International Bar Coding Systems and Consulting, a company started in the founder’s basement, now operates out of Penticton’s Industrial Park, employing more than a dozen people.
From that office in Penticton, IBC competes and serves customers internationally. Matt Pedersen, who does business development for the company, says “Because very little of our product is sold in the valley or in Penticton itself, we have to come up with ways to support our customers and not be in a major hub. Because our products can be supported remotely, it doesn’t really matter where we are.”
The company was founded in 1993 to build machines that could rapidly print and apply labels to wood products, providing a solution to a pressing need in the softwood lumber industry across North America. IBCs machines are capable of printing and applying labels at high speeds for situations in which the data being applied changes for each individual piece of wood.
Now, the use cases for the company’s hardware and software have expanded to hardwood, engineered wood, panels, and plywood, along with label and packaging solutions for wine bottles, cases, and fruit and vegetable producers. Indeed, it was the competence gained producing machinery that could withstand the environment in a lumber mill that made their products so attractive for other businesses.
Pedersen says, “We’ve taken that technology and rolled it out in quite a few industries. We needed to make a machine that was basically bulletproof. Once you come out of a market like [softwood], and you need to apply it to a fruit or beverage line, it’s quite easy.”
As the business has grown, so has the sophistication of their customers’ needs. There is big value now in ‘track and trace’. A company in the fruit and vegetable industry, for instance, needs to be able to trace their products all the way back to the farmer that produced the product, maybe even to the part of the farm from which the fruit came, as well as who packaged it, when it was packaged, and when it arrived. If there is a recall, a company can figure out where an issue occurred, and target the corresponding product as opposed to pulling all of that product off the shelf. Needless to say, this has tremendous value to businesses.
Serving this need, IBC provides software that gives this information to the customer. As a product comes in, fruit for example, the farmer is logged and the fruit arriving in raw form in bins is given a bar code which is tracked through IBC’s system. As the contents of that bin get packaged, a label is given to each individual package along with a 40-digit bar code. As a box goes to a pallet to be shipped, a shipping label and barcode are provided. At each point in the distribution, from farm to shelf, through complex and rugged environments, IBC’s hardware and software provide a reliable manner of tracking information.
The team at IBC has come up with ways to support their customers while being outside a major hub. “The big thing is to be able to tailor your customer service,” Pedersen says. “For us, it’s about being able to train your customer. It’s about being able to have systems in place to be able to remotely log in and help people when they have problems.”
The team continues to build and design products in-house in Penticton, which has only becomes easier as flights into the local airport increase and methods of remote training, monitoring, and troubleshooting become more common.