We’ve all been there. Something that is known to work doesn’t work out in the field. But back at home base, it works fine. How do you fix it? Of course, there’s no one right answer to that question, but [Benji York] had a particularly satisfying round of troubleshooting some errant barcodes and even came up with a very creative solution.
Here’s the setup: a customer couldn’t read some barcodes sent from [Benji’s] company. Yet when the bad barcodes returned, they were fine. They looked fine, too. In a Twitter post, [Benji] challenges you to see if you can tell what’s wrong.
We’ll confess. We couldn’t. [Benji] started decoding the barcodes by hand and noticed that one bar was just a little thinner than it should be. You can see in the picture, there is a thin white line cutting through the borders. That’s a problem with the printer and it manages to thin out one of the vertical lines in the barcode. Apparently, [Benji’s] scanner is more tolerant of this than the customer scanner.
The solution was also interesting. Instead of replacing or repairing the printer, it works fine to simply rotate the label 90 degrees. Sure, the thin line is still there, but it is a minor glitch in all the bars that any scanner will handle. [Benji] suggests always printing barcodes “against the grain” although, of course, that will depend a lot on the kind of technology your printer uses.
What we thought was interesting, though, is what this tells you about critical thinking when faced with a problem. Now that you know what the problem is, that thin vertical line in the border stands out like a sore thumb. But if you are like us, you were so fixated on the barcode that we totally missed it. Like the old saying about the forest and the trees.
A great reminder to look at all parts of something that aren’t working, not just the part that is failing. Honestly, we would have probably just repaired the printer but we do applaud the creative workaround. We spend a lot of time thinking about troubleshooting. If you want to dive deeper into barcodes, we can help you with that, too.