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ID NEWS: EFR survey reveals increase in bar coding but need for significant improvement

Case coding among foodservice manufacturers rose to 77%, up from 72% in 2002, 69% in 2001, 61% in 2000, and 54% in 1999, according to the 2003 bar code survey conducted by Efficient Foodservice Response (EFR), Falls Church, VA.

However, this year's increase is still significantly below the desired 96% level identified by EFR as an industry-wide goal. "We're very encouraged to see such steady progress in the use of bar codes," comments Mark Allen, EFR's executive director. "But without widespread adoption of bar codes within the industry, it will be difficult to achieve he broad benefits that companies are striving to gain."

Investment in equipment remains the biggest barrier for companies not yet bar coding, says Allen. Systems need to be modified to be able to capture, store and retrieve the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), and implementation can be slow, depending on the size of the company. Over the last 18 months, EFR has been working with the Uniform Code Council (UCC) to educate companies on data structures, symbologies, quality issues and print media options, in an effort to increase use of bar coding.

Moreover, while use of bar codes is increasing, this year's survey revealed that the quality of bar coding efforts is slipping. The data showed that 74% of case codes were scanned accurately, down from 82% in 2002 and 89% in 2001.

The survey also showed significant variations in use of case coding within different product categories. Equipment and supplies registered the highest rate of case coding, at 83%, followed by dry groceries, at 80%, frozen and refrigerated foods, at 73% each, and produce, at 23% compliance.

Still other findings indicated that the majority of cases-68%--are marked with bar codes on at least two sides, while 32% have a code printed on only one side. (EFR recommends placing bar codes on two adjacent sides.)

Stratix Corp. conducted the 2003 survey for the EFR executive committee. The researchers recorded 29,579 cases in six different distributor facilities: three regional broadliners (Southwest, Southeast and Northeast); two national broadliners (West Coast, Mid-Atlantic), and a systems distributor. The survey team recorded cases from 1,719 different suppliers.
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