How three logistics companies increased their barcode read rates

boxes with damaged barcodes on a conveyor belt

It’s tough to be a barcode. These black-and-white symbols carrying crucial product information get bent, torn, wrinkled, and shrink-wrapped. Attach one the wrong way and it falls off the box, fouling things up for retailers, logistics operations, and ultimately consumers.

Meanwhile, more commerce moves online every day, pushing more products through massive warehouses and sort/pick facilities. Retailers compete to shrink timelines, placing relentless pressure on logistics operations. 

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of barcode reading to the global logistics industry. Every product a manufacturer ships must have an identification code revealing its weight, dimensions, cost, color, model, and so forth. Meeting these challenges falls to scanners, software, and algorithms that capture and interpret barcode data.

Logistics companies place four core demands on barcode technology: throughput, accuracy, speed, and efficiency. But every industry and every company face unique challenges that require a unique strategy and approach to drive performance and growth. Machine vision barcode readers play a central role in increasing read rates, which downstream can improve companies’ ability to address those four core demands.  

Here are three quick examples across ecommerce, pharmaceuticals, and retail wholesale. 

Zalando: Online Fashion Retailer Based in Berlin, Germany

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Zalando has 28.3 million active customers across 17 European markets. Just one of its logistics facilities sends up to 10,000 packages a day, requiring a high level of automation. Many of its products — shirts, pants, socks, etc. — have odd, unpredictable shapes. 

Barcodes must be read at any angle on sorting machinery moving at 1.4 meters per second. Switching to DataMan scanners, which can read up to 140 images per second, with with the Xpand 150, which helps the camera expand its field of view, improved Zalando’s read rates from 95% to 98%. That produced notable gains for the company because of the massive daily volume the retailer ships.   

IHLE Logistics: European Tire Wholesaler

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Part of the Michelin Group, IHLE stores a million tires and rims in a central warehouse. Its customers include car dealers and accessory retailers across Europe. The shapes of tires and rims require 1D and 2D scanners to read barcodes, which often get obscured by plastic wrapping. 

IHLE turned to a rig that consisted of two DataMan 363s paired with two DataMan 503s arranged above the tires for top-reading as the tires passed below on a conveyor. 

“Every four seconds, our high-speed printers label goods that have been ordered,” says Christian Lech, technical director at IHLE Baden-Baden in Germany. “Image-based Cognex scanners have no trouble keeping up with this pace.” He added that this facility achieves a top read rate above 99% across the entire range, from the smallest to the largest packages. “In our view, that’s an outstanding result,” he said.   

Jointown: Chinese Pharmaceutical Distributor  

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Jointown is the largest non-state-owned pharmaceutical distributor in China. One of their most crucial challenges is ensuring accurate scans of drug supervision codes. “We used to scan and record each piece manually, so reading the drug supervision codes presented many challenges,” says Huang Hao, an equipment engineer at Jointown. 

The company depends on automated sorting systems to move 30,000 units per day and turned to Cognex's DataMan 503 configured into a five-sided ship sorter tunnel.

“We found that Cognex DataMan readers can successfully track high-speed mobile commodity bar codes and also can achieve multi-sided identification and reading without manual intervention, with flexible hardware options that enabled us to lower costs,” Hao says 

Cognex has spent decades mastering the technologies to scan and interpret barcode data, which is why the most respected logistics operations in the world trust us to read their barcodes. 

To increase barcode read rates at our logistics operation, download our free whitepaper, When 99%  Just Isn't Enough: Benefits of Improved Read Rates in Logistics Scanning.  


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