BOCA RATON, Fla. -- A test of an expanded bar code on variable-weight perishables cases helped improve information collection, reduce shrinkage and increase labor productivity along the path of distribution, according to a recently released study on the code.
l case studies.
Participants included a wholesaler and two meat processing and packaging companies, all using UCC/EAN-128. The fourth participant, a food-service distributor, is in the process of converting to UCC/EAN-128 and its results were derived from the use of an older, less flexible bar code.
The benefits derived from using the longer bar code were considerable, according to a report on the findings prepared by the Brookfield Group, a consulting firm in Brookfield, Conn. The findings were presented at the Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here last month. The coding has the potential to save three or four cents per case due to the reduction in labor required to take physical inventories.
Participants cited returns on investment ranging from 20% to 200%, with an overall average of 130%
The report's findings suggest that using the expanded bar code on perishables shipping containers could further the food industry's movement toward Efficient Consumer Response, the streamlining initiative that aims eventually to take some $30 billion of costs out of the nation's distribution system.
The coding promises to speed up the shipping process, which can be crucial to perishable products.
In its report, the UCC describes UCC/EAN-128 with application identifiers, which allow even more detailed information, as an enabler in the movement towards ECR because it can carry both the coding of product identification and secondary information, such as weight and expiration date in a single bar code. It also offers superior density and security.
For this study the following information was included in the bar code: manufacturer and product identification, weight, sell-by date and serial number.
As part of the study each participant described their operations before and after implementing the bar code and scanning, and outlined any capital investments.
The meat processing company cited an investment of $32,000 to implement the system, reaping a return of $64,450. Specific improvements in its operation included: reduced shipping errors, reduced claims, trucks loaded faster and data entry down.
The second meat processing company invested $27,000 to start the new system and had a return of $54,000. Its benefits included: reduced shipping errors, reduced claims, and faster and more accurate physical inventories.
The food-service operator spent $180,000 with a return of $37,000. Benefits included: reduced labor costs, faster customer invoicing and reduced data entry.
The wholesaler invested $45,000 in equipment and got back $45,000. Results included: enhanced rotation, reduced shrink, fewer shipping errors and fewer claims.
"Both the actual savings opportunities identified and those implied from these case studies point to the significant potential of bar-coding and scanning on perishables shipping containers," the report said.
It was recommended the label should be applied to the end of the case, with the symbol at least 1.25 inches from the bottom and 0.75 inches from the side.
While the study's finding are not conclusive, according to the report on its findings, its authors believe it shows the "sizable" potential of scanning perishables cases.