What could mislabelling or human error cost your business?
Over the years, we have taken barcode printing for granted, and now have special ‘thermal’ printers that produce high quality prints to ensure optimal scanning. But how often do we stop and consider the potential risk of not managing the whole process of creating and using such codes? What fail safes do we have in place, for example, should a disgruntled employee take it upon themselves to change the product label text to something derogatory on your weekly shipment to a customer?
Businesses generate tens of thousands of different labels, many of which are similar, although an increasing number will be subject to more regulations and other forms of control or monitoring. While there are laws and legislation to tell us how much due diligence we should put into managing our data, we rarely give much thought to protecting or managing the production of barcodes, the critical pieces of data that uniquely track millions of products through our business every day.
These ‘unique identifiers’ are vital in enabling us to track, trace and optimise movement of goods within our suppliers, customers and our own supply chain, yet few businesses think about the security and brand risk they represent.
It’s one thing to understand that not producing labels could stop the flow of products through your supply chain, and therefore your profits. It’s quite another to understand how vulnerable most organisations’ labels are to either accidental or malign abuse.
It might only take one disgruntled worker to change a label to read something derogatory on a regular customer shipment and you could be looking at a costly rerun if it’s spotted through to rejected loads or, worst case scenario, compliance fines.
Yes, you might have to weight up if your customer would even notice it, or what would be the impact on your brand if it reached the general public but the point is, do you have the processes in place to stop it happening or would you rather run the risk?
Sadly, there are increasing reports of this very thing happening in our supply chains, and it doesn’t have to be malicious, it could even be accidental. If your barcode printers allow unauthorised access to the design of labels you could be putting both your reputation and your profitability at risk.
As businesses we expect to have to pay for backups of computer systems to ensure business continuity. If we operate vehicle fleets we expect to pay for maintenance to keep them serviceable. Yet few think about the ‘weak link’ between the two; the printing and management of barcodes.
Isn’t it about time we invested the same level of management and accountability for these critical pieces of information in the same way as we look after and protect other key systems and data?
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