U.P.C Bar Code  |  In Bound Packages  |  Standard Item Record  |  Best Practices

U.P.C. Bar Code

The concept of a “Universal” method of product Identification goes back to the 1970’s. The big problem that it solved was the ability to uniquely identify a product at the point of sale. In the beginning U.P.C. was used simply to look up the price of an item in the computer and generate a sales receipt and to speed the checkout process. Now the greater value is being recognized since the sales information can be used to monitor sales so:

  • Sales people either trigger replenishment orders and remove slow movers

  • Distribution can plan for stock movement to balance inventory

  • Manufacturing and Purchasing can source need replenishment items

The U.P.C. was greatly expanded in 2005 when the administrating organization (Uniform Code Council - UCC) really integrated the related, but not truly global systems that had been evolving around the world (European Article Number – EAN). Many do not know that item bar codes were not the same as the carton bar codes. The re-organization activity was The GS1 2005 Sunrise and made item identification along with carton identification (UCC and EAN) truly global. The new standard is called the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). Implementing the use of bar codes sounds like a simple task but there are some pitfalls that are covered in the IBCA guidelines document: Implementing a GS1 Labeling Project. It is extremely important that companies comply with the standards. The three major issues revolve around:

  • Poor print quality

  • Wrong labeling and

  • Incomplete data files used to match the barcode the item master record in procurement, receiving, distribution and point of sale systems.

IBCA will have a brief slide presentation to help companies Verify that they are Complying. (To Be Developed)

In Bound Packages

In order to move products through the supply chain we must be able to identify the products and then match the physical product and shipment to the related transaction information. This means that we must have a standard method to identify products and shipments including the bar codes and labels. We must also have a standard to deal with methods of communicating information about shipments and the individual items contained in the shipment. All Aspects of packing are contained in this Best Practices Guideline.

Standard Item Record

The product identification number that is found in the bar code is used to access different data files in a variety of computer systems. The information is used in Sales/marketing, customer ordering, distribution and manufacturing. The problem that standard item record solves is the elimination of ambiguity about exactly what product is being purchased, received, moved or manufactured. The problem is compounded in the IBCA supply chain because different catalogs have different numbers for the same item. The U.P.C. (Part of the GS1 method of product ID) is the item number but does not tell if it is in a 25 pack, 50 pack or 500 pack. And it does not tell the package size, weight or other necessary information. Therefore manufacturers must be able to provide some fundamental information in an electronic form. This electronic file must contain, at a minimum, the product identification number found in the bar code, the product catalog number, the description, the package quantity and package dimensions. Various trading partners may require other information about specific items. It is strongly recommended that companies discuss the “Standard Item Record” with their trading partners. A sample of an excel spread sheet is provided so that trading partners can test exchange methods. Although distribution related activities only need a fraction of the elements contained, other information found in the SIR is used from procurement to selling activities. IBCA Standard Item Record

Best Practices

Best Practices means different things to different people. In the context of this supply chain, we are only concerned with the activities that our trading partners agree would be most beneficial to this supply chain. When addressing best practices, people typically benchmark an activity, look to others in similar business, understand the performance gaps and then develop a set of practices to bring the company up to the desired benchmark performance. The goal here is a little different because we need to look outside the companies to find the shared activities that will improve processes inside. Through our trade association, we identify issues and collectively benchmark them to find the ones with the greatest impact in trading partner relationships. Then we agree to a way to handle the activity or process so that our members can see improvements to their bottom line.

Best Practice – Guidelines – Standards A best practice requires all companies to do things in a similar way. The way is the best practice and it must be supported by some definitions and parameters that are described in Guidelines. Guidelines marry practices and technology to set the scope of operation. For example, a well run distribution facility makes it easier for workers to identify products on the receiving dock. We have a simple Guidelines Matrix of best practices that tells how things should be labeled ansd packaged. That is supported by a guideline that defines the size, placement, wording and bar code that should appear on a shipping container label. The supplier must comply with the guidelines so we can train the employee what to look for and where. All those things are defined in the Guideline. One of the elements on the label is the bar code and that is defined by a specification about the World Wide Standard GS1. The Bar Code specification tells exact size and even printing quality issues.


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