Some of us are able to remember when UPC codes were first introduced. Quickly the benefits of a standardized product label became apparent. Installation began in the late 1960’s. By the mid 70’s they were ubiquitous in grocery stores. Now they are ubiquitous on all products. Scanning technology has advanced considerably and modern label readers are capable of presenting considerably more information, but still most labels are dedicated to present only a single field of information. With the capacity to present over 4,000 characters of data, SqrL codes can consolidate all product labels into one and still have room left over to allow for links to product documentation, installation and support assistance, recall and recycling data and so much more.
The cost of handling product “returns” is 5-6% of revenue. Shaving some of those costs through improved automation and more efficient communication systems with users will have a significant impact on the bottom line. Welcome to the world of SqrL Codes! Our use model is quite compelling.
• At the end of the manufacturing process, all of the required data for package and product labeling is aggregated into one label, including Hazardous Materials, Export data, and GHS, UPC, MSDS …. Everything: All in one label. There’s even room for more stuff like storage temperature limits that is often hard to find.
• So you go to a big-box store like Walmart to buy a big screen TV. You won’t find any help. But now go over and scan the SQRL code. On your menu you can choose to chat or make a VOIP call to pre-sales support. You can down-load collateral materials… you can check product reviews… Now the manufacturer’s consumer promotional scores go up. The customer is happy.
• The customer get the product home… scans the QR code on the back of the unit and with one button registers the warranty…. Nothing to fill out. One click registration!
• There’s more information here too… such as extended warranties… product accessories, expiration dates… a link for recall-notices.
• Unfortunately something isn’t right. The user scans the SQRL code again and selects documentation.. It appears on their phone screen.
• That doesn’t help. Another selection and the user is speaking to customer support. No phone numbers to look up.
• Maybe a field technician is sent out, and the product is not what was expected. Scanning the device can reveal a diagnostic tool, or maybe a repair video.
• It needs to be returned. One click and an RMA is authorized! In fact, maybe even a shipping label is printed out on your home printer!.
• Maybe the product is returned to the retailer. Now the retailer can open the box, scan a few key components (such as the hard disk drive) and validate that this is NOT a counterfeit product. The process is simple enough that even entry-level clerks can be trained.
• The product goes to triage. There a master repair record is created and a QR code produced that is stuck to the product--- no more paperwork that can be lost. As it goes through the repair process a digital toe tag is created. At the end of the process a final SQRL code is attached to the inside of the product as a permanent record of the event.
• The repaired product is sent to the refurbisher channel. Now it has a new label with the refurbisher’s warranty information and new serial numbers.
• Eventually, the product reaches end-of-life. Now the label is scanned and there are instructions for recycling and lists of hazardous materials. Other information can be there as well to help recyclers process the final disposition of the product.
So, what has the SQRL code enabled?
• We have consolidated labeling requirements, saving real-estate and making it easier to find information. This allows for more automation of product logistics and reduces paper.
• We have optimized the utilization of product labels that allows for more information to be easily accessed by logistics professionals, repair and support personnel, consumers and recyclers.
• We have opened a channel of communication between the user and the manufacturer to market extended warranties, product accessories and upgrades. We can communicate directly with users about product recalls.
• We track all of this with geo-tagging and analytics creating a valuable database for marketing and business process improvements.
• We can create a permanent repair record, and track the product throughout it’s entire life-cycle… collecting analytic data as we go.
Our protocols are posted on the RLA web site at www.rla.org/sqrl . So far, we are in dialog with a number of tier one manufacturing companies about pilot projects. We have already been approved as an ANSI standard (MH10.8.2.12N). We are now reaching out to coordinate with other standards bodies, including the new ISO Standards Committee on IoT and the Open Connectivity Foundation that is also focused on IoT, The Internet of Things can quickly become a nightmare for product support and returns logistics personnel. Hooking a crock-pot up to your home network? What could be complicated about that? Devising easier ways for users to get support and product return management through better product labeling may well be the key to successful product launches.
We are working to coordinate with all and any other standards bodies that are attempting to make life easier for consumers, product support and logistics professionals. If you are active in, or know about, any other organizations that would benefit from better product labels, please communicate with us:
Dr. Ron Lembke
Associate Professor, Supply Chain Management Marketing Area Coordinator, Managerial Sciences Dept University of Nevada