual labels on demand, a verifier near the printer can be used to check symbols periodically, such as at the beginning, middle and end of a shift. When printing batches of labels, verification at the beginning, middle and end of every print run is recommended.  Depending on the number of labels run, age and condition of the printer, service history and other factors, you may need to sample more or less often. You will certainly want to increase sampling if youve recently had problems, changed to a new type of media or are printing a new type of label.


Is the investment in a barcode verifier a smart move? Absolutely. Although you may not face chargebacks being issued by some major retailers for unreadable barcode symbols on products and packaging, an unreadable barcode will bump your parcel off your carriers high-speed sortation line into a special handling area. Special handling can cost time. And if your customers want to read that same symbol after its been through the distribution channel, you need to make sure its high enough quality. Scanning cant do that. Only a verifier can.