Initially used by the automotive industry to track vehicle parts, quick response (QR) codes can now be seen everywhere from magazines to store signs. When scanned, these 2-D barcode patterns take smartphone users with the proper app (see sidebar) to websites and videos.
While many manufacturers employ these codes to share promotional releases, others are going beyond marketing and applying them to equipment and other products to provide service information.
“An end-user in the field wondering how to best use or maintain equipment probably doesn’t have ready access to a product manual or computer,” says Dennis Von Ruden, president of General Equipment, manufacturer of hole-digging, ventilation and surface preparation equipment. “But they likely have a cell phone handy.
“Using QR codes is just the next logical progression,” Ruden says. “QR codes allow us to put so much information right at a customer’s fingertips.” General Equipment’s codes direct users to product-specific websites, including the operator’s manual, parts list and equipment literature.
Companies such as Air Burners, a manufacturer of air curtain incineration systems, have also realized the potential of using the codes as customer service tools. “It’s not unusual for DOT (Department of Transportation) or environmental workers to be on the jobsite asking to see a manual,” says Brian O’Connor, president of Air Burners. “Now, contractors can scan the code and see the manuals – instead of trying to search for them.”
Depending on their connection speed, users can download Air Burners’ 40-page manual in a few seconds for its Fire Box and road dryer machines. For older equipment, customers can log on to the company’s website (airburners.com) and request free self-stick QR-code decals for their particular models.
Proven Winners, a plant provider, put QR codes on plant tags that link to consumer ratings, growing tips, design/combination ideas and awards for that particular plant. Landscapers can also see how many of this type plant are available online and the plant’s price. Proven Winner’s codes are compatible with iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones.
Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power added Power Code QR codes to their Vanguard single-cylinder and V-twin engines that, when scanned, direct users to information for the specific engine model. For in-field troubleshooting, contractors can use the codes to find FAQs, owner’s manuals, recommended maintenance instructions/schedules and parts lists. (The codes provide information in English and Spanish.)
If the problem requires dealer support, Briggs & Stratton’s QR codes can also locate a local dealer for nearby service. “With the recession, companies using commercial equipment are often traveling farther to find projects to stay profitable,” says Dan Roche, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power. “These companies can be vulnerable to costly delays and rework if they need parts or service when they’re far away from their dealer.” For more support, an 800 number is also listed and linked to the QR site.
Briggs & Stratton’s OEM clients also appreciate the codes, Roche says. “They understand contractors live on the road and are becoming increasingly active users of mobile assets and resources.” In the future, Briggs & Stratton plans to offer QR codes for consumer engines that provide startup instructions, maintenance schedules and safety guidelines.
To scan a QR code or Microsoft Tag barcode, first visit the Apple iTunes App Store, Android Market or Blackberry App World on your phone. Search “QR code scanner,” and pick an app to download (many are free). After the app is on your phone, open it and click the “scan” button, which will activate the camera. Center the code, and the app will scan it and open the website.