Integrated Business Communications Alliance

IBCA Guidelines for Product ID, Labels and Shipments

Supply Chain Foundation Guide

  1. Introduction – Information flow in the supply chain, How to use the documents
  2. Supply Chain Overview and Benefits
  3. Organizing The Labeling Project
  4. Understanding The GS1 System

Label Implementation Guide

  1. Implementing a GS1 System Labeling Project
  2. Implementing Serial Shipping Container Code
  3. Bar Code Print Quality

Contemporary Knowledge:



IBCA Supply Chain Foundation Guide (SCF)

3.  Organizing the Labeling Project (rev December 2011)

3.1 Overview of Organizing a Compliance Labeling Project

Chapter 5 & Chapter 6 explain how to implement 2 types of compliance labeling projects:

  • Product labeling using the GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) standard numbering system, which is explained in Chapter 4.
  • Serial numbering of shipping containers using the Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) format which is also explained in Chapter 4.

Many aspects of these two projects are different but initial preparation steps for either project are the same. These common preparation steps are described in this chapter.

3.2 A Project Perspective

Compliance labeling is not necessarily hard but it is a project that may take several months to implement. Successful implementation will require dedicated effort of experienced people. It’s important to recognize this up front because failure to do so could lead to understaffing, under-funding and unrealistic expectations.

The diagram below illustrates the stages of a typical compliance labeling project. The bullets below the diagram briefly summarize each stage.

  • A project team led by a dedicated project leader with a mandate from management to implement is highly recommended because several disciplines are often involved. 
  • Understanding the specifications will prevent making innocent but costly errors. 
  • The information system needs to be capable of supplying the information that the customer wants. This may require some modifications to the system which the MIS / Data Processing department must plan and implement. 
  • After the information system is capable of providing the necessary information, the organization must decide how the labels or symbols will be printed and applied
  • The new system should be tested to cover the full range of labeling situations and modified if problems surface.
    Once perfected, the new
    procedures are "rolled-out" and become routine.

3.3 The Importance of Management Involvement

This document makes many recommendations but the most important is this… senior management must make a financial and time commitment to get involved and act.

GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) numbering, bar code labeling and EC/EDI affect vendor and customer relationships as well as every operating department within an organization. As such, transitioning to these technologies requires leadership from one or more persons in the organization with the power to override territorial disputes and overcome resistance to change.

Considering the potential beneficial impact on Sales, Gross Margins and Overhead, making the time and financial commitment is worth the most senior manager's time. Federal Express uses bar code because the president saw its potential to differentiate their service. Milliken & Company and the entire textile and apparel industries adopted bar code and EC/EDI technology in record time because the most senior managers in those industries got personally involved to initiate projects that never would have succeeded without their political and financial support.

The secret to benefiting from these technologies is more than understanding them. It's using them. This may sound obvious but a surprising number of companies have been thinking about GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) numbering, bar code and EC/EDI for years! Without management support, these programs are studied indefinitely, going through phases of high and low priority. Each re-examination of the technology consumes valuable resources. Ultimately, the final implementation cost is much higher than a concerted implementation program supported by management would have been.

Management involvement and support is probably the single most important factor differentiating companies that successfully implement and benefit from those that don't.

3.4 Makeup of the Project Team

It’s a mistake to under-staff these projects. Compliance labeling requires the coordinated efforts of several functional areas of the company. The following disciplines should be represented on the project team.

  • Project Leader with a mandate from senior management to implement the project. The project leader will need an understanding of project management, bar code technology, the company’s inventory, and the specification. In some cases, the project leader is also the company bar code coordinator. 

  • MIS (data processing, computer skills). Bar code projects involve computers. Bar code printers will need to be connected to a computer. Sometimes, changes will need to be made to the company database. MIS will play a vital role in the success of the project.

Every company has a shortage of qualified MIS professionals but bar code labeling projects will require their support. Some of the work can be subcontracted to bar code vendors / systems integrators but that only reduces the time demands on the company’s own resources. It doesn’t eliminate them.

  • Customer Liaison to coordinate and document communications between you and the customer. This could be a customer service representative or someone from sales or marketing.

  • Operations / User representatives to develop workable procedures to apply the symbols / labels. 

  • Purchasing representative to develop vendor selection criteria and to develop the skills needed to purchase bar code equipment efficiently.

The team should meet regularly (weekly) to review progress and issue new assignments. Minutes of each meeting should be prepared. Minutes should include individual assignments, due dates and progress against these due dates. The manager that issued the mandate to implement should receive a copy of each week’s minutes.

3.5 Company Bar Code Coordinator

Recommendation: Appoint a company bar code coordinator, broadcast this person’s appointment and responsibilities to the entire company and make certain that all inquiries from your trading partners are directed to that person.

By centralizing the knowledge with a company bar code coordinator, additional applications for bar code will be implemented faster and at less overall cost. Easy access to a company bar code coordinator enables employees to discuss potentially beneficial applications with an insider that really understands how to use it. This, too, will accelerate the process of finding beneficial applications and gaining user support.

3.6 Understanding the Specification

Regardless of which type of compliance labeling project you are being asked to implement, it’s vital that each member of the team understand the specification. Without a common understanding, individual members of the team can work at cross purposes. 

The set of GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) specifications can be thought of as different report formats designed for specific applications. One format is used to count individual consumer units, one is used to count cartons containing multiple consumer units and one is used for EDI transactions. The "reports" can be printed directly on the item or on a label applied to the item, carton, pallet, etc.

Each different specification clearly specifies:

  • the number(s) that should appear on the label / item. 

  • what data should be in printed in human readable form.

  • what data should be in bar code form. 

  • what bar code symbologies are acceptable.

  • how the human readable and bar codes should be arranged on the label / item.

  • the range of acceptable label sizes.

  • where the information should be placed on the item.

  • Chapter 4 … The GS1 Standard Numbering System explains the GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) numbering system in detail.

3.7 Implementation Roadmap

Project Team is Organized (see 3.3)

1. Management Initiates Project

  • States priority to company

  • Empowers Project Leader

  • Develop company bar code policy

2. Team Formed

  •   Project Leader with mandate from senior management

  • MIS representative

  • Operations / Users

  • Customer Relations Representative

3. Work Plan is Developed

  • Meeting schedule agreed to

  • Methods of documenting assignments and progress are established

Team Understands Specification(s) (see 3.6)

1. Determine how many types of labels will be needed.

  • Array specifications from all customers.

  •   Item Labels

  • Case & Pallet Labels

2. Prepare label samples (hand drawn if necessary) and submit to customer for approval.

  • Label size

  •   Information Content

  • Bar Code Symbology and Human Readable Specifications

  • Data Layout

3. Customer confirms that samples are correct.

Prepare Information System

1. MIS flow charts inputs / outputs

  • Inputs

    • Where the information needed on each label format will be entered.

    • What data comes from a database stored on the host?

    • What data is manually input? i.e. Doesn’t come from the host.

    • What data will be input at print time?

    • Where, physically, is the data entered?

  • Outputs

    • Electronic forms (screen, EDI, ASCII file)

    • Hard copy (reports & labels)

2. Prepare information system to adhere to specific industry application specifications.

  • GS1 compliance Issues (see Chapter 4)

    • Obtain Company Prefix from GS1 (formerly UCC)

    • Field in database (14 digits, right justified, left zero filled all numeric is recommended as a best business practice.)

    • Assign GS1 (formerly EAN.UCC) codes (Global Trade Item Numbers – GTINs) to all products

    • Assign Case Code numbers if applicable.  These are also GTINs.

    • Develop method to generate unique serial case codes (SSCC) if applicable

    • Set up procedures to communicate numbers to customers (data communications)

3. Select Printer interface method.

  • Host to printer

  • Host to PC to printer

  • Host to terminal to printer

  • Stand-alone

4. Site Diagram is prepared

  • Data Entry Points

  • Quality Inspection points

  • Printer location(s)

  • Consumables storage (label stock and ribbon stock; replacement print heads)

Printing, Applying and Quality

1. Printing

  • Decide which labels will be printed in-house and which will be printed by an outside vendor.

    •   Issues to consider in selecting a method of printing

    • Answers lead you to selection of printing methods

  • Select Printing Methods

    • Using an outside vendor

    • Printing In-House –– When to use what printer:

  • Samples approved by the customer

    • Actual label stock

    • Actual label layout

    • Actual print quality samples – Human Readable and bar coded

    • Dummy data is OK

2. Operational procedures to print and apply the labels are in place and accepted by operations / user representatives.

  • For each different label / bar code:

    • Where will it be printed?

    • Who will apply it?

    • Where will it be applied?

    • How will we monitor quality?

3. Brands of Hardware and Software are selected

4. Label materials selected and documented for the purchasing department

5. Hardware and Software purchased.

  • Printers 

  • Consumables

  • Applicators

  • Verifiers

  • Printing Software

  • Film Masters

6. Maintenance Procedures Documented

  • Name of procedure

    • Purpose

    • Description of procedure

    • Frequency

    • Responsible party

  • Examples

    • Daily Printer Maintenance

    • Replace Label Stock

    • Replace Ribbon

    • Replace Print Head

7. Quality Procedures Documented (see Chapter 7)

  • Data Content

  • Label Placement

  • Print Quality

8. Training Program Developed

Test / Modify

1. Pilot Test demonstrating all different types of labels needed is designed and conducted.

2. Modifications to system are made (if necessary)

3. Another test if modifications were substantial

Full Scale Implementation / Ongoing Operations

1. Customer Communications

  • Label Format and Database Maintenance

  • Inquiries and Complaints from the field

2. Label Quality Checking

3. New Operator Training



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