It takes a spark to set off a bush fire and what initially may look like an insignificant innovation to spark off a business revolution.
The humble bar code turns 35 this week. A collection of black stripes on merchandise sold over retail counters has changed the world. The most obvious benefit of bar coding is that consumers need to spend less time at check-out counters, waiting for their bills to be manually prepared. These days, it takes a few swipes over a bar code reader to do the trick.
But that’s not the end of the issue. Bar coding has helped retailers and manufacturers keep a close eye on sale patterns in real time, knowing exactly when to stock up or run down inventory. That has led to a radically new world of efficient supply chains and tight inventory management. Businesses have become more flexible.
Earlier, the development of shipping containers helped the post-World War II boom in global trade. The container has been described as the box that changed the world.
The bar code has been equally revolutionary.