What is a UPC?

Take a look at any package purchased at a regular retail establishment. Odds are, there is a rectangle filled with vertical black lines and a few numbers somewhere on the package. This symbol is commonly referred to as the barcode, but officially is called the Universal Product Code. Barcodes are scanned at the register, and work to streamline the entire retail process. From the earliest steps of the supply chain, to the customers bags at checkout, the UPC helps retail establishments with inventory control, reordering, information sharing, and expediting checkout. The barcode itself has 12 unique numbers. The first set of numbers in the UPC represent the company, telling businesses all over the world who the product belongs to. The second set of numbers in the UPC identifies the specific product being used. It tells the business what item has sold, and which item needs to be reordered. The very last number in the UPC is a number that is made from several complex calculations (adding and multiplying several of the digits within the code itself) to confirm at checkout that the UPC is valid for that item.

How to get a UPC:

UPC numbers are assigned by one organization, formerly known as the uniform code council, now known as GS1- Global Standards Organization. In order to sell in major retail establishments a product must be assigned a UPC. The application and assignment of UPC information is all found on the GS1 website.

Step 1: Obtain a GS1 US Issued Company Prefix

Step 2: Obtain a Product GTIN (Global Trade Item Number)

Step 3: Choose a barcode type: Point of Sale, Online, or Warehouse.

Step 4: Generate your barcode: Use your UPC on a barcode generator to create your product’s barcode.

There are different requirements for each of these types of UPC barcodes.

  • Point of Sale barcodes are used at the “checkout” to confirm the price and other specific item information.
  • Online. Check with your distributor to see what their requirements are.
  • Warehouse: These are separate barcodes that will convey information about the item, the contents, it’s location, etc.

There are several types that use different types of information, so you’ll need to assess each type to determine which one your product will need.

Advantages of using UPC Codes

  • They improve efficiency by not relying on manual input which could result in human error.
  • Tracking inventory is more accurate than counting product by hand.
  • When products need to be recalled, companies are able to track product locations from production through distribution.
  • They increase speed.
  • Consumers are able to pull up product information by scanning the barcode.

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