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Donated systems used to teach product verification

Students wage war on pesky bar codes
Nov 24, 2009
By George Mauzy

Industrial technology students at Ohio University are learning tactics to ease the frustrations of cashiers and shoppers struggling to scan stubborn bar codes, thanks to a recent equipment donation.

The university's Automatic Identification and Data Capture Lab, part of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, was recently given a pair of bar code quality systems by Label Vision Systems Inc., a manufacturer and seller of print quality inspection systems.

The INTEGRA 9505 verifiers grade the bar codes according to the International Standards Organization (ISO) Print Quality Standards. In addition to causing shoppers angst, poor bar codes also can cause distribution centers to misdirect cartons and keep pharmaceutical companies from being able to track and trace goods. The standards ensure that the codes can be read clearly.

Students are using the equipment as part of an automatic identification and data capture course, in which they learn how product verification works.

Assistant Professor Kevin Berisso said the equipment enables more hands-on, practical experience.

?Students get to interact with the equipment, which also will help with some of our applied research activities,? Berisso said.

Alex Okolish, a senior studying industrial technology, sees the equipment as a way to bring the theory out of the classroom and into the real world.

?It increases the impact of the autoID course,? Okolish said. ?Graduates of the IT program quickly become effective in the workforce because we get a lot of hands on experience in school.?

After a product is placed on the station, a camera photographs the bar code, and then the software highlights the errors, identifying the problems and making it easier to find the solutions. The software then determines each bar code's letter grade, from A to F. Those receiving a C or lower are more likely to cause users to have to repeatedly scan the bar code before achieving success, resulting in lowered efficiencies, reduced productivity and increased frustration with the technology.
The new units grade not only linear bar codes, but two-dimensional bar codes -- a new capability for the department.

According to Berisso, this means students can work with anything from packs of gum to entire cases of products, including the newer bar codes being put on fruit and pharmaceuticals for tracking the source and destination of the goods to meet regulatory requirements from the FDA and Department of Home Land Security.

?We'll be getting a level of feedback that is not available in most common software,? Berisso said.

Ultimately, students are tackling the problems with the goal of smoother production lines and tracking processes -- as well as grocery store experiences for shoppers going it alone in self-checkout lines.


Published: Nov 24, 2009 8:20 AM

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