Quick Response codes, commonly known as QR codes, are two-dimensional bar codes that can be scanned and interpreted by hand-held devices, such as smart phones and tablets. They are most often seen on consumer products and in advertising, but they can also be used to help eliminate waste and improve communication in a business.
Understanding Quick Response Codes
The purpose of a Quick Response code is to quickly and reliably provide information in a physical context – that is, the information is associated with a place or object, where the code appears. The device that scans the code can then act on that information. The device might simply record the information for later use, or display it in readable form to a user, or it might even follow instructions to perform an action.
The information in a Quick Response code can be a web site URL, basic text, contact information, or product information. Most frequently, the device that scans a QR code will open a web site – but the device could also make a phone call, add information to a database, display the destination of a scanned package, or send an automated message to another department. The usefulness of a QR code is only limited by the programming of the device that scans it.
Many businesses use customized tablets to scan QR codes. They come configured with the necessary applications, as well as with the ability to communicate with the company's network. They may also require a user to sign in with a password, with different security options and access to different tasks depending on the user.
Quick response codes can be placed on anything. The main criteria is that they be large enough that the device can accurately scan them. Typically, a one-inch square is easily readable. However, QR codes may need to be larger when printed on uneven surfaces, such as fabric, or when being scanned from a distance.
How Are Quick Response Codes Used?
The following are some of the more common business uses for quick response codes:
This is the most common use for QR codes. Instead of clicking a link on your computer, you scan the QR code with a device; the result is immediate access to anything on the web. QR codes can point to a web page, an online video, a map, a document, a shopping cart, an e-commerce checkout page, or an online training class.
Personal contact information can be stored in a QR code, creating an electronic business card. The contact information can include a name, address, phone number, email address, and so on. Many devices allow a user to add contact information from a QR code directly to their saved contacts list.
Any string of letters and numbers can be stored in a QR code, allowing you to use QR codes to communicate any kind of information. This could be information needed to track the movement of materials through your production process, such as an order number and product specifications, or a part description and serial number. It could even be written instructions for an employee to follow when the code appears.
Kanban with QR Codes
An important characteristic of Kanban is that it is visual. For example, anyone in the production area can glance at the Kanban board and know the overall status of production. Physical Kanban boards encourage communication and collaboration, and provide a reminder about both goals and achievements, but they can be difficult to manage and record. Switching to an electronic Kanban system, while providing many data collection and monitoring advantages, can limit the display of Kanban information. What is needed is a highly visual system that makes capturing information easy. That can be accomplished using Quick Response codes.
With quick response codes, the existing visual Kanban system is retained. The physical Kanban cards are printed to include a unique QR code. These can be custom printed for each production batch, customer order, or production run, and can include detailed information. This allows individuals to read the information from the QR code locally using a hand-held device. Another approach is for each QR code to only contain a simple numeric string; each string is interpreted by a computer, by matching the number to an entry in a database.
Using QR codes, the Kanban cards can quickly be scanned to capture the data needed for automated tracking and analysis. Scanning can be done using a hand-held device, or an automated system. For example, a digital camera can capture an image of the entire Kanban board. A computer then identifies and reads each QR code in the image, automatically capturing the current production status. In addition, this allows the Kanban board to be visually shared in multiple locations.