‘‘So, and now it is time to see how fast it can go!’’ were the legendary words of a colleague after his new Toyota Auris was delivered by the lease company. Annually there are several thousands of people in the Netherlands, just like my colleague, waiting in excitement for their new Toyota.
Yet how did the company that had not sold a car in Europe before 1966, grew to be the market leader in a relatively short time span? In my opinion it is not just because a good long-term policy, but also because of the continuous monitoring and striving to improve even the smallest detail. This striving for perfection has so far already led to many process improvements that were introduced by Toyota, among which the Kanban system and the ‘QR code’.
A QR code is a small square with white and black blocks. These small squares can be found everywhere nowadays, whether it is in news papers or near large building materials. But what is it and how does it work exactly? And more important, how can I use QR codes to make my company run faster and more efficient?
How does this big heap of small blocks in a QR code work exactly?
Most people that look at a QR code will think the same thing as I do whenever I look at modern art: ‘no matter how hard I try, I will never understand this’. But a QR code is in fact little more than a bar code that can be found on every product in the store. A QR code is read by a scanner, like the bar code on a product. The scanner transmits the read data to a computer. The computer converts the data into something that you and I can read as well.
A QR code includes the following elements:
- large square blocks, as a reference point for the scanner;
- version and the used format in which the data is captured;
- a clutter of blocks, which is the actual information.
This clutter can contain a maximum of 4.296 alphanumeric symbols (about two pages of text). In practice this means that with a press on the button you can have all the data on a certain product or article that you might want to have. Even if a QR code is damaged, the built-in repair system will still make it legible.
Alright, but what use is a QR code to my company?
‘Sure, it is nice that it is all possible, but what use is this to me?’ I can hear you think. The QR code can be used for a company on many different areas.
First of all, the QR code can be used for corporate needs, for which it was designed: controlling the processes. A QR code give a multitude of information compared to a bar code without lengthening the scan time. If you add a QR code on a document or product then you can always request the data instantly if you link a good system to it. This way you can know at any moment of the day where an object is located, to which project it is related, which employee supervises it, to which customer it needs to go and so forth.
In addition the QR code turned out to be a useful addition to the arsenal of any marketeer. Not long after the development of this code you could find the QR code everywhere in Japan on advertising material, from bus stops to advertisements in magazines. Using the QR code a consumer can open a relevant website with his mobile phone where additional information is stored. By adding QR codes the advertising budget is spent more efficiently. Not only is the consumer confronted with the advertising message, but with one click of the button the consumer can see more relevant information, for example on a website. The time between generating interest and taking action is shortened to a few seconds and the consumer hardly has to do anything for it either. The consequence is a higher conversion rate from an interested person into a buyer.
What is my experience with QR codes?
I have noticed that I am saving myself a lot of work by using QR codes for the digital project file. I add a sticker with a QR code to all new documents within Invantive: invoices, contracts, offers, packing slips and drawings. Subsequently I scan the documents; see for example this example scan of an invoice. Our process monitoring system Invantive Vision automatically links the documents to the related processes and projects. The paper copy disappears into the closet.
The sales department uses QR codes to quickly register the visitor on fairs by using their badge and then approach them personally afterwards.
Of course I am not the only one with experiences or ideas concerning the use of QR codes. I am curious to hear your experiences with the use of QR codes and how your company got faster through the use of QR codes. I would love to read these experiences in the comments below.