Monday 27 June 2011

Alan Haberman, father of the barcode, died 12th June 2011, aged 81

He was largely responsible for standardising the barcode’s design and introducing it into the world’s supermarkets, a development that has revolutionised retailing and countless other activities.

Despite resistance from conspiracy theorists, who considered barcodes to be intrusive (!) surveillance technology, and from some Christian groups who thought the codes hid the number 666, more than five billion of the codes are now scanned in shops worldwide every day; the technology has yielded savings running into the trillions of dollars

Slow to start, the breakthrough came when the “pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap” retailers got in on the act. In 1984 Wal-Mart, Kmart and Bullocks decided to introduce the barcode and other chains soon followed suit. As the system developed it enabled retailers to keep track of inventory with unparalleled accuracy, making possible the introduction of “just-in-time” ordering, minimising the need for storage and waste, and providing a huge range of sales data which allowed greater responsiveness to customer demands.

If you have any doubts as to the fundamental change caused by Haberman’s drive, think how unexciting the KAM role would be without barcodes…

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