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Unless you’ve never been in a grocery store or shopping mall, barcodes aren’t exactly a novel technology. We’re all familiar with ubiquitous UPC codes, but in recent years the advent of complex barcode technologies and the proliferation of QR codes for social purposes has people reevaluating just how important barcodes can be.
Evolutionarily, barcodes are one of the most adaptable technologies of the last half-century. Every time someone runs into an apparent Achilles heel for the technology, a cost-effective, functional solution appears. Harsh work environments? Laser-imprinted barcodes. Dust and dirt? Teflon-coated barcodes. Not enough information? 2D and high capacity barcodes. There really is a barcode solution for almost any scenario. And for the most part, scanning technology is largely the same as it was 40 years ago, implementation costs are dirt-cheap. Functional scanners are so readily available that anyone with a smartphone has the ability to scan, which has led to a barcode renaissance, if you will.
The most apparent use for barcodes still remains in commercial applications (UPC codes for retail, groceries, etc), but their use in industrial settings can have a much more significant impact. Barcodes provide a cost-effective way of tracking inventory, employee time and attendance, manufacturing costs, and provide both ease of use for employees and unprecedented insight for executives. Most ERP systems have some sort of barcode functionality built in, so anyone with a system can reap the benefits that they provide, often with a very high return on investment and short payback period. For the same reasons that make barcodes extremely cheap and effective on a personal level; cost and simplicity, companies can leverage
Of course, with all technologies there are good and bad ways to leverage their benefits. You could either use barcodes to prevent the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, or you could use your own barcodes to rip off toy suppliers, your choice. We’re here to inform, not judge.