Sunday, October 21

Up close and personal with the U.P.C

George J. Laurer is considered the inventor of U.P.C. or Uniform Product Code, more commonly known as the scanner barcode.  His linear design of fat and thin lines was launched in 1973, adapting an earlier bullseye-shaped design developed by Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland in 1948. Interestingly, none of these inventors successfully commericalised their creation. It took the likes of IBM to transform the barcode into the tool it is today. Although Woodland ultimately joined IBM helping it embed barcodes into the pioneering reaches of the retail trade.

Fast forward two score years and it's  hard to imagine modern commerce without such a ubiquitous symbol. These days you cannot buy a grocery product without a barcode and their use has spread well beyond retail. You'll find barcodes now managing worldwide freight shipping, preserving national archives and protecting sensitive hospital data.  I've even noticed them make an appearance on airport boarding passes and bus tickets.

Why a blog post on barcodes?  For the last two weeks I've been helping Garry plaster barcode stickers on much of his company's inventory. Garry's decided to outsource its warehouse logistics, which in turn requires each stock item to have a unique code.  Frustratingly, most of the stock he acquired lacks this fundamental item.  As a result, we've been forced to individually "touch" tens of thousands of products, adding coded stickers before they can be shifted to a third-party warehouse. It's certainly made for an intensive, but highly accurate, stock take.

I must confess that the focus on barcoding stock has distracted me from serious job hunting.  However, I've had more than one headhunter tell me that the market is unusually quiet.  They feel things are unlikely to pick up until the New Year. I'm now switching my focus to building out my professional network. While it's early days I'm somewhat encouraged by the connections I've started making.

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