The Way of the Future
Bar codes mean profits for both the distributor and the customer
By Janet R. Gross
The industry is nearly 30 years old and its traditional products still account for a majority of sales, but new technology and applications are transforming it as the market grow rapidly. No, it's not forms, but bar codes.
Bar codes represented an $8.3 billion North American market in 1997, according to Venture Development, with industry growth rates pegged at 13.5 percent annually through 2001. Distributors can profit in two ways--by selling bar-coded products and by offering supplies. Either way, knowledge of the customer's hardware, software and the application is essential.
Rowan Business Forms, Salisbury, N.C., has specialized in bar codes for 15 years and helped develop the bar code fact finder distributed by DMIA. "There's a whole litany of questions on there," noted Marny Hendrick, Rowan's sales and marketing manager.
Necessary information ranges from symbology, numbering requirements and character density to stock, form type and specifications on the bar code scanner that will be used. That last one is important, as older scanners may not be able to read all the codes that can now be produced, requiring, for example, more ink density.
Application information includes not just how the bar code will be used, such as product identification or inventory control, but also environmental conditions. Will it be used indoors or out, exposed to moisture, chemicals or ultraviolet light and in what temperature range?
In some cases, the equipment vendor may not have recommended the best symbology for the job. Hen-drick described a state district court tracking taped evidence. The customer wanted a consecutive Post-net bar code, which Hendrick felt was unnecessarily complex.
Dick Thornburg, vice president of Adams Business Forms, Topeka, Kan., agreed, saying informed distributors can bridge the gap bet-ween forms and the software and hardware systems that support bar codes. "You have to make it as simple and inexpensive as possible for the customer, but still functional," he said. Talk to a customer's quality control or MIS personnel who developed the application rather than the purchasing department.