• Barcode Ireland Team

Barcode reliability

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

The cost to business of an inaccurate barcode scan.

Barcodes are simple, flexible, fast, accurate and effective, the cornerstone of gargantuan successful supply chains and yet inexpensive and reliable enough for businesses of all sizes, down to the entrepreneur, to utilise.

Worldwide, barcodes are scanned daily some 5 billion times at a 99% successful scan rate, however that means a 1% failure to scan rate - that’s 50 million failed scans!

In terms of accuracy, studies have indicated that even the most adept data entry operator will make an error in every 300 keystrokes. However even the simplest barcode has not more than 1 error in every 394,000 scans

Barcode type Accuracy

Data Matrix 1 error in 10.5 million

Code 128 1 error in 2.8 million

Code 39 1 error in 1.7 million

UPC 1 error in 394,000

So why do barcodes fail to scan?

Ironically, mostly though human error. The following are some of the more common reasons for failure to scan:

  • Applied shrink wrap and lamination. These protective layers can affect barcode scannability

  • Poor print quality. Due to excessive pressing, the bars and spaces that comprise a barcode can be too wide if printed incorrectly. Off centre printing or spots will cause errors

  • Colour combinations. Such as red on white, or black on green. The standard black on white is most conducive to readability

  • Printed on a clear or translucent surface. Printing directly onto a clear or translucent plastic bag for example, when the contents inside are of a different colour, can cause colour contrast issue for scanners

  • Reflective materials. Highly reflective surfaces such as some metal substrates can be problematic

  • Loud ‘quiet zones’. Not an oxymoron! Barcodes require a “quiet zone”, the space either side of the bars, to read correctly. If there is something in this space it may throw up an error

  • Damage or distortion. Environmental conditions such as exposure to harsh light or condensation may distort and degrade barcode quality causing mis-reads. Damage ranging from minor scratches, obstruction of the barcode by stains, or debris causing torn or partially/wholly missing barcodes

  • Poor placement. If a barcode is placed too close to the edge of a package or in a fold, this can be interpreted by the scanner as a quiet zone

  • User error. Incorrect position of hand held scanners resulting in inaccurate reads

  • Hand held scanner configuration. The scanner must be compatible with the barcode being read. Laser barcode scanners can only read linear barcodes, while imager and camera orientation scanners can read 2D barcodes.

What is the cost to business of a failed scan?


A 1% scan failure rate can have seriously detrimental effects for the integrity of your supply chain. When a barcode fails to scan, the item needs to be manually tracked causing delays in delivery and invoicing.


Problematically, if a barcode is unscannable, the item may be returned to the supplier incurring further cost

Inventory tracking

Inaccurate scanning makes it extremely difficult to manage and maintain a large scale inventory - barcodes accurately retrieve product information, sales, stock on hand etc. in seconds.

Inaccurate invoicing

Invoices track payments, shipping and inventory. Accurate barcode scanning benefits suppliers in that there are fewer disputes and delays in payment.


There is a significant cost attached to the speed of shipping, the cataloguing and retrieval of inventory and point of sale (POS) in retail. Time is money and wasting the customers time with repeated errors in scanning, may result in customer dissatisfaction. This also applies to retailers in your supply chain who may refuse to deal with a high error rate, at a cost to them.

Barcodes virtually never fail. It is essential to minimise error margins that result in losses in time, revenue and customers.

Our barcodes work internationally. Should you require reliable barcodes for your product, please visit our Buy page www.barcodeireland.ie/buy, or contact us on info@barcodeireland.ie or through the contact form on our website www.barcodeireland.ie/contact and let Barcode Ireland help your business.






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