Guidelines for Product ID, Labels and Shipments (GPID)
Supply Chain Foundation Guide (SCF)
Label Implementation Guide (LIG)
Pet Industry Label Implementation Guide (LIG)
5. Implementing a GS1 System Labeling Project (rev October 2008)
This chapter uses terms and concepts presented in Chapter 7 and Chapter 3 and it further assumes that the preparation steps outlined in Chapter 4 have been completed. If you are not familiar with the GS1 System and bar code printing, you may want to read Chapter 3 & Chapter 4 before continuing with this chapter.
This chapter explains how to label consumer units with the UPC-A and / or intermediate packs with the GS1-128. Chapter 6 deals with implementing a Serial Shipping Container Code project.
On the surface, the request to implement these projects appears to be simple … get the bar codes shown below on your products and your intermediate packs and shipping containers.
In practice, however, the request initiates several sub-projects.
The first step of these sub-projects is understanding what the customer is asking for. Some companies want the GTIN-12 (encoded in a UPC-A bar code) placed on individual items but are not asking for the GTIN-14 to be encoded in an originally referenced ITF-14 or UCC/EAN-128 bar code. Step 1 then is to confirm what the customer is asking for:
Once the scope of the request is understood, several additional sub-projects can be defined:
5.1 Assigning GTIN-12 numbers to all products (refer to the documents provided with the GS1 Company Prefix)
The GTIN-12 is assigned by the manufacturer to each of its products. The 12 digit item number is a subset of the 14 digit GTIN. So, if you have not yet assigned any 12 digit GS1 numbers, then start with a 14 digit GTIN for each item. The relationship is explained in section 4.2. And demonstrated in section 5.4 below. To assign this number to your products, follow these steps:
As a rule, these numbers should be assigned arbitrarily, without attempting to reserve blocks of numbers for special colors or sizes or assigning any significance whatsoever to the number. Building so-called "intelligence" into numbers frequently causes more problems than it solves.
5.2 Getting a Company Prefix from the GS1
Contact GS1, formerly the Uniform Code Council (UCC), to get a Company Prefix. The GS1 Customer Service Department in Dayton, OH assigns the Company Prefix and maintains a database assuring that no other company is assigned the same number. Applicants should access the UCC website at www.gs1us.org and apply for membership online.
5.3 Assigning GTIN-14 Numbers
The GTIN-14 is a 14-digit number assigned by the manufacturer to each standard packaging level unit above the consumer unit. To assign this number, follow these steps:
Note: Many companies do not ship their products in standard configurations. In these cases, it may be necessary for the project team to establish standard shipping configurations for all its consumer units (or just the ones shipped to the customers asking for the SSCC) in order to assign them GTIN-14 numbers.
5.4 Preparing the database and application software
Using the GS1 System does not mean abandoning present numbering systems. Usually it means adding the ability to cross-reference the new numbers to the old. The table below illustrates this:
Line #1 is a single "Consumer unit" Single Pet Toy. Lines 2 & 3 are the same product in different standard shipping configurations. Note that the first three line items have the same Original UPC-A Number in Column C.
Also, note the Indicator digits (Indicators 3 and 5 respectively) in the left-most position of the GTIN-14 column in lines 2 & 3. These indicate different package quantities of the same consumer units. When the GTIN-14 for line #2 is scanned, the inventory will be adjusted (incremented for a receipt, decremented for a shipment) in the amount of 50 Pet Toys with the Original UPC-A Number 098756100013.
The GTIN-14 is precise and it will work better with EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) transactions because the quantity is explicitly tied to a specific number. Transmitting the GTIN-14 alone will communicate product and quantity information.
Line 4 is the same product in a 5-Pack container instead of a single item package. It is assigned a different GTIN-12.
In the example above, the following actions were necessary to add the ability to recognize the GTIN-12 number:
The next step is cross-referencing the new field to the old item number. The objective is to enable the existing business system to locate the proper database record when either the Original UPC Number or the new, GTIN-14 is entered.
Note: The numbers might be key entered or bar code entered but the system won’t necessarily know the difference. For the sake of accuracy, some programmers design their programs to force bar code entry of critical data elements because scanning bar code is more accurate than manual key entries. However, this is not the rule and it is totally optional. In most cases, the computer will treat bar code data entry the same as keyboard data entry.
Companies without their own computer departments should contact their primary software vendor to determine their present system’s capabilities to cross-reference several numbers to the same inventory record. It is important to recognize that the changes that need to be made have nothing to do with the technology of reading bar codes. The changes are related to cross-referencing several numbers to the same inventory record. The fact that the number may be entered via a bar code scanner is totally irrelevant. The question for the primary software vendor is: Can your system cross-reference several numbers to the same record? Bar code has nothing to do with it.
Once the system has the capability of cross-referencing several numbers to the same inventory record, the applications that will need to accept either the old numbers or the new numbers will need to be identified and modified accordingly. This usually falls on the shoulders of the company IT (Information Technology) or computer department or the company’s primary vendor of its business system software. The affected applications / modules would probably include:
Alternately, instead of getting the present software vendor to modify their program, third-party programmers could write a custom program to accomplish the same thing but this approach should be considered very carefully. If the primary information system is updated or revised by the vendor, the custom program may not work with the new version. Generally speaking, it’s safer to get the primary vendor to make the necessary adjustments and commit to keeping the program capable of cross-referencing several numbers to the same inventory record.
5.5 Printing and applying GTIN-12 numbers in the UPC-A symbology
Once the numbers have been assigned and the computer system can recognize the new numbers and the old, bar codes representing these numbers will need to be printed and applied to the company’s items and, if specified, intermediate packs and shipping containers.
See Chapter 7 … Bar Code Print Quality for a detailed explanation of printing alternatives.
The project team will need to decide how the UPC-A symbols will be printed and it will also need to establish quality control procedures to verify that the bar codes are printed and applied according to the specification.
UPC-A symbols can be printed directly on packaging with offset, flexographic or silk screen technologies. They can also be printed on labels and applied to the product manually or with automatic label applicators.
The decision to use one print method or the other is based on a variety of factors including volume of labels / symbols needed, the packaging’s compatibility with direct printing methods, the company’s ability to forecast its requirements ahead of time and the company’s willingness to assume responsibility for the quality of the symbol in every respect.
See the discussion on bar code print quality in Chapter 7.
Generally speaking, direct printing on packaging is the least expensive for very large quantities. Printing labels in-house requires less lead time and allows quick response to unexpected label requirements (usually at a higher per unit cost).
5.6 Printing and applying the GTIN-14 number in the ITF-14 or GS1-128 Symbol
If the customer is requesting the GTIN-14 number on intermediate packs and shipping containers, methods of printing and applying these will also need to be selected and procedures to verify quality will need to be written.
See Chapter 7 … Bar Code Print Quality for a detailed explanation of printing alternatives.
GTIN-14 numbers can be directly printed on corrugated cartons using the Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF-14) symbology. Direct printing methods save the cost of labels which can be significant over a year. Label costs vary with quantity, label materials and label size but a 10 sq. in. label (2.5" x 4") would cost between 1˘ and 2˘ in quantities of 100,000 or more. Cartons can be direct printed off-site, usually with offset printing technologies or on-site using ink jet technology (at a likely higher per unit cost).
The UCC has revised its specifications
allowing the GTIN-14 number to be encoded in GS1-128 symbology instead of
ITF-14. When using this new format, the 14 digit number is preceded by the
Application Identifier "01" which tells the computer the bar code contains the
GTIN-14 number. See Appendix 5 for a complete list of Applications Identifiers
Print quality is especially important when printing directly on corrugated cartons because ink spreads at an unpredictable rate on different lots of corrugated cartons. If the ink spreads too much, the bars become too wide and the spaces too narrow. Bar codes printed directly on to corrugate should be checked periodically with an ANSI/CEN/ISO-capable bar code symbol quality verifier.
On-site printing alternatives include thermal transfer, laser, impact printers, and possibly ink jet printers.
5.7 Communicating the GTIN numbers to the customer – data synchronization
Your company may already have procedures in place to communicate your existing numbers to your customers but if your database structure is different or if the customer needs a specific structure or file format, some type of field mapping will be necessary. Although some people still use hard copies of catalog information or send files on CD, the direction is clearly to use the Internet to send and receive information. The best methods enable information to be transferred in real time.
Regardless of the transfer method, companies must understand which element of information is contained in each position in the record. Companies in your industry have developed a model Standard Item Record (SID). The model defines each element of information and represents it in an Excel spreadsheet.
Not only is it
necessary to communicate the SIR to your customer(s), it’s also a good idea to
submit printed samples of your printed bar codes to the customer to make sure
they can read them. Some customers insist on this anyway. Considering the cost
implications and possible negative impact on customer relations if they can’t
read the bar codes you send them, it’s a good idea to get the customer to
respond in writing, stating their acceptance of the sample. It’s important to
remember, however, that ongoing print quality inspections will be needed at your
end to assure that printing systems continue to produce high quality,
5.8 Summary List of Tasks and Milestones