Metal racking and traceability: 40 years of barcodes

Logistics is living a period when e-commerce, globalisation and the economy of scale are revolutionising all the different phases in the supply chain, with more and more severe productivity demands in the warehouses, which implies having to resort to a wide range of metal racking systems, automated warehouses and semi-automated picking and handling systems. But all this would not have evolved into what it is today if four decades ago modern tracking and traceability had not been born with the introduction of barcodes.

Last June, it was 40 years since a barcode was used in a practical application. On June 26, 1974, in the United States, the first product with a barcode, a packet of chewing gum, was scanned. Two years later, in 1976, the 13 digit barcode was designed, which enabled barcodes to be used worldwide. One year later, in 1977, European Article Numbering (EAN) was born, which enabled the well known international EAN 13 barcode, which everybody is used to seeing in warehouses and shops in all sectors, to be standardised.

The use of one-dimensional barcodes spread rapidly through most countries in the world, on being able to follow an international standard and so optimise handling tasks and inventory control from the metal racks in the warehouse to the points of sale.

GS1, a non-profit making association, present in more than 100 countries, whose aim is to design and implement global standards, was, from the very beginning, in charge of standardising barcodes. In 2003, GS1 launched the first two-dimensional barcode (DataMatrix). Eight years later, in 2011, the QR codes were approved as standard, a new kind of two-dimensional code which had been designed in Japan and published in 1994 and which, at present, have become so popular thanks to smartphones.

Barcodes are still one of the identification and tracking and traceability systems most used in warehouses, thanks to a large extent to their low cost. Any normal printer can print legible codes and barcode readers have a very low cost. This is the main factor to enable them to compete with more modern tracking and traceability systems with many more possibilities, such as Passive RFID and active RFID, which have higher costs.

ATOX Storage Systems design and manufacture metal racking systems and top quality storage solutions. With more than 50 years experience, ATOX has a wide range of industrial racking, from pallet racks and picking racks to systems to increase storage space such as industrial mezzanines and multi-tier racks.

With the evolution of logistics and the markets, ATOX is committed to new technologies and constant innovation, designing and manufacturing automated warehouses and semi-automated systems for picking and handling tasks, which can work together with any of the existing tracking and traceability technologies.