How To Create a Barcode
No matter where you look nowadays, barcodes are everywhere. They are on every food item we buy, every piece of clothing, and every piece of packaging. Barcodes have transformed how manufacturers and retailers store and find essential product data.
But what is a barcode exactly, and how are they made? This post will discuss the benefits of having barcodes and the process used to create them.
What Is A Barcode?
In simple terms, a barcode is a machine-readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths (1D barcode) – or squares if a QR code is used (2D barcode), printed on a product to identify it.
A barcode scanner or barcode reader can then scan these barcodes and use the information provided to identify the product, its price, if it’s in stock or other important information.
Benefits Of Barcodes
Using barcodes in label manufacturing has multiple benefits for goods manufacturers, retailers, and customers. It is widely agreed that there are five main benefits: accuracy, real-time data access, reduced staff training, superior inventory control, and low cost.
Barcodes provide information about a product, where it is, and how many of them there are. Prior to the introduction of barcodes over 50 years ago, a person would have to manually enter all of these details, which could lead to mistakes and miscounts.
With a barcode, the only thing that would need to be done is for the item to be scanned. The information will then be stored on a system that can be accessed at any time.
When an item is scanned, the information from that scan is immediately sent to a central system that updates the database. If the product in question is sold, the system will update to reflect this.
This allows manufacturers and retailers to constantly know where products are, how many of them they have, and if they need to restock sometime soon.
Using barcodes and barcode scanners is one of the easiest things to learn and understand. This allows companies to lower their training times for new employees and means the process of cataloguing items can be done much quicker.
Inventory control, especially in a warehouse or factory, is critical. Running out of stock of a product or item you need to make something can lead to slower manufacturing and delivery times and will end up costing you money.
A barcode system and database give you more control over your stock levels and will ensure you always have enough of what you need.
The complexity of creating barcodes is relatively low compared to the benefits it presents. Using barcode generating software is a cost-effective way to manage stock that can be scaled if and when necessary. This makes them perfect for small, at-home operations and much larger ones.
Common Barcode Types
There are multiple types of barcodes used worldwide, and each is used for a particular purpose or type of item. Three of the most common ones you have probably seen before are linear and 2 D barcodes, namely UPCs, EANs, and QR Codes.
A UPC barcode is one you have probably seen hundreds, even thousands of times. It stands for “Universal Prpduct Code,” and it is made up of 12 unique digits. UPCs are often used on products that are sold in retail stores.
The EAN barcode is very similar to a UPC, but still differs in a couple of significant ways. A UPC barcode is 12 digits, and you will find it in the USA, while an EAN barcode is 13 digits. They are still both part of the GS1 System, but are separated by country, not necessarily use.
QR codes have become commonplace nowadays almost everywhere we go. QR stands for “Quick Response” and the barcode stores information in a series of pixels, instead of numbers like a UPC or EAN barcode.
QR codes have become popular as they are able to store URLs, mostly to company websites or to a store or website where you can instantly download the app for said company.
A barcode comprises three key components; the quiet zone (margin), start character/stop character, and the check digit (symbol check character). Each of these components is necessary to have a complete barcode.
The quiet zone is the empty white area around a barcode. If there is insufficient quiet zone around the barcode it will make the barcode harder to scan or not scan at all.
The start and stop characters represent the beginning and end of the data string and will vary depending on the type of barcode.
The check digit is a digit for checking whether the encoded barcode data are correct.
How to Create a Barcode
There are two main routes a company can take when creating barcodes. The first is to create them themselves using online tools or accounting software. The barcodes can be linked to the products in their databases for easy and quick access.
This software will need to be combined with a barcode printer, as it can be inefficient to try and print them with a regular printer. While there are benefits to doing it yourself, it becomes highly ineffective if your products are being sent to, or sold through, a third party.
When this happens, businesses need to register with GS1. This organization will then give your company a unique ID and access to the GS1 data hub, where you can access and manage your barcodes.
You will be given your GS1 company prefix, which will be the first few digits on your barcode. After that, you will then need to assign numbers to your stock, which will need to be used to create the barcode. You will also need to decide on a method of printing, depending on the type of barcode you are using.
You will also need to figure out the size of barcode you will be using, and this will depend on where it will be scanned; does it need to be big enough for warehouse scanning, small enough for a product on the shelf, or both?
If you have any issues or questions when creating a barcode, your GS1 contact will be more than helpful in deciding the specifics, especially when it comes to best practice.