From the Barcode to Enterprise Labeling

by Maureen Perroni, on October 4, 2016

Screen_Shot_2016-09-02_at_2.13.42_PM.pngLabeling, or the systematic process of creating labels to convey information throughout the supply chain, isn’t what it used to be. Don’t worry — that’s a good thing! As your business has grown larger and more complicated, your labeling needs have become all the more challenging. Fortunately, Enterprise Labeling can bring order to the chaos.Barcode labeling has changed through the years in many different ways. Today customers need to connect labeling more seamlessly with business processes. This is just one of the reasons why the more traditioal approach of using  homegrown or custom solutions won’t solve your problems.

Barcodes are virtually everywhere today — on every product shipped from a factory, every pallet in a warehouse, every carton in a distribution center, and every item in a store. You can find barcodes on cellphones, equipment asset tags, express packages, and even shipments of emergency medical supplies. Not long ago, manufacturers had to worry about whether the next box of machine parts would arrive in time for Tuesday’s production run, and cashiers manually punched in every can of green beans at the cash register. Today, barcodes handle all of that, at every step in the supply chain.

Barcodes, needless to say, have changed life dramatically. The graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology who pioneered the concept in 1948 probably could never have dreamed where the idea would lead. Indeed, it wasn’t until the mid-’70s that a supermarket in Ohio made history by scanning a package of chewing gum, the first time the technology was used to sell a retail product. It was another decade before the majority of major retailers had barcode technology in place.

Even before that, back in the 1950s and ’60s, another icon in the industry, Mr. Andy Anderson, was involved in the first auto-identification efforts to track and identify inbound and outbound railroad containers using a specialized, electro-reflective, multicolored symbology — what we now know as the barcode. In 1986, Mr. Anderson founded Loftware, one of the first barcode label software companies.

There were lots of important developments in the 1990s, including the rise of more powerful enterprise applications that could automate business processes, new capabilities for businesses to design and print labels, and the advent of new Internet-enabled business functions. It was only a matter of time before these advances started converging across the supply chain to power vast new possibilities.

That said, progress has been anything but fast or easy. It was clear in the 1990s that the barcode offered great potential for representing supply chain information, but labeling tended to be manual, with users typing in label data, even as enterprise applications became increasingly integrated and server-based in the 2000s.

These days, there’s widespread recognition that integrated labeling is a whole lot more than just automating those manual processes — and, in fact, that it’s a strategic part of doing business in the supply chain. But many organizations have a long way to go to maximize the capabilities of Enterprise Labeling.

If you're interested in finding out more, download our complete new "Enterprise Labeling for Dummies" eBook today!  You'll get a firsthand look at the evoution of barcode labeling and all of the essentials and advantages of implementing an Enterprise Labeling approach.

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