Is Your Barcode Solution Rugged Enough?

It’s hard out there for a barcode label.

That goes double for labels on pallets and packages moving through warehouses, fulfillment centers, and shipping operations that aren’t exactly warm and cozy. Fast-moving conveyors, constant pushing and shoving, the occasional tumble, and a range of other indignities degrade not only their looks but threaten their performance, too. And, if the rough handling doesn’t get them, dust, dirt, condensation, and a host of other bad actors are always lurking, trying to ensure they never scan again.

A trip through the supply chain might leave labels torn, smudged, covered with shrink-wrap or tape, and just generally degraded in ways that your barcode workflows never imagined. So, if you want to keep things moving, you better have barcoding tools that make the most of sub-optimal conditions, i.e., the real world.

Rugged environments require rugged solutions, and one place to start is with the barcode itself. But is one barcode format really more rugged than any other?

In many supply chain applications, the answer is yes, there are certain barcodes that are better suited to deliver results. One of these tougher-than-the-rest barcode formats is PDF417.

PDF417 is a high-density, 2-dimensional barcode format that can store a large amount of data in alpha/numeric, binary, and graphic formats. The name PDF417 is derived from the fact that it’s a portable data file (PDF) made up of four bars where each bar is 17 units long.

Like most 2D barcodes, PDF417 can pack a lot of information into a small space, with a theoretical upper limit equivalent to 1800 ASCII characters. Real-world factors limit data to the practical storage capacity somewhat, but that still allows for plenty of data for just about any distribution or track-and-trace application.

Most importantly, the PDF417 format uses built-in error correction that allows the barcode to endure a level of damage without causing data loss or impacting scanability. The level of error correction built into a specific PDF417 barcode can be varied depending on the amount of damage the label is expected to receive, giving users the ability to build additional damage tolerance into their solutions.

These capabilities create such a robust barcode format that major shippers like the US Postal Service and FedEx have adopted the PDF417 format for their postage and shipping labels.

But, even when you’re using a robust barcode format, you’re going to need ultra-rugged scanners that can withstand the same challenging conditions.

That’s where Zebra’s DS3600 Ultra-Rugged Barcode Scanners come into play.

The DS3600 series includes seven ultra-rugged scanners that are built to withstand the unique conditions and rough handling that are routinely encountered in industrial environments. Drops to concrete, spills, dust, heat, cold, rain, snow, and more — Zebra understands your scanners must survive them all. That’s why DS3600 scanners are the only devices in this class that are dust-tight, spray-proof, and waterproofed to IP68. Cordless models even include an IP65-sealed cradle for a complete rugged cordless solution.

The lineup includes corded and cordless models, plus models for standard or extended range, high-density barcodes, direct part marks, and just about any other warehouse application.

Zebra packed the DS3600 Series with the PRZM Intelligent Imaging Technology that has made their barcode technology the industry leader. Virtually any barcode format can be scanned in almost any condition — scratched, dirty, poorly printed, direct part marks, high density, and even under shrink-wrap or frosted condensation. The result is first-time, every time scanning performance that eliminates rescanning and other barcode-related slowdowns.

From robust barcodes to ultra-rugged scanners, Tri-State Business Systems can help you build a barcoding solution that can stand up to the toughest conditions.