60 seconds with Bernie Hogan; GS1 US
Bernie Hogan; GS1 US
Title: Senior vice president, emerging capabilities & industries
Web site: gs1.org
Location: Lawrenceville, N.J.
Experience: Hogan spent more than 25 years working in retail information systems. He has been with GS1 since 1999.
Primary Focus: Emerging technologies that will impact industries in a three- to five-year horizon.
Modern: The bar code just celebrated its 40th birthday. How has this technology changed our lives?
Hogan: The bar code is the information backbone for supply chains around the world. It has created scales and efficiencies that would not be possible without bar codes. It is the key enabler of business processes for most of Modern’s readers. While people focus on the bar code, it’s less about the bars and spaces than the identification number that is contained in those bars and spaces. It’s used to identify a product starting at the source of manufacturing and tracks that product all the way to the end consumer. Think about this: The bar code is even used in countries like Cuba and North Korea. We might not agree with them on politics and policy, but we do agree on commerce.
Modern: What has been the most important development around bar codes during those 40 years?
Hogan: The most important development was that very early on, industry came together to agree on a standard for bar codes. At the time, there were different technologies, different approaches and different symbologies. Industry leaders were willing to stick their necks out and agree on a standard and agreed on a symbology. No one knew then that it would evolve into what it has today. We serve 150 countries around the world and more than 25 industry sectors.
Modern: Are we using bar codes differently today than we did initially?
Hogan: Absolutely. The original problem that the bar code was supposed to solve was a desire for more product information at the point of sale. You could capture it manually, but it was not accurate, and it created congestion at the checkout line. So they sought to automate that process. What they didn’t realize is how that starting point would lead to the creation of entire systems, such as merchandise replenishment systems and planning systems. On the marketing side, people are now using the information collected by bar codes to understand consumer behavior. Those uses evolved from trying to address a throughput problem in the checkout line.
Modern: Since part of your role is to look three to five years down the road, where are bar codes going from here?
Hogan: The ability to read a bar code with a smart phone is taking the technology much further. Every smart phone becomes a point of sale. I can have an app from any number of e-tailers or retailers so that I can buy product just from that smart phone app. From a materials handling perspective, most retailers are extending their infrastructure so that every store becomes a DC. We started with in-store point of sale and now stores are becoming distribution centers. Bar codes are making that possible, and it’s moving at a much faster pace than 40 years ago.