Bar code quality

Barcodes simplify the flow of goods and information from manufacturer to carrier, in the warehouse, in the hospital and in the store. Things can be done faster and the chance of a number being wrong is reduced when it is read with a scanner rather than being input manually. That the barcode is readable is a prerequisite for these flows to work.

Tips for good readability and reliable scanning

  •  Clean the printer heads thoroughly at regular intervals. If the printer is used intensively for labels, daily cleaning of the heads can be required. Check with your label printer supplier for maintenance advice.
  • Check-scan the barcodes continuously or selectively to ensure quality is maintained.
  • Choose a label material of high-quality since this often pays off.
  • Choose a label material which can tolerate wear and tear during handling, for example by rubbing, exposure to sunlight and wet without losing its readability.
  • Adjust the barcode module width to the symbology, application and size of the item. Remember that greater module width gives better readability. For example, a pallet label is often scanned from a distance by a scanner fixed to a moving truck. A large module width will be required to ensure that the barcode can be scanned reliably.
  • Adjust the barcode height to the symbology, application and size of the item. Remember that a small barcode height reduces readability.
  • Put the label on squarely since it is often read by a fixed scanner which only emits a horizontal beam.
  • Take care to apply the label so that there are no folds. A fold in the label can make it impossible to read.
  • In order for the barcode to be readable there must always be a light margin to the left and right of the barcode’s start and stop symbols. The light margin is an empty space which is needed so that adjacent information such as the package artwork will not interfere with reading.

Check the bar code with GS1 BarcodeCheck

If you would like help checking that your barcode is of sufficiently high quality, you can use our service GS1 BarcodeCheck. We check the barcode against GS1 standards so that you can be sure that it will work when it is used.

Read more about GS1 BarcodeCheck

Standards for barcode quality control

ISO/IEC 15416 is the globally applied procedure for checking the quality of barcodes. A number from 1 to 5 is used to grade the quality of the barcode. The method described in ISO/IEC 15416 is technically aligned with ANSI which GS1 Sweden uses for barcode quality control. The ANSI standard uses the letters A to F to grade the quality of the barcode. A to D are acceptable barcodes and F for those which fail.

GS1s standards require that barcodes shall have a quality of ANSI "Grade C" (corresponding to ISO/IEC 15416 "Grade 2") when the item reaches its best before date or, when no such date exists, at the time when the barcode will normally have ceased to be used in the supply chain.

Download GS1 Bar Code Verification for Linear symbols (pdf)

GS1s template for barcode quality control

In both ISO/IEC 15416 and the ANSI standard there is a description of the parameters which are to be checked at barcode quality control. These parameters include checks that the barcode has the correct dimensions, that the contrast between light and dark bars is sufficiently high and that there are no defects to interfere with scanning.

When you check your barcodes with GS1 BarcodeCheck service you will receive a report showing which parameters passed or failed according to GS1s standards. The report uses a template based on ISO/IEC 15416. The template has been developed by GS1 internationally in cooperation with other GS1 organisations and users of GS1 standards.