Mislabelled shipments and illegible barcodes can result in rejected loads, or even compliance fines, and Datatrade is urging more businesses to put the processes in place to prevent this happening.

Datatrade has been supplying and maintaining industrial printers for over 30 years and is concerned by how more and more organisations are prepared to risk their profitability and reputation by allowing unauthorised access to the design/production of their barcode labels, or not monitoring their print quality.

“We’re seeing increasing evidence of this happening in supply chains,” says Peter Laplanche, a director at Datatrade. “Barcode labels enable retailers, manufacturers and logistics providers to track and trace goods and while most of them recognise how broken printers can stop product flow, few have grasped the vulnerability of the actual labels through either accidental or malign abuse.”

Peter claims that 90% of companies printing ‘on demand’ labels do so from the label design programme interface, which risks operators being able to make unauthorised changes to the labels before printing. “Without a failsafe in place, a disgruntled employee could add a derogatory label to a regular client delivery,” suggests Peter.

A next generation label management solution (LMS), with multi-stage approval and electronic signatures of label designs, would eliminate the risk of such practices and improve both productivity and profitability.

But it’s not just the design side that troubles Peter, it’s the print quality and legibility too. If barcodes aren’t readable by scanners then that too could lead to load rejections. Printers without inline scanners cannot guarantee 100% scannable barcodes, which could result in returned products, lost productivity, costly re-runs or compliance fines.

An online data validation (ODV) from Printronix fitted to thermal printers would analyse every barcode printed, and stop bad barcodes entering either the production or distribution chain.

“Managing barcode label printing is a weak link in many organisations and it’s about time we invested the same level of management and accountability for these critical pieces of information in the same way as we look after and protect other key systems and data,” concludes Peter.

Businesses wanting to discuss LMS should contact Datatrade on 01604 666606 or visit www.datatrade.co.uk.