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An Overview of ANSI Barcode Requirements

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets forth quality guidelines for a wide variety of products and services in the United States. A non-profit organization, ANSI works with the accrediting organizations in different fields to come up with voluntary industry standards and helps coordinate these domestic standards with international ones. The standards that ANSI set for barcodes have revolutionized the industry and paved the way for international barcode regulations.

The First Barcode Standards

From the inception of barcodes, industry leaders recognized the need for standardization and regulation. Originally, barcode standards were based only on width. To pass these requirements, barcodes only had to fall within publishing specifications. This system had several flaws:

  • Often barcodes that passed the traditional standards were unreadable
  • Many scannable barcodes actually failed according to the standards
  • The standards did not address the quality of the barcode itself, such as voids between bars
  • There was no way to consistently identify or qualify defects
  • Eliminating waste due to over-purchase of products

Since the traditional quality verification standards did not correlate with the way that barcodes actually function, a new approach was clearly necessary.

ANSI Steps in with New Standards

In 1990, ANSI partnered with the Uniform Code Council (UCC) to implement new barcode standards. The requirements are based on the way that barcode scanners work, so they regulate the quality of the barcode, rather than only the size.

Under the ANSI standards, a barcode’s quality is assessed on eight different characteristics and assigned either a number on a scale of 0 to 4, or a letter (A, B, C, D, or F). A rating of a “C” means that a barcode will scan on virtually any machine, so many product packagers require this rating on their products. Others may even specify that barcodes must earn a “B” or higher.

Soon the UCC and ANSI applied their standards to the most commonly used retail label in the United States, the UPC. Because the UPC has unique features, a ninth category was added to assess UPS quiet zones. These standards have been incredibly useful to companies at every position in the retail distribution chain.

Impact of International and Industry Standards

ANSI’s 1990 standards closely matched those of Europe’s EN 1635, but there were a few differences. In order to create universal standards, the United States and Europe adopted common standards, which has two parts. The first, known as ISO/IEC 15416:2000(E), dictates linear symbols, while ISO/IEC FDIS 15415:2003 (E) regulates the quality of two-dimensional symbols, which include Maxi-code, Data-matrix, and PDF barcodes.

Meanwhile, many industries have adopted their own barcode standards. Both the military and the air transport industry have created their own internal standards, as have the pharmaceutical and packaging industries. Generally these guidelines are more stringent than those of US and European requirements, simply due to the cost and risk of errors inherent to these industries. Many barcode manufacturers now offer barcode quality verification services to meet these various standards.

Navigating the various standards for barcoding can be a difficult process. To ensure that barcodes meet international and industry standards for barcodes, it is important to enlist a professional who can guarantee high-quality printing and accuracy.