Huzzard frequently helps businesses improve barcode scanning.  Specifically, we are asked to address the problem of not being able to read a barcode on the first scan.  Barcode scanner users often assume they will receive a successful read or decode on their first attempt. The measurement of this success is known as the first read rate.  The goal for the first read rate is always 100%.  100% success may be impossible to achieve when hitting a baseball, but it shouldn’t be impossible to achieve in your warehouse or stock room, checkin or checkout line, production line, or shipping and receiving area when it comes to scanning barcodes.  Are your barcode scans not at 100% first read rates? Read on.

What causes unsuccessful barcode reads?

  1. User or scanning environment
  2. Barcode label
  3. Barcode scanner

Improve Barcode scanning by training the user or changing the scanning environment

So, let’s start with some solutions that probably will not cost a lot of money or time. First, is the person using the scanner trained? The number one thing to communicate is the proper distance to hold the scanner from the barcode – the “sweet spot.” The “sweet spot” distance will vary depending on the scanner, the barcode being read and the environment. And, if you did your due diligence when testing successful reads before deploying your barcode application, the “sweet spot” distance should be readily available to share with all users. (Not to mention, what you have experienced firsthand.) To make it easy, one barcode scanner brand we offer enhances the ability to zero in on the optimal scan distance by showing two purple colored rectangles illuminated on the barcode that “touch” when the user has arrived at the correct distance for scanning.

Now, when you have a situation where the user is doing everything right, and the barcode scanner and the barcode label are a perfect match, the root problem may lie with the scanning environment itself. For example, scanning outside on a bright sunny day or scanning through stretch wrap, a double pane window, etc. may cause big problems for your users. In some environments, the scanner is going to have major challenges achieving a successful decode.  You may need to shield the bright sunlight, make changes to the settings on the scanner, or get a different type of scanner (this gets technical – contact Huzzard for more info).

Cognex fixed barcode reader reads through stretch wrap to improve barcode scanning.

Cognex fixed barcode reader reads through stretch wrap to improve barcode scanning.

Improve Barcode Scanning by changing the barcode or barcode label

Provided the user is dialed in on how to use the scan gun correctly, and nothing strange is happening in the scanning environment that negatively affects decodability, let’s focus on making sure the barcode and the barcode label (or tag/packaging material that the barcode is printed on) are able to enhance first read rates.

  1. Does the scan gun have the proper barcode symbology enabled?
  2. Does the “X” dimension of the barcode fall within the specified depth of field for the scan engine?  (Again, this gets technical – contact Huzzard for help)
  3. Does the barcode have the proper quiet zone?  The quiet zone is the space before, after and around a barcode.  Usually expected to be 10 times the “X” dimension.  Figure .25″ on both ends for a 15 mil X dimension.
  4. Is the barcode quality subpar?  A barcode of subpar quality could be directly related to a printing problem.  Depending on print technology, the inferior barcode could be caused by the wrong print speed and/or a mismatch of ribbon/ink formulation and substrate.
  5. Is there a laminate or clear stretch wrap covering the barcode that is causing a misread or no read?
  6. Are you scanning a long distance (more than 8-12 feet)? If so, the label material may need to be a retro-reflective face stock.
Warehouse location rack labels readable from long distance by using correct barcode X dimension and label material to improve barcode scanning.

Warehouse location rack labels readable from long distance by using correct barcode X dimension and label material to improve barcode scanning.

Improve Barcode Scanning by changing the barcode scanner

Maybe, just maybe, that barcode reader you purchased, or evaluating, is the root problem.

You know your barcode reader is the root problem if:

  1. The cable on the scanner limits how far the user can reach and they’re forced to manually type data because they cannot reach the barcode.  Get a cordless scanner!
  2. You have a scanner that has a depth of field that does not match the required scan distance expectation.
  3. You have a 1D barcode reader and need to scan a 2D barcode.
Zebra 3600 Ultra Rugged barcode scanner improves barcode scanning.

Zebra 3600 Ultra Rugged barcode scanner improves barcode scanning.

Summary

Barcoding is a great technology. It’s a technology that eliminates errors, quickly provides meaningful data and improves productivity.  Yet, like other technologies, it can fall short of its intended benefits if its connected elements fall out of specification.  The good news is barcodes that do not scan on the first attempt is a problem that is relatively easy to overcome when dealing with experts in the barcode field. Don’t settle for typing data when you are unable to scan a barcode.  Contact Huzzard and get back to utilizing barcode technology today.