Barcoding and Sequential Numbering on Your Product Labels Why Do it?

Barcoding and Sequential Numbering on Your Product Labels

Why Do it?

Apart from it being a humungous brand and product security asset, it’s also becoming extremely common in the fact that ‘QR’ codes are popping up on products everywhere!

QR Codes, Why Use Them?

QR coding has become popular as extra information a brand wants to convey to their customer can be added in this way, saving label space and putting across a cleaner design. Thus, making sure that everything still flows and is completely compliant on information in line with UK law and regulations.

By using QR codes you can present your brand website, information of specific content such as competitions your customer will be interested in seeing. This is a fantastic way to up your brand marketing and increase web-related traffic. Not only that but it makes your product harder to imitate and forge giving your brand and product security.

You can incorporate various QR codes within your packaging and product labelling, they can be pointers to not just your customers but your distributors and shipping handlers for further health and safety information should you wish to. Adding a call to action on your customised QR codes just above or below them is a great prompting technique to directly ask the user to ‘Scan here’ for whatever reasons on their devices, helping you to achieve your intended goal.

Should you want to use QR codes you need to consider the sizing and placement of them when integrating them within your packaging or labels. You’ll want to make sure they are legible and your label reads clearly with your QR code placed.

The Golden rule is to test the readability of your QR code with your device before finalising!

Some Advantages of use for QR Codes are:

  • Customer Focused usability (promotions, competitions, gamification, marketing)
  • Can Store a large amount of data
  • Royalty-Free
  • Social Sharing
  • Auto-linking Functionality
  • Greater Usage for information sharing such as recipes and instructions

But What About a Data Matrix?

The Data Matrix has similarities to the QR code in its 2D style and the fact you can get a lot of information once you have scanned it.

Data Matrix codes are omnidirectional the same as QR codes, meaning they can both be read from any angle.  They are similar in style and shape, although the data matrix will have a noticeable ‘L’ shape to one side of its code helping scanners locate the code. Unlike the QR code, many smartphones do not have the functionality to read a data matrix and require a third-party app.

A Data Matrix is generally printed in black and white. However, can be printed using different colour combinations providing there is sufficient contrast between the dark and light cells to enable readability, again the same as with a QR code. QR codes still have the edge over Data Matrix codes with customer-facing usability through smart devices.

Both Codes can carry the unique required GS1 codes including the GTIN number for product identification and can be easily printed to your label designs.  These codes also have error correction capability, meaning that if any part of the code becomes damaged or removed the selected device will still be able to read it.

The differences in sizing capabilities and functionality are what determine the best use of practise for either a data matrix or QR code to your labels.

Some advantages of use for data matrix are:

  • Solution marking – for individual parts and products within limited space (supply-chain traceability)
  • The only 2D codes approved by GS1 for regulated healthcare items (Anti-counterfeiting through serialisation)
  • The default code type for automotive and aerospace applications
  • Only capable of coding data in numeric and alphanumeric characters
  • Royalty-Free

As always for any style of printed code to come out properly, it needs to be tried and tested with materials, packaging, labels and the printing tools you have.

(Not to mention a fantastic labelling software such as Tolarus that can implement this with ease.)

So, What about 1D Barcodes?

These barcodes will likely be found on all product types and need to be in the same location on all similarly shaped products.

These barcodes have their own set of rules and regulations when it comes to products and may differ in certain product types, for example; the barcode should be no closer to a seam or packaging fold than 8mm. (The rules and regulations can be found on the government website.)

Barcodes used for distribution, traded units, pallet labels etc. will differ to guidelines for consumer goods, it is important to check you are using the right government guidelines for your product specification.

It is important that you think about the placement of the barcode with the materials and packaging used to determine best practise. (You wouldn’t want a barcode that is unreadable due to being placed too close to corners or obscured by final packaging materials.)

1D barcodes are not ‘error proof’ like the QR and Data Matrix codes, meaning that they can become unreadable if damaged or missing in part.

It is of utmost importance that the correct barcode is selected for the type of product (such as; EAN/ UPC-E), getting this wrong can result in some hefty legal action as well as unsellable stock!

Each of your product types should have different types of identifying numbers that are specifically established to your product type for example consumer goods will have different GTIN numbered product lines, so the scanner can determine for example a tin of beans is a tin of beans. It is a common misconception that these are linked with pricing, pricing is done and linked to your products using software provided and used by your retailers.

The quality of the barcodes must be high, so as not to disrupt costing, supply-chain, and point of sale operations for your business products. In order to do that, you need to follow the government guidelines in terms of sizing and proper sourcing of barcode files. In-house software is so far the easiest method to use that incorporates your unique barcode to your label design ready for testing and verification. (Again, Tolarus Software has all these functionalities and you can assign them to your specific products saving you time later!)

These barcodes need to have black bars on a white background in order for them to be readable. Again, the contrast is important and it is also important to not rely on the package or label colours to emit the correct contrast without testing.

There are very few colour combinations that are readable some examples are:

  • Black Bars on a White Background
  • High Blue, Black or Green contrast on a White yellow, orange or red background.
  • Any colours used must be pure colours and not colours used out of the four-colour printing process.
  • The contrast can be measured using verifiers that meet the correct international specification; ISO/IEC 15426-1.

You should add quiet zones to your barcode, though not always mandatory they are strongly recommended as a great safeguard to printing, these are the clear spaces to the left and right of the barcode you are intending to print. This is the main importance for the scanner to identify where the start and finish of your barcode is to become readable. These zones need to be the same colour as your barcode background for them to give the correct readable indication and safeguard your readability.

(Don’t forget you should never shorten the height of your barcode unless absolutely necessary!)

  • A great GS1 helper guide can be found here to see you through this complicated process with pictured examples.

So, Why Sequential Numbering?

Sequential numbered labels are also known as consecutive numbered labels and refer to an ascending or descending numerical sequence provided by the client, printer service used or required specification by law.

These numbers provide a great way to keep track of stock and a wide variety of product lines. (Used commercially or personally).

Using this system will give you the ability to know where products are, for example; traceability within the supply-chain. (Preventing theft, loss and fraud on your stock).

The most important difference between these types of codes and other barcodes is the fact you don’t need a scanner to be able to trace or identify these products. Giving them ease-of-use and making them easier to apply.

 (It is important to note that some specific product types, are already required to have these along with a 1D barcode for retailing purposes.)

Some label management software enables you to apply this straight onto your label design such as Tolarus, or you can get this done for you using in-house printing services.

The Main Take-away:

There are a variety of ways of barcoding, as discovered that you can implement within your labelling, packaging and distribution. The biggest and most important thing to note once you have chosen your method and printer/software provider, is that you follow the correct guidelines set out by the law and regulation of the country you plan on selling your product within.

Once everything is complete and you have effectively followed the correct legislation, you must test your printed design thoroughly using verification methods that support the correct specification to ensure your product can be scanned or identified as the correct product type and all of your label information meets the compliance criteria.

By choosing a great printer service and/ or software such as Tolarus, you can take most of the stresses away as they will have measures and support in place to help you achieve compliance and produce your best bespoke results!

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