The Risks of Using the Wrong Barcode Supplies
by Karl Trepagnier | Senior Solutions Architect
While barcode printing supplies may seem like a simple part of your business, using the wrong ones can have far-reaching implications. What starts as a relatively small issue can quickly escalate into larger problems, and unscannable labels can result in chargebacks, costly fines, and increased expenses.
"In addition to chargebacks, using the wrong barcode supplies can lead to hefty fines."
Using the right barcode labels and materials, along with regular label quality control can go a long way toward ensuring high print quality, preventing shipment disruptions, and avoiding unnecessary costs.
Let’s take a look at how using the wrong barcode printing supplies can hurt your business.
Unscannable barcode labels
If your printer supplies start to degrade without notice, your barcode labels can suddenly become unscannable. When this happens, the data that would normally be captured by the barcode scanner must be entered manually into your systems. This increases the risk of errors and time to ship, which can result in inaccurate data, late shipments, and unhappy customers.
Effective quality control processes, including regular test scans or using a barcode verifier can minimize the risk of unscannable barcodes before they impact your business, your customers, or your bottom line.
Unscannable labels are more than just an inconvenience – poor-quality barcodes are also one of the leading causes of chargebacks. While some level of chargebacks is expected in a growing supply chain operation, excessive numbers of chargebacks can be devastating, particularly for small businesses with tight cash flow. Inaccurate or unscannable UCC-128 labels or defective item ticketing can result in penalties per shipment, which can add up quickly. And delays caused by manual data entry of unscannable barcodes can lead to chargebacks for late shipments.
When retailers apply a chargeback for an unscannable barcode, they typically send you a report that explains why the barcode did not meet industry standards. If you’re using a barcode verifier, you can compare the barcode grade given by the retailer with the grade from your verifier. If there’s a discrepancy, you can choose to dispute the chargeback using this information instead of simply taking the retailer’s word for it.
In addition to chargebacks, using the wrong barcode supplies can lead to hefty fines. Some retailers have imposed strict requirements around barcode label design and placement, and non-compliance can result in stiff penalties. For example, Walmart’s case labelling policy recently changed, and it may force consumer packaged goods companies to modify their print method and labelling processes. While the monetary penalties for not complying with these guidelines haven’t been publically disclosed, the new policy is another example of how using the wrong supplies can put your profits at risk.
Risks beyond your warehouse
Most distributors and suppliers focus on getting product out the door, but chargebacks and unplanned expenses can also result from damage to your labels after they leave your facility.
Here at Peak-Ryzex Direct, we recently spoke with a customer that was experiencing an increase in chargebacks due to unscannable labels. The company was using direct thermal labels, which are designed with a special coating that marks more easily than thermal transfer labels. During the shipping process, as the packages got scraped and scratched, so did the labels. This created lines and markings across some of the barcodes, making them unreadable and resulting in chargebacks.
During the shipping process, as the packages got scraped and scratched, so did the labels. This created lines and markings across some of the barcodes, making them unreadable and resulting in chargebacks.
While there isn't a guaranteed solution to this problem, some companies use multiple labels on the box to increase the chance that one of them will be readable at their destination. Another option is to use thermal labels that aren't as susceptible to markings. Both of these options will increase the cost of barcode supplies, but reducing chargebacks will save money in the long run. You can't always control what happens to your shipments, but you still need to prepare as best you can.
Label materials and adhesive
Another costly mistake is using the wrong type of label material for your application. If your labels will be exposed to extreme cold, moisture, or chemicals, you should consider using label materials that are designed specifically for the demands of your environment.
Without the right label material and adhesive, the corners of your labels can peel, allowing them to easily stick to another box. When the box is moved, the label gets ripped apart and the full barcode is no longer visible. If you’re using the wrong labels, they won’t stay adhered throughout the shipping process, which can result in unscannable barcodes and chargebacks.
Choosing the right label material depends on the requirements of your product and application. For example, a frozen foods distributor may require freezer labels that can handle temperature fluctuations and moisture. As frozen products move from the freezer environment to the loading dock to a refrigerated truck, the labels can be exposed to cold and moisture. Using the wrong adhesive type can cause labels to release from the item surface. If your labels will be exposed to freezing temperatures, the right labels can help make sure your barcodes are still readable when the item reaches its destination.
Cost-efficient barcode supplies
Reducing unnecessary reorders and reprints can help keep operating costs under control. For example, printheads are typically the most expensive part of a printer, and poor quality supplies can cause them to fail earlier than expected. While all printheads have to be replaced eventually, using high-quality labels and properly maintaining your printheads can extend their lifespan. By purchasing printheads less often, you can reduce the total cost of ownership for your barcoding equipment.
Using higher quality labels that undergo a more rigorous quality control process can reduce dust inside your printer. As labels pass through the printer, they can carry dust onto your printhead and other parts of the machine, which affects print quality. Along with regular cleaning and maintenance, keeping dust and dirt out of your barcode printer will help prolong its life.
What if your printhead fails unexpectedly? Print quality will start degrading, which means many of your labels will be unscannable and wasted. And when your printer can no longer print labels, your operation will have to shut down until the printhead is replaced. In many cases, a qualified technician must install the new printhead, so keeping up with regular printer maintenance can minimize downtime for your business.
Bad labels are bad for business
Using high-quality barcode supplies can make your business more dependable and save money in the long run. For small and midsize businesses in particular, delivering reliable service to customers is mission-critical. The right supplies can make sure you’re prepared to meet fluctuating customer demands and stay competitive in the marketplace.
So why take a risk with poor-quality supplies? Keep costs under control and reduce the risk of chargebacks and fines by using the right supplies at all times.
At Peak-Ryzex Direct, we can help you find the best fit labels for your industry or application. Try the Supplies Finder tool now or contact one of our experts for advice.
Senior Solutions Architect, Peak-Ryzex
As a dedicated solutions architect for Peak-Ryzex Direct customers, Karl brings extensive technical expertise with multiple data collection technologies, including WLAN, RFID, mobile computing, printing, media and software. Prior to joining Peak-Ryzex, Karl spent eight years in the RFID industry where he focused on the healthcare and pharmaceuticals markets. Before that, Karl spent 26 years at Intermec as a Sr. Field Engineer.
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