Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Norman Joseph Woodland, co-inventor of barcode, RIP!

Norman Joseph Woodland
On the 15th of December 2012 I came across a small news item, somewhere on the 17th page of the Delhi edition of Hindustan Times, it reported the demise of a man who made path breaking contribution by inventing the barcode which has since evolved over the years to change the way products are labeled and packed for modern day retail. His invention has facilitated not only quicker point of sales invoicing but also inventory management, track and trace operations and many other industrial processes. Norman Joseph Woodland, the co-inventor of barcode, passed away in Edgewater, New Jersey, USA on the 9th of December 2012 at the age of 91 years.
Born on 6th September 1921 to Jewish parents, Woodland earned his B.Sc in Mechanical engineering from Drexel University, where he later joined as a lecturer in 1948-49. One day his colleague Bernard Silver heard a super market executive asking their dean to develop a system to automatically capture product information at cash counters to facilitate quicker sale process. While the dean refused yet Silver found the idea extremely appealing and also convinced Woodland to join him in creating a viable product. Woodland quit his job and moved to Florida to spend time on the project. One day sitting in a chair on the beach he pondered over the project at hand. To represent information visually, he realized, he would need a code. The only code he knew was the one he had learned in the Boy Scouts. What would happen, Woodland wondered one day, if Morse code, with its elegant simplicity and limitless combinatorial potential, were adapted graphically? He began trailing his fingers idly through the sand.  “What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Woodland told Smithsonian magazine in 1999. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ” He along with Bernard Silver patented the barcode in the shape of conclavic rings of varying widths. Unfortunately, since they could not develop a cost effective or viable scanning device and being pessimistic of the way forward, they sold their invention for 15000 dollars, which was all the money they made from this patent. Woodland thereafter joined IBM in 1951 and remained there till his retirement in late eighties. In between in 1960 his patent had expired. Almost 20 years after he joined IBM his colleague at IBM George Laurer with support from Woodland created the present day barcode. It is the zebra like band of vertical lines of varying thickness. These could be scanned with the help of microprocessors and laser scanners that had been developed by that time and made the product viable and cost effective. On the 26th of June 1974, a supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, USA became the first person to scan a barcode on a 67 cent pack of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum.
The technology has since evolved and changed the way how products are retailed and supply chain is managed. Now an estimated 5 billion barcodes are scanned in millions of retail outlets around the world. A man whose pioneering effort has impacted the label and packaging industry positively and to gigantic proportions adding to its growth has passed away. We salute the noble soul… Norman Joseph Woodland “may your soul rest in peace (RIP)”
Successful exhibitions are normally linked to the cities and the venues where they have been traditionally held and found success. Drupa, the biggest printing industry show has always been held successfully at Messe Dusseldorf, Labelexpo Europe continues to attract the world of labels every two years to the expo centre in Brussels and all editions of Auto expo are destined at Frankfurt. India has lacked exhibition venues and New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan is the only destination which has most of the successful and large shows. Unfortunately the state owned venue with it monopolistic attitude has rubbed many a show organizers on the wrong side. Due to this reason many organizers who had successful shows at this venue seem to be moving to the new and more international Greater NOIDA Expo center even though it has locational disadvantage. In recent times two of the major print and packaging related shows that were highly successful at Pragati Maidan have moved away. PackPlus was recently held at Greater NOIDA Expo Centre and the huge IPAMA organised PrintPack India 2013 will also be held at the same venue from 23rd to28th February 2013.  The venue has a disadvantage as it is far from New Delhi and has no airport, train or metro station in its vicinity. Even no organized or government sponsored/owned regular bus service is available. Persons from Delhi or those arriving from other cities have to hire all day taxis to reach the venue. Defying all disadvantages the organizers of these events have shifted the shows to this venue. In clear contrast the organizers of Labelexpo India, the UK based Tarsus Group, who had an extremely successful show in the end of October 2012 at Pragati Maidan despite indicating a change of venue for future shows decided to announce the next show two years hence again at Pragati Maidan.
Anil Arora
 
Anil Arora of PackPlus was beaming after the show ended. He was pleased that he successfully blasted the myth that visitors will not come to Greater NOIDA. He had advertised and arranged transportation from metro stations in NOIDA to bring visitors comfortably to the venue and also for return. With a footfall of 5213 visitors who made the effort to come, he is happy that they were an extremely focused lot who came and his show has delivered the results expected by over 200 exhibitors showcasing at this event. The bigger and established printers and those from the established packaging companies were not very evident at the show however many from the end user segment marked their presence adding value to the show. It is a show with lot of promise and the next editions are bound to grow bigger. The exhibitors were a mixed lot catering to many segments in the print, packaging and product packing industry. The label industry was also present. Those from the label industry, who exhibited included Reynders, Anygraphics, Pacedge Labels, Saiprographics, Insight communications, Weldon Celloplast, etc.
Dr. Ramani Narayan
On the sidelines of PackPlus, a very successful International Packaging Conclave was organized on the second day of PackPlus at Radisson Blu, Greater NOIDA. It received a good response with 110 attendees arriving from all parts of the country. The conclave started with the key note address by Prof. Ramani Narayan, distinguished Professor, Michigan State University. I and all other delegates were very impressed by the presentation of Dr. Narayan, the clarity of his expression left the listeners spellbound. His pleasant nature was experienced by many who interacted with him during the networking sessions.  The Conclave proceeded towards the first panel discussion on ‘Packaging Solutions: Benefits of Integration & Collaboration across the Value Chain.’ The second panel discussion delved deep in automation highlighting ‘Future Demands on Automation for Packaging- to which Open Technology is the Answer’. The third and the final panel discussion focused on ‘Sustainability- the Future Imperative: Approached & Case Studies’. Concluding with the roundup by Mahendra N Patel, Chairman, Mamata Machinery, the Conclave summed up to big success. It was very interesting to see the delegates were glued to their seats even till 8.45 PM when the last presentation ended. The conclave was attended by known names in the Packaging industry and senior level executives from Coca Cola, Nestle, Kraft Foods, Castrol, GSK, etc. The evening ended with a networking dinner leaving fond memories of comradeship.
 Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 December, 2012

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