GTIN | Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The acronym GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number. A GTIN is used by a company to uniquely identify all of its trade items. A trade item is defined as products or services that are priced, ordered, or invoiced at any point in the supply chain. Prior to 2005, different countries used similar but different standardized product identifiers. In the US, the identifier was a 12-digit number called a UPC. Europe and Japan used 13 digit identifiers called EAN and JAN, respectively. They followed a common structure including a company identifier, a product number and a check digit. Consequently, a GTIN is essentially an umbrella term used for identifiers previously called UPCs, EANs or JANs.
When UPCs and EANs were first introduced, the underlying databases were limited to 12-13 digits for the UPC/EAN/JAN. The issue was that EAN/JANs from non-North American companies, could not be read by most US scanners. In addition, warehouse-type retailers started selling full case products which carried a 14 digits ITF-14 (case code). Consequently, it was determined that the GTIN data field should always have 14 digits and identifiers with less than 14 digits can be padded with left zeros (ie. UPC 012345678905 would be saved in a GTIN-14 data format of 00012345678905.)
Since the UPC (Universal Product Code) was by definition “universal”, the evolution to GTINs had very little impact with US companies who had products marked with UPC barcodes. Their barcodes were already capable of being scanned by POS scanners around the globe. Before the Sunrise 2005 GTIN adaption (see below) was established non-North American companies would be required to have packaging for just for North American with a UPC because the US POS scanners were not capable of reading the 13 digits of an EAN (or JAN) barcode. This caused enormous costs and confusion for companies selling products globally.
Originally, the US UPC standards organization was called UCC (Uniform Code Council). They administered UPC Company Prefixes and managed the identification guidelines. Each country had its own similar organization providing similar functions. Due to nuances in measurement and local guidelines, the identification standards were not completely identical amongst all of the standards organizations. GS1 global office was created to harmonize all of the local UPC/EAN identification guidelines and administer global GS1 Company Prefixes. Each country now has its own GS1 local office that now licenses these prefixes and promotes the global standard. The Uniform Code Council effectively became GS1 US.
A GS1 Company Prefix essentially has a padded left zero added to the UPC Company Prefix. So UPC Company Prefix 012345 would have a GS1 Company Prefix of 0012345.
No! By definition the 12 digit UPC is “universal” and has always been able to be read worldwide. Non-North American companies only need to identify their products with an EAN(or JAN) barcode since every store in the US can now read 13-digits.
Note: There are numerous 3rd party websites offering discount UPCs (aka UPC resellers). When a company offers to provide BOTH a UPC and EAN, it should be a flag that they are not versed in the global standards. Buyer Beware!.
Companies (brands) should license their Company Prefix and/or GTINS from their local GS1 office. To learn more about the steps needed to obtain a barcode, please visit www.gs1-us.info.
Background: GTIN Sunrise 2005
GTIN Sunrise 2005 was an industry initiative established by GS1 US (formerly the Uniform Code Council) which mandated that as of January 1st 2005, all North American retailers and trading partners that scan Universal Product Codes (UPC) should have expanded the data structures associated with the UPC to a 13-digit field length to process EAN-13 symbols. Additionally, GS1 US recommended that all manufacturers, retailers, and distributors update and expand their databases and applications to accept 14-digit data structures. These data structures will support the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), allowing complete item identification of using a GS1 data carrier to support efficient and seamless global trade.
13-digits vs. 14-digits
The GTIN Sunrise 2005 initiative was focused on creating a compliant environment for scanning and processing EAN-13 and EAN-8 codes in addition to the 12-digit UPC symbols currently scanned at point-of-sale in North America . While the initiative does not explicitly state inclusion of 14-digit data structures, it recommendeded that all parties who upgraded their systems for Sunrise 2005 compliance take the additional steps to make their systems compliant with the GTIN. In addition, upgrading systems for GTIN compliance allows scanning of all levels of packaging (ITF-14, or case codes, can be processed) as well as emergent technologies such as GS1 Databar.
The GTIN Sunrise 2005 Impact on Companies
- Companies/Brands – Any organization or manufacturer who assigned product numbers for trade items or services needed to be aware of the new guidelines to ensure compliance with trading partners and suppliers.
- Barcode Originators/Printers – Packagers, commercial printers, and graphics and layout specialists needed to be aware for the new guidelines to ensure compliance for their customers.
- Those that USE UPC/EAN barcodes – Retailers, distributors, or any receivers of trade items (which may also include manufacturers and suppliers) needed to be aware of the new guidelines to ensure their own systems are compliant.
Where do companies go to purchase GTINs aka UPC Codes?
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