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How to get GS1 barcodes on your shipments

Nuno Bento | 31. Oct 2018
6 minutes read

Barcodes help you improve your responsiveness, cut operating costs, and achieve a competitive advantage – ultimately giving you happier customers and stronger profits.

Barcodes play a key role in transportation and logistics, enabling you as a manufacturing business to automatically identify and track your shipments through the supply chain.

We take you through 10 basic steps to begin using barcodes.

 

1. Get a GS1 Company Prefix

 

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Before you can begin using barcodes, you must first assign the numbers that go inside the barcode, called GS1 Identification Keys. The first step in assigning a GS1 Identification Key is to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix from a GS1 member organisation.

The GS1 Company Prefix provides a way for companies to create identification keys for trade items, logistics units, locations, parties, assets, coupons, etc., which are unique around the world.

 

2. Assign numbers

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After receiving a GS1 Company Prefix, you are ready to begin assigning identification numbers to your trade items (products), logistics units, returnable assets (pallets, kegs, tubs).

 

3. Select a barcode printing process

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Decide what you are barcoding and if the barcode will carry static or dynamic information inside it. If the information is static (always the same), the barcode can be printed using traditional printing presses directly on the package (e.g., paper milk carton) or on a label that is applied to the package (e.g., label on a gallon milk jug.)

If the information is dynamic then either digital or a combination of digital and traditional printing will be required.

For example:

  • If the product requires multi-colour graphics and a barcode with dynamic data, the graphics could be pre-printed using traditional printing presses and leave a blank portion of the label for digital printing inline during production and packaging.
  • If the product only requires text and a barcode with dynamic data, a label could be printed inline and applied to the package (automatically if high volume or by hand if low volume). It could also be printed directly on the package itself without using a label.
  • Also a barcode with static data could be printed directly on the package using a digital printing method, for example when the same packaging is used for different products.

 

4. Select a "primary" scanning environment

The specifications for barcode type, size, placement, and quality all depend on where the barcode will be scanned. By knowing where your barcode will be scanned you can establish the right specifications for its production.

Barcodes to be scanned at the retail point-of-sale will need to support omnidirectional scanning.

If the barcode will be scanned at point-of-sale as well as in the warehouse, you will need to use a symbol that accommodates point-of-sale scanning, but printed in a larger size to accommodate scanning in the distribution process.

 

5. Select a barcode

Selecting the right barcode is critical. Here are some high level tips:

  • If you need to barcode a trade item that will be scanned at the retail point-of-sale (POS), the first symbol of choice is the EAN/UPC symbol. This symbol is guaranteed to be scanned by POS systems all over the world. In some cases GS1 DataBar symbol may be applied.
  • If you are printing a barcode with variable information like serial numbers, expiry dates, or measures, then you will use GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, or GS1 2D symbols.
  • If you want to encode a URL into a barcode to make extended packaging information available to the end consumer, then you should use a GS1 2D symbol.
  • If you need to barcode an outer case to be scanned in a logistics environment, and you want to print directly on corrugated carton, ITF-14 may be the choice for you.

 

Read more: These are the barcode standards you should be aware of

 

6. Pick a barcode size

After the correct barcode symbol is specified together with the information to encode in it, the design stage begins. The size of the symbol within the design will depend on the symbol specified, where the symbol will be used, and how the symbol will be printed.

 

7. Format the barcode text

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The text beneath a barcode, called Human Readable Interpretation (HRI), is important because if the barcode is damaged or of poor quality to begin with, then the text is used as a back-up.

 

8. Pick a barcode colour

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The optimum colour combination for a barcode symbol is black bars with a white background. GS1 barcodes require dark colours for bars (e.g., black, dark blue, dark brown, or dark green).

■ The bars should always consist of a single line colour and should never be printed by multiple imaging tools (e.g., plate, screen, cylinder, etc.).

■ GS1 barcodes require light backgrounds for the Quiet Zones (area free of printing around the barcode) and spaces (e.g., white).

 

9. Pick the barcode placement

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When discussing symbol location we are referring to the symbol placement on the design.

When assigning symbol placement you should first consider the packaging process. You should consult the packaging engineer to make sure the symbol will not be obscured or damaged (e.g. over a carton edge, beneath a carton fold, beneath a package flap, or covered by another packaging layer).

 

10. Get proper barcode label printing

Do steps 1 through 9 seem a bit overwhelming? Relax, there are easy-to-use. low-cost delivery management solutions available that make labelling a breeze.

Such a system helps you properly package and label all products, making you compliant with 96% of retailers in Europe.

GS1 source: 10 steps to barcode your product

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