Many manufacturers have found that innovation can jump-start a business, but quality and service keep it going. This is definitely the case with Axicon Auto ID. This is the 40th anniversary of Axicon, and the company’s history has been spent focusing on its core competency, becoming a world leader in barcode verification, having developed and manufactured its own range of verifiers for 30 years. Now, the company’s barcode verifiers are used around the world, measuring the quality of printed barcodes on all varieties of product packaging.
Axicon“After 40 years, Axicon is still a standalone company focused on what it’s doing and not distracted by RFID or other things,” President Paul Bergé explains. “We’re not distracted by any issues of integrating with an acquiring company because in comparison to our competitors, they have all been acquired. Really, we are the only ones totally focused on what it is we’re doing, and we’ve been doing this for a large number of years, so the expertise is there.”
Axicon was established in 1979 by Peter and Jenny Hicks when they began importing barcode film masters into the United Kingdom, which were master images of barcodes for use on packaging artwork. The couple was reselling barcode images that were produced in the United States. Eventually, Axicon’s owners realized they didn’t have to pay high prices for the masters, and instead developed a machine to make the film images and incorporate a barcode as part of the package design. These film master makers were sold all over the word, from Argentina to China.
When the technology evolved and digital images replaced film, the market changed, but Axicon adapted. “If you are manufacturing a high-quality film and put it in the hands of a printer, a lot could happen in the flexographic environment,” Bergé says. “It led the owners to a conclusion that there was a need for an instrument that could ensure the print quality produced from a high-quality film was still high quality.”
Today, Axicon designs and manufactures barcode verifiers, produces self-adhesive labels (with and without barcodes) and creates barcode image files that are used in artwork. Michael Hicks, the son of Peter and Jenny, and his wife, Sarah, are the current owners, and Axicon remains the only UK-based manufacturer of barcode verifiers. Bergé joined the company about 15 years ago, helping Axicon develop the U.S. market and expand the business from Canada to Argentina. He notes there are a limited number of players in the market, but the technology continues to be important, especially as so many packages are shipped today.
Axicon 2“Nobody wants to buy a verifier – it is an instrument that verifies a barcode’s print quality – but you buy it because you have to,” Bergé says. “If in your supply chain, someone at the next level might say ‘I can’t read your barcode.’ If you have a shipping container of product coming in from China, the container is opened and it is full of boxes going to different locations. If that label is poorly printed, the boxes go to the distribution center and the laser scanners will not recognize the box or the address with a low-quality barcode. The box goes into the exception chute, and then you have a catastrophic disaster in the distribution center.
“You have to replace your label, and they will fine you,” he continues. “Think about the labor involved in producing a new label and putting it on the box – those fines are big. Instead of paying one fine, you can buy four or five verifiers.”
Axicon primarily has focused on the retail and consumer markets, but in the past eight or so years it has been doing more in the medical market because the FDA is imposing the use of barcodes on medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Axicon has been working closely with standards organizations GS1 and ISO to help all parties in healthcare supply chains understand how barcodes should be printed for medical devices and drugs.
“We are a significant player all over the world because we have been selling these devices for the longest time,” Bergé says. “Our instruments are very nimble and will do the necessary job. Our verifier is not a scanner – you can buy a scanner for $30 on Amazon, and if it doesn’t scan, does it tell you what’s wrong? That’s where our verifiers come in.”
He notes Axicon’s verifiers continue to improve with new features in an effort to stay abreast of evolving standards, as the result of their “very rich” underlying software that defines the instruments. With the quality of the verifiers and the longevity of the company, he is confident Axicon will continue winning customers across the globe.
“This is our 40th anniversary, and we are proud of that,” he says. “We are very much a standalone company in this industry. The others have been absorbed by much larger entities and so they lose focus. With our expertise and longevity, people see us as leaders in this field.”