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From humble bar codes……..

Businesses that ignore the vital role played by barcoding and RFID in an efficient supply chain do so at their peril, warns the IOP's packaging training manager

Do you appreciate the importance of good information flow? If so turn the page, but if you’re unsure, read on.

It’s only thirty years since the first barcode and I’m sure some of us have tripped up occasionally with squeezing codes into places they shouldn’t go or even printing black bars on a clear label applied to a black substrate!

I recently attended a GS1 UK conference, “Driving the Future Supply Chain”. There may be some who may not recognise GS1 UK, but if I said one of their responsibilities is to issue barcodes, most people will know them. GS1 UK is the UK operating arm of GS1, a leading global organisation which designs and implements global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility in supply and demand chains worldwide. For more details visit

There were 200+ people from wide-ranging backgrounds at the event, all seeking to better understand how improving and standardising information flow through the supply chain is key in today’s business environment. Training sessions included Understanding Bar Coding & Packaging, Global Data Synchronisation (GDS), and RFID & the EPCglobal Network. I suspect some of the terminology will be unfamiliar but if you deal with the major retailers and brand owners it ‘s probably time to get to grips with it.

Sadly, some see packaging as a simple physical entity and don’t appreciate its important supply chain roles. One is to convey information, and with the right barcode it can do this very well. However, in many companies, responsibility for barcodes tends to rest with one or maybe two people; if this is so it would be foolish for everyone else to be blissfully ignorant. A lack of general awareness may mean a complete product recall with loss of profits thrown in.

Hopefully, those who sat through my hour of barcodes and packaging found it useful. However, for those who feel they need to become more familiar with both subjects, both GS1 UK and IOP: The Packaging Society offer advice, support and training in these areas. You only have to ask.

By Ian Morris