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Barcode Printing

Bar coding, a form of keyless data entry facilitating automatic identification and data collection (commonly referred to as Auto ID), is not just for grocery stores anymore. The familiar stripes are popping up in new and unusual places such as doctors' offices, law firms, post offices, retail stores, security applications, and rental cars. Bar coding and related technologies have been used in manufacturing companies for shipping and receiving operations for more than 30 years. But even in these more traditional settings, bar code applications have spread throughout the enterprise to include warehousing, accounting and customer service functions, time and attendance, and package delivery, as well as the assembly line operation itself.

The variety of technologies available for bar code printing can be overwhelming. Further complicating the decision is whether it is better to invest in a bar coding system or to purchase pre-printed bar code labels.

On Demand vs. Pre-Printed Labels
Thousands of companies have benefited from ordering pre-printed bar code labels from service bureaus rather than investing in a bar coding system. Pre-printed labels are useful in operations that require only a low volume of identical (i.e., fixed, non-variable data) labels, often with extensive use of colors or graphics. However, companies that start with pre-printed labels quickly discover the limitations of this solution option.

Besides restricted flexibility, the use of pre-printed labels prevents companies from including variable customer data or combinations of text and bar code information. As a result, most companies find the financial commitment of printing on-demand bar codes worth the initial investment because of the added value from printing customized information on each label. For many applications requiring high-volume, mission-critical labels, the added cost of pre-printed labels quickly exceeds the cost of the entire system. To the surprise of many bar coding novices, most of the companies that order pre-printed labels also have bar coding systems. The preprinted labels are ordered with the necessary color, graphics, or standardized text (such as return addresses on shipping labels) and are then fed through a bar code printer to receive customized (i.e., variable) information.
Barcode Printing

Whether a user elects to use pre-printed or plain labels, media selection is critical to the success of any bar code integration. The variety of ribbons, paper, and synthetic labels and tags is too great for discussion in this document, but the bar code application, the intended life span of the label, and the environment to which the label will be exposed all have a direct impact on media selection. It is advisable to pre-test a variety of media in an application before purchasing mass quantities.

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