A stark white field behind a series of pristine black lines forms the trusty barcode. As sharp of an image as this may be, one barcode looks just the same as the next to the untrained human eye.

Barcodes allow for near immediate identification of samples by relying on computers to translate the barcode. A scanning device is typically necessary for differentiating and translating the unique information carried by each individual code.

The long serial or sample ID numbers used to identify samples, at a glance, appear almost as indecipherable as a barcode.

Though information like this benefits from remaining unique, there is some information that might be helpful to display in a way that is immediately recognizable to your employees—adding color is a great way to do that.

So, without further ado, here is our list of six reasons you might want to add a splash of color to your barcode labeling strategy.

1. Enhance your brand image/product image

Brand image isn’t always considered in the lab setting because it isn’t always necessary, but there are certain situations where brand representation can provide a lot of value.

If your samples are ever placed in in the same area as samples from different labs, brand representation is highly recommended. Your samples need to remain easily identifiable among samples from other labs and facilities.

By including your logo or wordmark on your container you create a clear differentiation between your samples and others. When you include brand associated colors you provide color association for even simpler at-a-glance identification.

Branding can also be useful when sample containers are going to be handled by professionals outside of your lab or even patients themselves.

Branded containers give an impression of professionalism and familiarity which can increase both awareness and trust. These are important impressions to make, and might not reach as far as you would like without some additional effort.

2. Communicate sample information

If your facility handles multiple types of samples, samples from several sources or other differentiating factors that may impact sample processing or storage, utilizing color to reflect those differences can be useful.

For example, if your facility processes several types of similar looking samples—adding a colored stripe to the label can help team members more efficiently identify samples to prepare them for downstream processes.

3. Spotlight warning or hazard information

When tracking, utilizing, or storing harsh chemicals or reagents, the communication of hazard information through labeling is extremely important and often required by legislation.

Adding a red diamond with GHS information or a hazard symbol to easily communicate danger associated with the contents of the container is just one example of a smart way color labeling is working to keep people safe and informed.

4. Color coding for staff instruction

Especially helpful in the healthcare industry, coordinating colored dots or stripes on labels with cap colors, associated paperwork, or test destinations can act as a dual methodology to ensure proper sample chain of custody.

For example, you might mark vials with colored stripes based on the type of testing they undergo, how and/or where they are stored so employees can identify crucial processing information at a glance. This makes it easier to ensure proper processing and storage preventing valuable samples from going to waste.

Through the use of color, lab workers can easily determine based on color how the sample needs to be processed.

5. At-a-glance identification for proper storage

Overall, adding color (or even shapes!) can provide quick and easy identification at a glance.

In storage facilities, different shelves may be assigned different colors or shapes, this makes it easy to identify storage locations of samples marked with corresponding labels.

6. Respond quickly to potential shortages

If you rely on specific labware there is always the potential of a shortage—especially in the current climate. While color won’t address every consumable shortage it can be extremely useful in some situations.

Let’s say you differentiate between vials based on cap color and there is a shortage of red capped vials. Adding a red stripe or dot to your labels may serve as a creative alternative on the fly.

Keep in mind that a traditional label isn’t the only way to go about introducing color to your processes. Alternatives such as direct mark—which is applied directly to the labware—can more closely simulate a colored piece of labware.

There are a host of reasons to consider adding color to your barcode labeling strategy: from brand awareness and color coding, to communication of hazardous information and at-a-glance identification.

Take a moment to think over these examples and consider if and how your facility may benefit from adding color.

Let your imagination run wild; we’re happy to help you incorporate your own ideas for adding color to improve workflows, boost accuracy, and increase awareness.


About author Chelsea Payeur

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