Unreadable Barcode Labels: Causes and Solutions Explained

Unreadable Barcode Labels: Causes and Solutions Explained

Inventory management is one vital aspect of seamless business operations. Today, businesses heavily rely on barcode labels for tracking their assets. Product identification and data acquisition using barcode labels are of utmost importance for partially or fully automated operations. If barcodes are damaged, poorly printed, or in an unreadable format, loss of data can have disastrous effects on product integrity and corporate reputation. Understanding the root cause of unreadable barcodes and applying appropriate strategies will resolve this issue. This post discusses common causes of unreadable barcodes and their possible solutions. So, stay tuned.

What Are the Common Causes of Unreadable Barcode Labels and Their Possible Solutions?

The following is the list of common problems that can lead barcode labels to poor quality or unsuccessful reads. Fortunately, all these problems can be resolved by adopting some of the best industry practices in printing and labeling processes.

    • Low Contrast:

      To extract data, barcode scanners should differentiate the light and dark elements of the label. These elements are of utmost importance for decoding, allowing barcode scanners to obtain precise patterns of elements that represent encoded data in the label. If there is not enough space between these elements, barcode scanners won’t distinguish the barcode, resulting in no-read. To solve this issue, make sure you’re using proper label substrates that aren’t reflective and offer appropriate contrast to the barcode labels. Adjust the printer in such a way that the ink is evenly applied. Image-based scanners with higher tolerance can help improve scan rate.

    • Quiet Zone Violations:

      Every barcode has a quiet zone, which is a blank or an empty area where no graphics, text, or print should appear. This helps the barcode scanner distinguish the label from surrounding materials. The standard sizing rule for the barcode quiet zone is ten times the width of the narrowest bar in the barcode. If any graphics or marks intrude on the quiet zone, this may result in an unreadable barcode. To avoid this, make sure that your printing equipment will not generate unintended prints or marks on the label. If required, increase the label size to meet those specifications.

    • Distortion or Damage:

      Printing readable barcodes doesn’t guarantee that they will remain readable. When the item passes through manufacturing or shipping processes or during transit, the barcode appears damaged, faded, or distorted. This is because of exposure to UV rays or the outside environment. While it’s quite impossible to prevent all label damages, you can lessen the effects of damage or distortion by adopting the appropriate printing method, adhesives, and the combination of label substrate that can withstand the operating conditions.

    • Improper Reading Position:

      In many cases, perfectly printed barcodes are rendered unreadable due to the position of the barcode scanner. Almost all barcode scanners have specific requirements when it comes to barcode position, angle, focal distance, and many more. If the scanner is improperly positioned relative to the code, it can be blinded by its light. If the angle and distance from the code to the scanner varies in your application, then opt for scanners with inbuilt autofocus or greater focal distances.

    • Print Inconsistency:

      This can be caused by the uneven distribution of ink for the printed codes or uneven pressure in the equipment applying the code, which results in unreadable barcode labels. These printing issues can also cause quiet zone violations, low contrast, distorted codes, and many more. To avoid this, unblock inkjet nozzles, double-check on the performance of the printer. Also, ensure that the print head is cleaned regularly and placed at the correct distance from the print surface.

The unreadability of barcode labels can be addressed by taking these simple preventative measures. Also, it is important to check the performance of the printer and whether you are using the correct ribbon, ink, and substrate. Don’t allow unreadable barcodes to impact your supply chain, warehousing, or billing operations. If you’re unable to find the root cause of unreadable barcodes, then you must consult a trusted label barcode label manufacturer and supplier who will assist you in the right direction. Performance Label Company (PLCTX) is a reliable player in the barcode labels segment and a variety of other labels. The company also provides customized barcode labels that suit the application need.

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