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Happy 40th Birthday, Bar Code!

30 Jul 2014

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Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons (In the public domain)

The bar code — those 12 tiny black stripes that are now printed on practically every package and are used for everything from pricing to inventory to tracking through the supply chain — celebrated its 40th anniversary last month.

On June 26,1974, the first bar code was used to ring up a 10-pack of Wrigleys’ Juicy Fruit gum at the Marsh Supermarket, in Troy, Ohio. The price was 67 cents. Today, that package of gum is on display in the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington, D.C., as an artifact of American history. 

The UPC Truly is Universal

Today, the bar code is everywhere. It’s what allows FedEx to guarantee overnight delivery. It’s what allows Walmart to keep its prices low thanks to its just-in-time supply chain logistics. It’s what powers Toyota’s revolutionary kanban manufacturing system. It is used on everything from boarding passes to hospital patient wristbands, from rental cards to nuclear waste.

Alan Haberman, a supermarket executive from Massachusetts who led a committee that was seeking way to modernize the grocery industry, is credited with giving birth to the bar code. But he didn’t invent it.

It was based on an idea by Joe Woodland, a grad school dropout who in 1949 drew Morse code dots and dashes on a Florida beach then drew vertical lines down from each character to tease out the first prototype of the modern bar code.

Allowed Systems to Be Interchangable

The bar code was created out of necessity. By the late 1960s, some manufacturers and retailers started putting their own product coding systems in place, but unlike the bar code, these symbol’s couldn’t “talk” to each other, according to Stephen A. Brown, author of the book “Revolution at the Checkout Counter”.

“The grocery product manufacturers — Kellogg’s, General Mills, people like that — they were terrified at the thought that they would soon be facing conflicting demands from their customers,” Brown told the New York Times. “That Safeway would ask them to put on a symbol that was a a semicircle, that Kroger would ask them to put on a symbol that was a square, and so on.”

In 1973, Haberman chose the bar code over other contenders, including circles, bull’s eyes and seemingly random agglomerations of dots. He tirelessly urged manufacturers, retailers and the public to embrace the strange new symbol. His efforts ushered in  the new world of information technology.

Bar Codes and the Book of Genesis

Haberman himself understood that bar codes — also known as Universal Product Codes, or UPCs for short — offered more than just a better way to manage inventory at his supermarkets. They provide an almost Biblical type of globalization.

“Go back to Genesis and read about the Creation,” Haberman once told the Boston Globe. “God says, ‘I will call the night “night”; I will call the heavens “heaven”. Naming was important. Then the Tower of Babel came along and messed everything up. In effect,the UPC has put everything back into one language, a kind of Esperanto, that works for everyone.”

Today’s bar codes aren’t limited to information about a products price or description. It can convey instructions to a three dimensional printer that can be used to create the object itself.


Third-party logistics (3PL) showed a 3.2% growth in gross revenues in 2013 compared to a year earlier, according to a report issued earlier this month the consulting firm of Armstrong & Associates. And analysts predicted that growth will be 5.2% for 2014 as the US economy continues to show improvement

A third-party logistics provider is a company that provides service to its customers of outsourced — or “third party” — logistics services for part, or all of their supply chain management functions.

This year, net revenues are expected to increase by 4.3% from $64.6 billion in 2013 to $67.4 billion, according to an A&A news release.

Domestic Transportation Management (DTM) will increase 7.5%, the analysts predicted. Growth inDT continues to be fed by the expansion of the base of customers using 3PLs.

“It is common now for customers with as little as $3 million in transportation spend to use at least one 3PL,” the report stated. “Similarly, third-party logistics services provided are more systems-driven rather than just load-by-load transactions. Systems based ‘Enterprise Accounts’ constitute a significant part of the business for all  major domestic transportation managers.”

A&A is a supply chain management market research and consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, logistics, outsourcing, competitive benchmarking, mergers and acquisitions, 3PL service/cost benchmarking and supply chain system evaluation and selection. It is based in West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee.



Two of the leading supply chain management software companies announced earlier this month that they were merging to form a single networked trading partner management technology solutions firm.

Accellos — which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado — has joined with the Minneapolis-based HighJump Software to create a new company that wil have 11,000 customers in 23 countries and operations in North America, Asia and Europe. The combination of the  two companies creates a product portfolio that is positioned to meet the anticipated demand of retailers, distributors and manufacturers to manage complex order fulfillment cycles, according to a joint news release issued to announce the merger.

“The combination of Accellos and HighJump brings together a unique set of technologies, including networked trading partner connectivity, warehouse management, transportation management, and route delivery,” the news release stated. “This creates the opportunity for customers to work with a single technology provider with an adaptable technology backbone for omni-channel supply chain operations and organizations of all sizes.”

The new company will operate under the name HighJump and continue to use the Accellos brand for mid-market supply chain execution technology. Accellos founder and CEO Micheal Cornell will serve as CEO of the newly formed company.

“Discussions with our customers have made it clear that omni-channel is a catalyst for rethinking their supply chain and its underlying technology,” Cornell said. “This combination brings extremely complementary technology to both Accellos and HighJump customers.”



Here’s a special sneak preview of some of what you will find this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • Would you believe that the bar code is turning 40 this year? To celebrate, we’ll look back at the fascinating history of that little squiggly box that has been on packages and products since 1974.
  • The fees to ship cargo containers across the Pacific is going up … but that can actually be good news because it may mean a West Coast strike by longshoreman is unlikely.
  • Economists are taking a “glass half full” approach to recent economic reports that say retail sales growth remains flat. They remain optimistic that things are going to improve in the very near future.

Plus, an intermodal expo in Long Beach, a growth in third-party logistics, the merger of two supply chain management software companies, and this week’s fascinatingly dangerous Video of the Week! All that and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog, so stay tuned!


Manufacturing OptimismRetail sales gains between May and June showed relatively little growth, yet at least one economist from the National  Retail Federation said the retail industry could be on the brink of the rapid growth everybody has been waiting for since the start of the Great Recession.

According to statistics released earlier this month by the US Department of Commerce, June retail sales in the US were $439.9 billion, up just 0/2% from May but 4.3% higher than June 2014. Total retail sales from April through June were up 4.5% annually.

Not including the sale of big-ticket products like automobiles, total retail and food services were in June increased 0.4% over May to $351.9 billion. That’s 3.7% higher than June 2013. The April to May 2014 increase was an increase of 0.5%, revised from an earlier 0.3% figure reported by the Commerce Department.

Flat, But Promising

Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said consumer retail sales — which includes everything except cars, gas and restaurants — were flat on a seasonally adjusted and sequential basis for the second straight month in May, but saw a 3.0% increase year over year. Kleinhenz said he prefers to look at the report optimistically.

“June retail sales reinforce the renewed strength of consumer confidence and marked increases in retail employment over the last few months,” Kleinhelz wrote on his blog published on the NRF website. “The upward revisions in April and May have provided positive signs of momentum for second quarter growth after a dismal first quarter. Retail sales gains were seen in many categories including electronics, health and personal care, clothing and apparel, sporting goods and general merchandise. The downshift in building and furniture sales continue to reflect the fits and starts of the housing market.”

Indicator of Where Economy is Heading

Retail sales are often an indication of how confident end-user consumers are in the strength of the economy. When consumers believe unemployment will remain low, the stock market will continue to rise and the long-term economic prognosis in the US is rosy, they are much more likely to spend money on products and services.

The first half of this year showed little, if any, growth in retail sales but much of this could be due to the harsh winter weather conditions which kept much of the country inside and out of the shopping malls and business districts during the first three months of this year. Now that spring and summer have brought warmer — if somewhat inconsistent and wet — weather conditions, a more normalized view of retail sales is available.

Optimism in Some Quarters

This head led many economists to be optimistic about the remaining three quarters of this year. One of them is Charles W. “Check” Clowdis Jr., managing director for transportation advisory services at IHS Global Insight.

“There are ‘positive pockets’ indicated that the pent-up demand is coupling with necessity spending to at lest continue the slow and positive trend in consumer spending,” Clowdis told Logistics Management. “We see more people dining out at more upscale restaurants than in the past several years, a good trend for the dining establishments and the carriers that transport food products. Now, if this trend spread with lowering unemployment figures, the economy may become robust at 2006 to 2006 levels again.”

“Baby steps are better than falling backward,” Clowdis said.

air cargo security

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons (In the public domain)

The US Transportation Security Administration has lifted requirements for air cargo screening reports that were implemented in the wake of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.

The TSA no longer will require airlines carrying passengers and cargo to to provide air cargo screening volume reporting, which some industry representatives said was putting a strain on an already competitive industry.

TSA Takes a More Risk-Based Approach

Doug Brittin, secretary general of The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) said he applaud the TSA for taking a more risk-based approach to air cargo screening.

“This will significantly relieve the reporting burden on industry, saving many labor and IT hours,” Brittin said in a TIACA news release. “All passenger carriers, and over 1,200 certified freight fowarders and shippers in the US have been required to measure and provide these reports monthly. We applaud this move as a positive step towards adopting a risk-based approach versus forensic compliance.”

Industry Trade Group Lobbied for Regulatory Change

Last September, TIACA and other industry leaders lobbied the TSA to ease the requirement for reporting. TIACA chairman Oliver Evans called on TSA Administrator John Pistole to lift the reporting requirements, which took up too much time that could be devoted to improving other air cargo security measures.

In a letter to Pistole, Evans pointed out that while the 100% mandatory screening target level has been achieved, the requirements to report montly air cargo screening statistics were problematic because “the requirement places a significant labor and data collection burden” on the air cargo industry as companies must expend both human and IT resources to meet the requirement.

Evans asked Pistol to use his powers under the 2013 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act to certify that TSA has successfully achieved screening of 100% of air cargo and to life the reporting requirement. He said that eliminating this burden for all shippers, carriers and air forwarders could be accomplished through a relatively quick and straightforward process.

“We are delighted the requirements have now been lifted,” Evans said. “This move allows industry and government to properly focus limited resources on measures that materially benefit security. We represent all sections of the air freight supply chain and we are dedicate to continuing our close work with regulators to ensure global cargo security measure are effective and efficient, while ensuring the flow of commerce.”

World-Class Air Cargo Security

Evans said the TIACA will continue to work closely with the TSA to make global air cargo security measures the best in the world.

Brittin said regular and ongoing inspections of 100% of the air cargo being carried on passenger and cargo planes in the US has made the reports unnecessary. He said workers and IT resources being used to fulfill the TSA’s reporting requirement for both government and industry could be better deployed elsewhere.

TIACA is a global not-for-profit trade association that represents all the major segments of the air cargo and air logistics industry, including all-cargo airlines, forwarders, airports, ground handlers, road carriers, customs brokers, logistics companies, shippers, IT companies, aircraft and equipment manufacturers, trade press and educational institutions.



Despite the ongoing tensions in Eastern Europe, the logistics industry in Russia is poised for growth. Evidence is apparent with the emergence of CeMAT Russia, a logistics trade show scheduled for October that already has 168 participants lined up who hail from 15 different countries. Nearly 5,000 visitors are expected to view the numerous exhibitions that represent the latest trends and developments in material handling in Central and Eastern Europe. Applications for additional exhibitors are currently being accepted, as are invitations to visit.

Toyota's Electric Forklift 8 Series

Toyota’s Electric Forklift 8 Series

Perhaps the most significant evidence of the lure of Russian logistics opportunities is the recent, major investment in Russia by Toyota Material Handling Europe (TMHE), a subsidiary of Toyota Motors. TMHE formed OOO Toyota Material Handling Rus last fall, with the opening of its new headquarters in Moscow in late September of 2013. The company will be a major presenter at CeMAT Russia this year.

Like most major corporate investments in Russia these days, the new company is closely partnered with existing, established firms that have maintained the favor of the Russian government-in the case of OOO Toyota Material Handling Rus, the major partners are Tsusho Tekhnika and Sumitec International. Both of these firms also have Japanese ties and have established relationships with Toyota. The firms became well established as official distributors of heavy equipment, much of it for raw material handling in mines as well as in oil and gas fields in the resource-rich Russian Federation.

Now Toyota seeks to build its presence in the arena of lighter logistics equipment-every type that is used inside warehouses

Toyota Pallet Truck

Toyota Pallet Truck

The company’s director, Hans Gehlin, has set goals for the company that are similar to the goals of any global material handling firm-he says the firm will seek to drive down logistics costs in Russia and the surrounding region and thereby provide the best service possible to their customers. News headlines show no sign of withered confidence in the company’s success even as tensions mount between the Russian Federation and neighboring Ukraine, where Sumitec International maintains a powerful presence.







safety equpiment

Warning signs aren’t just for decoration. Ignoring the safety rules weakens your chance for just compensation.

Attorneys at the New Jersey-based firm Kaplan and Kaplan say no accident should go unreported, nor should you wait to report an accident you have at work. The law firm’s website says many people are afraid to “make waves” in their work place by reporting accidents. Kaplan and Kaplan has operated for 50 years and has specific attorneys who specialize in workplace injury claims through its Wayne Workplace Accident Lawyer program.

Not reporting an accident not only endangers your health and welfare, it also gives companies a leg up over you and your workers’ comp claim even if your claim is legitimate. If you don’t report an accident as soon as it happens, the company can come back and say that you may have received your injury outside of work, and be better able to contest your claim. This can happen even if the workplace conditions were legitimately unsafe and even if you were doing everything in your power to work safely and in accordance with your company’s safety policies.

No matter what type of accident you have, you need to know your rights and always, no matter what, report the accident right away and be certain that is documented on official company records. Kaplan and Kaplan offers basic information on its website and provides contact information for attorney consultations.

 Comp costs in retrospect-your employer’s perspective

Comp claims can cost companies a fortune in hiked insurance premiums. Comp rates keep eating at profits long after the lost work time is made up for, and to make matters worse, reportable accidents put your facility on OSHA’s wanted list. So you’ll pay for accidents even if no worker ever files a specific suit beyond the comp claim.Tips for Warehouses with Forklifts

Just as workers have a right to know their rights and exercise their options, the company also has the right to protect itself. By maintaining a safe workplace for employees and by training employees properly for safety on the job, they are protecting everyone who is involved with the operation, from the material handler to the shareholders and the CEO.

Mutual protection

Avoiding comp claims doesn’t have to mean there must be an adversarial relationships with between the company and employees. Quite by contrary, if a company gives employees proper safety training, you, as an employee, are in good hands. You want to go home in the same condition you arrived in-walking, with all ten fingers and all ten toes. Safety training, such as forklift training, may seem surprisingly basic, but then, so are the causes of serious injuries and fatalities for workers, OSHA studies show.

Given the proper training, you will know how to avoid accidents. An employee who is given proper training and who demonstrates proper understanding of what their training means should be able to pass applicable tests whose criteria is recognized by OSHA and should be able to avoid accidents if equipment is properly maintained and you are adhering to safety rules.


Occupations Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA)

Kaplan and Kaplan, Attorneys at Law


You’ve probably heard of “Stupid Pet Tricks”, a segment that has been a part of David Letterman’s “Late Night” television program for nearly 30 years. This week’s Video of the Week features what could be called “Stupid Heavy Machinery Tricks”.

In this video — which was posted on YouTube and apparently was shot in Tedirdag, Turkey, at least according to the commentators — an excavator has been loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck. But the truck seems to have run out of gas. So the operator of the excavator uses the vehicle’s extendable arm to push the truck down the highway as a befuddled bicyclist and other pedestrians look on in surprise.

While you have to applaud the excavator operator’s inventiveness, one has to wonder why he simply didn’t siphon the fuel from the excavator to the truck so the flatbed could have been driven to a gas station!





Associated Integrated Supply Chain Solutions has been selected to host the 2014 Leadership Conference held by Loyola University’s Quinlan School of Business. The event will be held August 6 at the company’s headquarters in Addison, Illinois.

Mike Romano, the company’s president and CEO, said the conference offers an opportunity to bring supply chain experts and professionals from various backgrounds and industries together so they can discuss today’s most pressing supply chain topics.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to work with The Supply and Value Chain Center of the Quinlan School of Business of Loyola University Chicago,” Romano said. “We fully support and appreciate their goal to create a common platform where industry leaders and academics can exchange ideas and knowledge in the are of supply chain.”

John Caltagirone, founding director of Loyola’s supply chain center, said providing an opportunity for industry professionals to get together and share their experiences and ideas can only help the entire supply chain industry.

“It is imperative for the academic community to have partners in Supply Chain like Associated that will enable us to continue to support the growing needs of the Chicago business community and beyond in the development of leading edge strategies and real world solutions to problems relative to the management of the end-to-end supply chain,” Caltagirone said.