All the talk about radio frequency identification technology makes it easy to believe that traditional bar codes are on their last legs. Not so, according to many experts. In fact, bar code technology will continue to be the “workhorse” of the industry for some time to come.
“We are getting tons of calls on RFID, but most of them are ‘tire-kickers,’” reports Mike Stryczek, president of American Barcode Corp., a Phoenix, AZ-based distributor representing more than a dozen automated data collection manufacturers. Currently, a bar code label costs a fraction of a cent, whereas an RFID tag runs about 50 cents and may eventually get down to five cents. But according to Alex Henkel, executive VP of Electronic Imaging Materials, a supplier of specialty labeling systems in Keene, NH, “While RFID is coming sometime in the future, it is probably not the best choice for most companies right now.”
So why should you continue to use bar coding applications? Take a look at these attractive innovations:
New printer technology is becoming more popular for tagging products in a warehouse or to cross-dock. Dan Belanger, president of Beltech Group, a bar code technology consulting firm in Grand Rapids, MI, predicts that “we will see more people walking around warehouses with printers on their hips.”
2-D BAR CODES
Two-dimensional technology “stacks” what looks like a number of one-dimensional codes, significantly increasing the amount of data that can be stored. “Two-dimensional bar codes allow shipping documents to be stored in a bar code,” Henkel says.
Time- and temperature-sensitive labels are available for products that need to be delivered within a certain time period or within certain temperature ranges. “The label will indicate whether the product has been outside of the acceptable time and temperature ranges,” says Henkel.
And then there are bumpy tags, “bar codes that are engraved into metallic surfaces that operate in high-stress environments where the metal can’t be labeled,” reports Gary Eastham, product development manager at Wasp Technologies, a Plano, TX-based maker of bar coding software and equipment.
Another new technology — often incorporated directly into printers — allows online verification as labels are generated. As each label is generated, the system checks to make sure it has not only an acceptable bar code, but also the information it is supposed to have. “If not, the label can be cancelled out, pulled back, and removed from the supply stream,” Henkel says.
William Atkinson is a business writer who can be reached at email@example.com.
American Barcode Corp.