Barcode Costs – Its not just black and white.

Barcode Costs – Its not just black and white.

Barcode Costs – Its not just black and white.


Mention that you work with barcodes ten years ago and people immediately thought “dull” and “boring”, the only barcodes they ever really came into contact with were at supermarket checkouts. Now, ten years later; with the advent of 2 dimensional QR barcodes and mobile phone applications, peoples exposure to barcodes is far more interactive and working with barcodes is seen as being cool.

So what is a barcode?

A barcode is simply machine readable language. The barcode is a set of lines and spaces that represents a set of characters. These characters can be alphabetic or numeric depending on the type of barcode used. The scanner then measures the relative widths of the bars and spaces, translates the different patterns back into regular characters, and sends them on to a computer or portable terminal as readable information.

There are 2 main types of barcodes. Linear barcodes or 1 Dimensional, examples being EAN, Code39 and Code128 which most people are familiar with on their food products in supermarkets where the scanning of the code carries simple information.

The other type is a matrix or stacked barcode known as 2 Dimensional. 2D barcodes are becoming common place now as it allows more information to be integrated into its smaller construction which can now direct readers to web page and other interactive elements, it is heavily used in marketing campaigns and can be used as a customer information collection tool.

Considerations when purchasing and designing barcodes:


A barcode can only be read if the background colour and bars have enough colour contrast to differentiate them from each other, wherever possible barcodes should be printed in black on a clean white background. Other colour combinations can be considered but you need to check the combination is acceptable with a reputable supplier before the final design specification is set.


The economic pressure for cheaper labels is often a reason that suppliers may use an lower quality paper, if the paper is thin in grade or has a rough finish the barcode contrast can often be compromised, resulting in poor readability.

Left & Right Light Margins (Quiet Zones):

These are the areas before and after a code that should be left clear to enable the scanner to correctly read the barcode. This is often overlooked due to increased pressure to make label dimensions as small as possible, again potentially causing read fails.

Quality Counts – Counting the cost of poor print quality.

No matter how good your database or your scanning equipment, the simple fact is; if your barcodes will not read then the data contained is worthless. Barcode quality is a vital requirement, every time a Barcode fails to scan, some form of cost is incurred. At best the Barcode data may have to be manually input whilst at worst, important deliveries can be miss-directed or a patients test results can be incorrect. The annual cost of poor quality Barcodes runs at hundreds of million pounds, a cost a lot of retailers accepted as a factor of trading but in these times of economic savings retailers have now taken a different approach and are beginning to impose fines on suppliers if their barcodes cannot read, and in worse cases suppliers can be removed from an approved supplier list.

Here at AC Labels we don’t just scan our barcodes, we verify all our barcodes to ensure they meet the exacting standard set out to the ANSI grade.

This gives our customers the peace of mind that our codes will scan first time, every time eliminating costly down time and ensuring data integrity throughout the print run.


What is the true cost of Barcode labels:

Next time you order barcode labels please ask yourself this question.

What is the true cost of my labels?

The answer may not just be the price on the quote in front of you, it could be the cost of a consequential claim or worse still, permanent damage to your company’s reputation.  Contact Jason Woodhouse at AC Labels to discuss your barcode label requirements.