UPC SymbolsThere are a variety of different types of barcodes. However, the UPC symbol is the most recognized barcode in the United States, since it appears on almost every retail product. The UPC (Universal Product Number) symbol is the barcode representation of the GTIN-12 which consists of twelve numeric characters that uniquely identify a company’s individual product. The GTIN-12 number is part of the family of GS1 global data structures that employ 14 digits and can be encoded into various types of data carriers. Although, the initial UPC usage was focused on retail point of sale (POS), many other industries have adopted this coding structure. As of January 2005, there are significant changes to the terminology involving product barcode marking. Please visit www.gtin.info to learn more about the new GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number) data structures. Please click here for information on the Sunrise 2005 initiative.
The first six to nine digits of a UPC are referred to as the “Company Prefix”, and they are assigned by a non-profit organization (GS1 US formerly the Uniform Code Council). This number uniquely identifies a company and always remains constant on all of a company’s products. The next set of digits is called the “product numbers.” Product numbers uniquely identify individual items. Unlike the GS1 Company Prefix, product numbers are arbitrarily assigned by each company. The twelfth character is called the “check digit”. Using some form of check digit generator (use our free check digit calculator) this digit is calculated using a mathematical calculation based on the first 11 digits of the UPC code. A common mistake companies make is creating their own UPC numbers. A company can not “make up” its own UPC number. To have a UPC code that will scan at Point of Sale, the UPC number must contain a GS1-US assigned Company Prefix, also known as a manufacturer prefix. GS1-US is the governing agency for the assignment of manufacturing codes, and they make sure that no duplicate numbers are issued. Your company assigns the second part of the UPC number, which is called the product code or item code. Please visit www.gs1-us.info for information on obtaining your GS1 Company Prefix. A typical process of obtaining a 12-digit UPC number is as follows:
- Purchase a unique Company Prefix from the GS1 agency
- Assign product number(s) to unique products making your number equal 11 digits
- Using a check digit calculator with your 11 digit number, generate your check digit.
UPC Sizing RequirementsUPC sizes are referred to as magnifications or magnification factors. The nominal size of a UPC is 100% magnification factor or 1.469 inches wide (from the far left hand side number to the far right hand side number) by 1.02 inches tall (from the top of the bar code to the bottom of the human readable numbers). The minimum size of a UPC is 80% magnification factor (80% of the nominal size) and the maximum size of a UPC is 200% magnification factor (200% of the nominal size). Click here for a complete UPC Magnification Table.
UPC-A vs. UPC-EThe main difference between a UPC-A and a UPC-E is the size of the barcode. The UPC-E is also called a 0-Suppressed UPC because the UPC-E compresses a normal 12 digit UPC-A number into a six digit code by “suppressing” the number system digit, trailing zeros in the manufacturers code and leading zeros in the product number. The seventh digit is a calculated check digit using the first 6 digits of the code. UPC-E can thus be uncompressed back into a standard UPC-A 12 digit number. Please note that some manufacturing code numbers beginning with “0″ have this capability. And, any manufacturing code starting with a number other than “0.” cannot be zero-suppressed.
UPC Coupon CodesDataBar and GS1-128 coupons currently contain a UPC code. However, the new GS-1 DataBar strips the UPC code from the coupon. Below displays the information encoded in a UPC coupon code. For more information please click here.