Barcode firm goes global.
A HI-TECH Newport company has secured pounds 3m of venture capital funding to fuel its drive to establish a worldwide standard for the ubiquitous barcode.
Udex the UK leader in barcode computer systems, is now aiming to break into the giant US market.
The multi-million-pound business's cutting edge software is already utilised by some of the UK's leading supermarket chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Iceland and Safeway.
The four companies and their main suppliers use Udex to compile and maintain the information stored on their barcode systems.
Before Udex was established in 1997, the barcode was simply a set of lines with a string of numbers underneath printed on every product.
Manufacturers and retailers had to input manually into their systems product information to accompany each and every barcode. For supermarkets stocking thousands of different items, this would take hours.
Especially as staff in the distribution and storeroom departments would want additional information telling them about the product's weight and sell-by date.
The exact system and descrip-tions used would in turn differ between each supermarket group, slowing down communication for the manufacturer.
To revolutionise this process, Newport-based Udex developed an internet-based software system that compiles all the product information automatically.
Completely independent of any manufacturer or seller, they simply subscribe to its normalised product information system.
All the product details are then automatically fed into the software and can be read when the barcode is scanned.
In turn, supermarkets can more easily trace the products they sell, from the manufacturer to the till, allowing them to respond quicker to what is popular with the customer and in turn, better ensure ava i
The pounds 3m of additional funding has been secured from leading venture capital company 3i. It will be used to expand the company's expansion into overseas markets, initially the US and France.
Robin Howe, Udex's managing director, said, ``We have been working in the US and French markets now for a little over a year, carrying out pilot work with a number of major retailers. What we have to offer is very much in demand, especially in the US, and the additional funding from 3i will enable us to expand our presence. ``In essence we enable supermarkets and manufacturers to standardise their supply process, eradicating all ambiguity. And for consumers ordering from supermarkets over the web, it means they can easily search for products that are, for example, gluten free.''
Udex employs 130 people, mainly in software engineering and network support.
Although the company chooses not to divulge its profit and turnover figures, it is safe to say it enjoys a multi-million-pound business.
``This is an exciting time for Udex'' said 3i director, Christina McComb. ``We backed the business at the outset and are very encouraged by its progress. We are committed to supporting in Udex's expansion in Europe and the USA through our international network of contacts.''