Image-based barcode readers deliver ‘Print and Apply’ read-rate improvements for global ecommerce retailer


  • Retrofitting high-speed lines with image-based barcode reading


  • Read rate accuracy increased to 99.9% and above


  • Each parcel is weighed, married, and shipping label printed and applied within 200 milliseconds


  • 15 lines retrofitted in parallel across six sites

Image-based barcode scanning for high-speed ‘Print and Apply’ lines

The Challenge

If the fulfilment centre is the lifeblood of today’s ecommerce retailer, then the ‘Print and Apply’ line is its beating heart.

This is where all parts of the logistics department come together to make sure every parcel is  packed, labelled and shipped correctly, to a uniformed standard.

These high-speed scanning stations handle millions of products every day. However, many of these lines are using laser-based barcode scanners, which come with a failure rate far higher than their newer, image-based alternatives.

Image-based scanners use high-resolution cameras and can capture an image from multiple angles, for far greater accuracy. They can also read 2D as well as 1D barcodes, which store more data in the same area, and offer huge potential for future data use.

When one of the world’s largest ecommerce retailers wanted to upgrade the barcode readers on its ‘Print and Apply’ lines, the obvious answer was to move towards an image-based solution.

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Retrofitting to increase read rates, speed and accuracy

Our Solution

Laser-based barcode scanners have been around for decades. The technology is analogue, and can’t be developed any further, with read rates as low as 95% often accepted as the norm. Each failed read can slow down a line, costing a business hours in additional manual work.

For this project, we set out to upgrade the laser-based scanners to 2D-ready, image-based digital cameras which could deliver increased read rates, speed and accuracy. 

Working in partnership with global vision supplier Cognex, we retrofitted multiple older lines across different UK sites in parallel, installing and commissioning complex engineering on high speed lines operating at more than one metre per second. 

The uniformity of these lines could not be compromised. The level of standardisation that was required – and achieved – was a technical and logistical feat for our team.

The whole project was delivered within a few weeks, with no disruption to the retailer’s day-to-day operations.

Delivering 99.9% read rates and above

The Result

For every 1% improvement in read rate on these lines, it saves almost 300 manual parcel checks per line, per day, with all the labour costs that come with that.

Whereas previously, they were operating a complex set of processes, from the weighing scale for each parcel at the front with a laser scanner, sending data to a web system, for a shipping label to be printed and applied when the parcel reaches a second station many seconds later.

Now, each parcel is weighed, married, and its shipping label printed and applied within 200 milliseconds. Within just a few seconds, each parcel has entered and then left the line, ready for dispatch. 

Our image-based cameras read multiple 1D and 2D codes at the reject station within 80 milliseconds per parcel.

In the event of a failed read, the cameras capture the image of the barcode for analysis.

This future-ready system is now set up for further upgrades in 2D reading, machine vision and deep learning in years to come.  

To find out more about our barcode readers, click here