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Universal Product Code

.. package from point A to point B. A smart package is a package that has a bar code on its label and the United Parcel Service hubs scanners are able to read them and then sort the package accordingly, claimed Hub 2000 PSG Manager, Mark Casseday (Video). If the received package does not have a bar coded label, there are employees who enter the labels information into a computer and the computer creates a bar code label. This new label is machine and human readable.

After the label is affixed to the package it is reentered into the system. After reading the packages label, the system uses an arm on the conveyor belt to push the package to the conveyor belt that goes to the truck for delivery, disclosed Operations Planning Manager, Greg Campbell (Video). The system reads the smart label to fasten a presort label. This presort label tells the employee where to load the package onto the truck. The system takes all the information into account: the weight, the destination and the trucks route before issuing it a spot on the truck.

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Each spot on the truck has a color and a number. If it is a heavy package it has to be on the floor of the truck. If it is going to a place that is one of the drivers first stops then it has to be in the back of the truck. Each label has a color and a number as well as the truck and the person loading the truck knows immediately where the package belongs, assured Package Project Manager, Al Chavez (Video). The presort labels will help tremendously with vacation coverage.

United Parcel Service will not have to have highly trained employees for the vacation replacement, theorized Package Project Manager, John Olsen (Video). The money spent to utilize this technology is nothing compared to the money it will eventually save. Another service industry using the bar code is the health care industry. Joseph Shapiro reports that a new survey from the Institute of Medicine estimates that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans a year die from preventable mistakes made in hospitals by physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. Hospital errors rank as the nations eighth most frequent killer. More than 7,000 Americans die because of drug mix-ups (60).

These mistakes obviously need correcting. Bar coding is helping hospitals and doctors as explained in U.S. News and World Report, The VA hospitals are making clever use of bar-coding technology to avoid medication bungles. Prescriptions are typed into computers, not handwritten. And bar-coded labels, attached to a patients wrist and a nurses charts, are scanned each time a patient gets a pill, to check against mistakes. The idea came from a nurse at the Topeka VA hospital who, returning a rental car one day, noticed the wireless scanner used to check in her car.

The system will be in place in every VA hospital by June (Shapiro 60). Julekha Dash estimates that using handheld devices and bar code scanning technology could reduce errors in administering medication by as much as 85 percent (1). Robot-RX is a centralized system that automatically dispenses bar coded medications to drawers designated for each patient. In the five years of using Robot-RX no drug delivery errors have occurred. Unfortunately, drug manufacturers have several bar code formats, which makes it hard to implement handheld readers that track which care giver gave what drug (Dash 1).

Explained in Computerworld, Tom Smith, administrative director for pharmacy and oncology at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, N.C., said he hopes drug manufacturers will soon adopt a standard bar code on their drug label. “I think with the national initiative, the [Food and Drug Administration] is going to mandate that [all] drugs will have to conform to a universal bar code,” Smith said. “Until that happens, [drug manufacturers] wont do it.” (qtd. in Dash 1) Let us all hope the Food and Drug Administration does mandate this and soon. As mentioned before, there were zero errors with the installation of bar coded label on medication. The universal bar coding of medical products and the use of scanners to analyze reams of data is inevitable.

Announced in Journal of Health Care Finance, As managed care drives providers to reduce inventories, better understand utilization rates, and reduce costs, it will generate new databases out of necessity. One of these databases, and the focus of this article, will be generated from electronic scanners that will scan or read bar code from the myriad of packaged products any provider will utilize (e.g., gauze pads, aspirins, foam pads, disposables of all kinds, etc.). This new database will not be developed to improve clinical pathways, neural networks, or care paths, although these can hopefully be integrated at a later date. The provider-generated database, as in the case of supermarket scanner data, will revolutionize inventory management, allow precise utilization to be measured, and allow health care and medical products manufacturers to know their market shares and the effectiveness of promotions (Fox 44). The installation of this database should help reduce a patients hospital bill, because there will be an accurate inventory control and no excess medical products.

There is a software program that works with a bar code scanner to read aloud descriptions of tens of thousands of items for blind people. Bragged in The Associated Press, SCANACAN was developed by a Manchester, S.D., couple whose Ferguson Enterprises develops products to assist the blind. To use the program, a scanner reads the bar code and a synthesized voice provides information the user requests–a simple description of the product or, in the case of food, how to prepare it. The program allows users to create more databases and will hold up to 2 billion bar codes, though that number may be limited by the memory available on the computer. SCANACAN also can benefit newly blind people who are not fluent in Braille or people whose fingers have lost the sensitivity needed to read Braille. For now, customers must manually enter descriptions of products whose codes are not already in the program. But the Fergusons are seeking databases from more manufacturers to expand the softwares usefulness (Barrett 1D). This bar code program has made a world of difference in the blinds accessibility.

It can be used for their clothes by sewing on a bar code and entering a description, including its color. Then when it is time to get dressed they will not mix plaids and paisleys. It also helps keep track of their food inventory. Blind people tell the computer there is one less of a particular item after they use it all. Then when it is time to make a grocery list they do not have to remember what they used throughout the week.

No longer needed are the manual cash registers of yesteryear. Bar codes have revolutionized businesses with better inventory control and helping satisfy their customers needs. Twenty-five years of using bar codes in the retail industry has only improved with age. It has moved on to bigger and better objectives, along with staying where it originated. It is hard to believe such a small thing–in size–could change the world in such immense ways.

Bibliography Works Cited Barrett, Steven. Software Helps the Blind Keep Tabs. The Associated Press 16 Dec. 1999, D1. Collins, David Jarrett and Nancy Nasuti Whipple.

Using Bar Code–Why its Taking Over. Duxbury, MA: Data Capture Institute, 1990. Dash, Julekha. It Can Reduce Medical Errors. Computerworld 33.51 (1999): 1.

Fox, Kenneth. Can a Hospital Be Like a Supermarket? Better Data Will Provide Cost Controls, Efficiencies, and Income Streams. Journal of Health Care Finance 23 (1997): 44-45 Freedman, Alan. The Computer Desktop Encyclopedia. New York: AMACOM, 1999. Glanz, William. Black, White and Silver; Museum marks 25 Years of UPC. The Washington Times 30 Sept 1999, B9.

Gowrie, David. Making its Mark in Bar Coding. The Record 8 Dec. 1999, all ed., B3. Haga, Chuck.

From Orwellian to Ubiquitous: Happy Birthday, Dear Bar Codes. Minneapolis Star Tribune 22 June 1999: 1A Hartston, William. Good Questions: Cracking the Solution to the Supermarket. Independent 24 Jan. 1994, sec. misc: 30.

Leibowitz, Ed. Bar Codes: Reading between the Lines. Smithsonian 29.11 (1999): 130-146. Pontinus, Larry. Personal interview.

1 June 2000. Putting it to the Test–Creating Smart Packages. Dir. Jack Blaisdell. Narr.

Russ Easley. Videocassette. United Parcel Service, 2000. Rankin, Ken. Sometimes the Customer isnt Right. Discount Store News 38.3 (1999): 14. Shapiro, Joseph P.

Doctoring a Sickly System. U.S. News & World Report 13 Dec. 1999: 60.


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