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A barcode or bar code is a method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form.¹ In simple terms detailed information is condensed from numbers and characters into a series lines or symbols that can be automatically translated into their full meaning by a barcode scanner or reader.

Early Adopters of UPS Codes

Initially, barcodes represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines. A symbol consisting of a series of printed bars representing values. A system of optical character reading, scanning, and tracking of units by reading a series of printed bars for translation into a numeric or alphanumeric identification code. A popular example is the UPC (Universal Product Code) used on retail packaging.

An early use of barcode labeling technology can be found in grocery stores, where product descriptions and pricing are embedded into a barcode label can be quickly scanned by a barcode reader at the register to total up shoppers’ purchases. This practice has dramatically saved time and improved accuracy, as it eliminates the need for the employee to read and rekey product details to ring up the bill.

Barcodes in Logistics and Shipping Operations

In logistics and shipping, barcode labels are used to capture detailed order and delivery information that can be quickly scanned by a barcode reader as the shipment moves through the order-to-delivery process. They are used for fast and accurate verification of product descriptions, warehouse locations, SKU numbers, and more. Multi-carrier shipping systems can be configured to produce carrier-specific barcoded shipping labels, as well as many other shipping documents such as the bill of lading, manifest and commercial invoice.

Barcoding has also improved shipment delivery procedures by speeding up processing steps and eliminating data entry errors due to rekeying of shipping information. For example, parcel delivery shipping labels now routinely contain a 2-D or 2D barcode that is scanned by the carrier as it picks up and delivers a package. The 2-D barcode contains information such as the destination name and address, return address, package weight and more. This information can be scanned by a barcode reader when the drive drops off the shipment, eliminating the need to rekey and verify details.


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