Getting your barcode right first time

In order to satisfy retailer requirements for a final parcode verification report, a barcode must:

  1. Scan according to standard ISO 15416
  2. Accurately reflect the number on the product and be presented correctly, with a correct check digit
  3. Meet size and placement guidelines

Whether a barcode meets an ISO standard can only be determined from the final printed packaging. This is because of variations from artwork to final sample caused by such things as:

  • How the ink is absorbed by the substrate, which changes the width, crispness and colour of the black and white lines
  • The colour of the packaging which a label may be placed on affecting the colour and scannability of the black or white lines
  • The colour of the product behind a thin film packaging affecting the colour and scannability of the black or white lines

An interim barcode verification report can be provided to identify any issues for (2) and (3) above and we are happy to do this. However a vendor can also determine this themselves with a ruler, a hand held scanner and without specialist equipment (a barcode verifier), which is required for a full verification. Here is how you can ensure your barcode can be designed right first time and then check this. Please share this with your packaging designer and ensure they understand the requirements of barcodes. Intermax can also provide training around barcodes for any organisation and there is more information here.

  • To ensure the number scans correctly, you can use a normal hand held scanner, to ensure that the number returned by the scanner is as written on the packaging.
  • The check digit is the last number on the barcode and this is calculated from the preceding numbers using a complex formula. The great people at Axicon, who make barcode verifiers have provided a check digit calculator here. Just select the type of barcode (or scan it in) and enter the number and it will give you the correct check digit for the barcode type
  • Barcode placement and sizing can be determined visually and with a ruler. The standards for this are dictated by retailers, often against the GS1 standard that can be found here at section 6. Aldi have their own guidelines, that don’t reference GS1.
  • The most common mistakes are making barcodes too small – with too small a magnification (width) or height, or where the quiet zones being too small. You can see the MINIMUM dimensions for each width here. We strongly recommend making barcodes much bigger than is required and do not design either the width of quiet zones or barcode height to the minimum size. Go larger than the minimum for a given magnification!! This leaves some room for margin of error and shrinkage in final printing.
    • This is why many Aldi products have barcodes that use all available space – it improves scanning speed at check out.
  • Another common mistake is not making whites white enough and blacks, black enough. The greater the contrast, the better the chance of scanning. White should be pure white and black should be pure black. Do not trust that if the packaging is white that a transparent film with just the black and white lines can be placed on the white packaging. If a film is to be placed on packaging, ensure that there is sufficient white and black ink density for the packaging colour not to affect the contrast on the film.
    • We have seen films that are too thin or with poor print quality and the underlying packaging stops the barcode scanning.