How Rugged Barcodes Are Essential for the Warehousing & Logistics Industry

28 January 2021

With the Coronavirus pandemic placing an ever-increasing amount of pressure on the warehousing and logistics industry, it’s no surprise that businesses are looking to optimise their current workflow strategy. More consumers are forced into making online orders rather than in store orders, and this inevitably means that distributors and warehouse operatives are required to continually evaluate their strategy to ensure products reach consumers in a suitable timeframe. With this in mind, Phil Deller, Business Development Manager at GSM Graphic Arts, takes a look at why rugged barcodes can make a genuine difference to the warehousing and logistics industry, especially in these trying times.

What Is The Difference Between A Barcode and A Rugged Barcode?

Within the logistics and warehousing industry, it’s no secret that a standard barcode that you’d see on a product in a shop simply isn’t fit for purpose. Barcodes come under immense pressures when in haulage, which can cause issues when it comes to successfully identifying products during their journey from supplier to consumer. Whereas a standard barcode’s integrity can be compromised during transit, and even during storage and handling, a rugged barcode’s cannot.

Rugged barcodes are made from extremely durable materials, meaning that they can withstand a huge amount of external pressure, whilst the barcode itself remains intact and scannable. They operate in exactly the same way that a standard barcode does, but are specifically designed to maintain their integrity for long periods of time.

Why Choose Rugged Barcodes?

As mentioned previously, rugged barcodes are exactly that, rugged. This inevitably means that they are more than capable of withstanding the harshest of working environments. Standard barcode solutions aren’t suitable for most settings, especially if you’re dealing with transporting larger, high value items over considerable distances.

Scanning issues will be a thing of the past if you do choose rugged barcodes. Taking the time to optimise your warehouse and logistics company can have a huge difference on productivity levels, and there’s evidence to suggest that barcoding scanning issues can cause issues for even the largest of operations. Having access to barcodes that are robust and capable of maintaining their integrity throughout their lifetime can help to avoid scanning issues, whilst also giving your staff the confidence they are able to effectively track items undergoing transportation, either through a courier or around your warehouse. Not only this, but it’s important to remember that rugged barcodes can be reused over and over, as they have been developed with longevity in mind.

One extremely important benefit that rugged barcodes can bring to your operation is the fact they can be cleaned with anti-bacterial spray without affecting the barcode itself. This is obviously a huge bonus given the Coronavirus pandemic, and can go some way to helping your staff feel safer when handling products.

How Are Rugged Barcodes Created & What Steps Are In The Process?

To fully understand how robust rugged barcodes are, it’s important to see the process that goes into creating them. The process begins by choosing a suitable base material; the material chosen will be influenced by the final application. During the initial consultation regarding your requirements, any good supplier will look to nail down your exact requirements and make a recommendation on materials based on product intent.

In the warehousing and logistics industry, there’s no getting away from the fact that scruffs and scratches are part and parcel of any packaging’s life. This applies to barcodes too, so an anodised aluminium barcode is usually best suited to these industries. However, a stainless-steel base could also be recommended if the barcode is likely to come into contact with high-temperatures or harsh solvents, fuel or oils. It’s essential that you consider all of the variables during the consultation phase, as this can help you to eradicate any issues with your barcode further down the line.

When it comes to displaying the information on your barcode, etched stainless-steel rugged barcodes are usually a popular choice as its properties are capable of increasing your product’s overall lifespan considerably. There are many other options available too, but the options provided will depend on your barcodes anticipated environment.

Utilising under-surface digitally printed plastic labels is also a popular and cost-effective way of enhancing your current barcoding solution. If you anticipate that your barcode will be stored and transported in relatively neutral settings, this type of label, combined with a durable finish and a clear substrate, will be more than capable of withstanding anything it faces. Not only is this option extremely durable, it’s also aesthetically pleasing, so is a great option for customer facing barcodes.

The final part of the process will see your business decide on the adhesive used on the rugged barcode. The adhesive used will depend on your budget and requirements, though mechanical fixings can be incorporated into the design for aluminium and stainless-steel products. In some cases, a high-quality self-adhesive tape could also suffice too, especially if the barcode is only going to be used on well stored and transported products.

Whilst the initial outlay will be more than a standard barcode, by investing in durable barcode technology, your business can stand to reap the benefits for years to come. Rugged barcodes can help your staff to quickly and effectively track all products, without any of the issues presented by standard barcodes.

GSM Graphic Arts are one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of high-quality labelling products. They manufacture a range of specialist labels, nameplates, graphic overlays and rugged barcode labels using various processes and substrates, including most metals and plastics.