What is a Bar Code?According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Main Entry: bar code
: a code consisting of a group of printed and variously patterned bars and spaces and sometimes numerals that is designed to be scanned and read into computer memory as identification for the object it labels
We can also add that a bar code label is the most important component in an alpha-numeric data entry system, replacing other data entry approaches such as manual keyboard entry. Alphabetic characters and numbers are directly entered into a computer by using a bar code label scanning tool, much like those used in a supermarket checkout counter.
Once scanned, the data is transmitted through the decoding scanner tool and relayed back to the appropriate application. A bar code label usually consists of a combination of thick bars and thin bars (binary level), or a combination of varying width bars and gaps between the bars (multi-level).
Why Bar Code Labels?
Bar codes are read at ultra high-speeds and depending on the scanning tool used, potentially thousands of items can be scanned and processed with in seconds. In addition, bar code labels offer a level of consistency that is unmatched through manual data entry approaches.
As a fail-safe, many bar code labels have a checkdigit encoded with it's architecture, which prevents data from being misread by the scanning tool. Data that does not pass the checkdigit test will not be entered into the computer.
Automatic Recognition refers to entry of data without the use of a keyboard or other manual means.
Several automatic recognition methods exist, such as Magnetic Automatic Recognition (bank card, credit card) and RFID (remote radio-wave query). On the otherhand however, the bar code label offers the ability to be mass produced, are cheaper than other approaches and are an efficient method of automatic recognition data entry. Helping to further popularize the use of bar code labels is the fact that they are available to everyone, its patents are licence-free, and it's usage has become a world-wide standard.
The Product Bar Code
The use of bar Codes on products came in to existence due to two key factors. The creation of computers and the demand on major retailers to find a solution to the ever-growing drain of time and expense caused by large line ups. In 1967, The Kroger Company, a major large scale chain retailer in the U.S., developed the first barcode-oriented entry system.
The Introduction of UPC and EAN
A nationally-standardized rule was created and helped to spread bar code technology across the U.S. In 1973, with the help of the American Food Chain Association, the Universal Product Code (UPC) was born. This meant that each product would be assigned a unique UPC.
Computer improvements and the spread of the common product code, resulted in the development of Point Of Sale technology. POS made it possible to manage sales at the register, to record sale information, for purchasing & selling strategies, trend analysis, inventory and stock management, and more. POS has become and indespensible tool for retailers, large and small.
Universal Product Code
The Universal Product Code allocates unique numbers to every product.
Universal Product Code consists of
- flag, for indicating the country, 2-3 digits,
- maker code, 5-7 digits,
- item code, 5 or 3 digits,
- checkdigit, for preventing from errors, 1 digit
How Mass Merchandisers Use Bar coding Technology
Source marking is generally the printing or attaching of bar codes onto mass-produced merchandises at the moment of production. Mass merchandisers first receive goods packed in carton cases or similar. Standard Logistics Symbol (ITF) barcodes are printed on these cases indicating the item codes, quantity of contents, time, shipping Company, the cost price, payment information, etc. This information is automatically entered into a computer terminal.
The selling price is then determined for the specific product and is entered into the terminal. The price can be changed at anytime by the retailer.
This type of product is called "PLU" product because its Price is Looked Up on the computer at the cash register.
In store-marked products include meats, vegetables and fish. Bar code labels are affixed to these products by the retailer because these products are fresh food products. This is done because these products are ussually weighed, packaged and marked in store.
The price of these products is calculated as the unit price per 100 grams. The weighing machine calculates the price of each package in accordance with its weight and prints a barcode label that is representative of that product.
An In store-marked bar code is passable only in the store that it's purchased in, or within the specific logistics route.
Products like this are called "NON-PLU" products because their prices aren't looked up by the computer but are instead obtained directly from the barcode label.