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GS1 US, a member of GS1, is an information standards organization that brings industry communities together to solve supply chain problems through the adoption and implementation of GS1 Standards. GS1 Standards are the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world. The barcode (an example of a GS1 Standard) is scanned more than 6 billion times a day globally. The GS1 System of Standards provides for accurate identification and communication of information regarding products, assets, services and locations.
Formerly known as the Uniform Code Council or UCC prior to 2005, GS1 US is responsible for managing the GS1 System of Standards in the USA. More than 300,000 businesses in 25 industries rely on GS1 US for trading partner collaboration and for maximizing the cost effectiveness, speed, visibility, security and sustainability of their business processes. They achieve these benefits through solutions based on GS1 global unique numbering and identification systems, barcodes, Electronic Product Code (EPC)-based Radio-frequency identification (RFID), data synchronization, and electronic information exchange. GS1 US also manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC).
Supply chain standards play a very important role in day-to-day business operations:
- They reduce complexity between and within organizations.
- They facilitate collaboration between trading partners in the supply chain, making it quicker and easier to identify items, share information (like order quantities, availability, or specific characteristics), order and receive parts or ingredients from suppliers, or ship goods to customers.
- They help improve patient safety and reduce medication errors.
- They enable traceability and authentication.
- They improve supply chain and business process efficiency.
GS1 US facilitates open collaboration with industry leaders to establish best practices for driving supply chain and ecommerce efficiencies. Through GS1 US industry initiatives, the organization helps key industries identify a problem or opportunity that can be addressed through the application of GS1 Standards. Working together, the industry defines its goals and creates adoption plans. GS1 US then supports implementation by individual companies with resources, including guidelines, tools, readiness programs, and education.
Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), GS1 Company Prefixes and UPC Barcodes
Barcodes from GS1 identify your company as the brand owner of that product and uniquely identifies a single retail product online and in retail stores around the world.
A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is the unique product identifier encoded into a UPC barcode that is widely accepted by most retail systems. Ideal for businesses that are launching a new product, a single GTIN provides a low-cost option to uniquely identify products and streamline the process for getting items ready for sale across retail and e-commerce channels. With a one-time cost of $30, a business can create a single GTIN, manage related product data and share the information with trading partners using GS1 US Data Hub | Product. Additionally, a business that licenses an individual GTIN will automatically be included in the GS1 Global Registry, a database that many retailers and online marketplaces use to verify product identification and confirm product authenticity.
A GS1 Company Prefix allows businesses to get multiple barcodes at a single time, as well as identify locations, mixed cases, create coupons, and create higher levels of packaging like a case or pallet. The GS1 Company Prefix contained in a UPC is licensed just to that specific company and uniquely links a company to its products in the marketplace. This helps establish the brand with retailers and make it easier for the company's products to be identified within the retailer's systems. GS1 Company Prefixes are great for companies with growing product lines. Businesses can license a GS1 Company Prefix that comes in different “capacities” representing the maximum number of unique products you can identify with that license.
The same GTINs used for barcoding physical products are also used to manage products within information systems, including online retail. They form an important bridge between online listings and physical product, and help businesses maintain order in the inventory management process. Some online retailers mandate GTINs. Amazon, for example, states that it will verify that GTINs/UPCs are authentic. Google Shopping also mandates GTINs.
Barcodes and the GS1 numbering system contained within is one example of the use of data carriers to hold standardized identifiers. Other data carriers include GS1 DataMatrix, GS1-128, GS1 QR Codes, and RFID tags.
GS1 Standards have been used for more than 40 years. In 1973, the grocery industry came together to agree on one way of doing business by adopting the U.P.C. barcode to drive speed and efficiency at retail check out. This cooperation marked the beginning of GS1 US. Here is a timeline of GS1 US history:
1973 – The formation of the Uniform Product Code Council (UPCC)
1974 – First live scan of a UPC barcode with numbering system administered by the UPCC. The first scan was a 10-pack of gum in a supermarket in Ohio.
1983 – UPCC adds the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards to its portfolio
1983 - GS1 Standards expand beyond point-of-sale consumer units with ITF-14 barcodes for outer cases.
1985 – Introduction of UPCs for use on coupons
1989 – Introduction of first standard for shipping containers
1998 – Introduction of global data synchronization and UCCnet
2003 – Formation of EPCglobal US
2005 – GS1 is created when UCC and EAN, a European standards organization, merge. UCCnet combines with Transora to form 1SYNC Data Pool
2008 – Formation of GS1 Healthcare US, Launch of Produce Traceability Initiative
2009 – Launch of Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative
2010 – Industry-established start date for GS1 Global Location Numbers (GLNs) in U.S. healthcare
2011 – Industry-established start date for GS1 DataBar on coupons in U.S. retail
2012 – Industry-established start date for GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) in U.S. healthcare
2012 – VICS merged with GS1 US and the GS1 US Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative was formed
2014 – GS1 US celebrates its 40th anniversary, commemorating the barcode
2015 – GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative formed
2015 – The National Data Quality Program is launched to help companies establish and sustain effective data quality programs based on GS1 Standards
2015 – Formation of the Cash Visibility Discussion Group to develop and adopt data standards and best practices for cash logistics affecting intensive cash users and businesses
2017 – Certified Content Provider Program is established to help small businesses create and manage complete and accurate digital listing product content.
2018 – GS1 Digital Link is launched, a new standard that Web-enable barcodes.
2018 – GS1 US Blockchain Discussion Group holds first meeting to discuss linkages between GS1 Standards and blockchain in the supply chain.
GS1 US works in a neutral and not-for-profit role with industry and related stakeholders to identify solutions and establish ways of doing business that benefit all companies. GS1 Standards are used by companies of all sizes, some of which sit on the GS1 US board of governors. Companies large and small, who may in fact have diverging business interests, work together under with GS1 US facilitation to agree upon standards that make the supply chain faster, more efficient and less complex, while enabling companies to gain value from the data they exchange with trading partners to make products more discoverable online.
The core industries served by GS1 US include Apparel/General Merchandise, Retail Grocery, Foodservice, and Healthcare. Each of these core industries has a GS1 US initiative:
GS1 US Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative
The GS1 US Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative is a retail industry group that is committed to defining business challenges and opportunities and organizing members to explore solutions and create adoption plans. More than 100 suppliers, distributors, retailers, e-tailers, solution providers, industry trade associations, logistics providers, and academic institutions are participating members in Initiative activities, focused on improving inventory accuracy, exchanging standardized product data, and achieving item level visibility with GS1 Standards.
GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative
By bringing together industry leaders from grocery, fresh foods and consumer packaged goods, the GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative identifies specific industry challenges and develops potential solutions to continue the progress toward more efficiencies, enhanced risk management and business growth.
Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative
The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative represents a broad cross section of industry trading partners. Today, more than 100 members including manufacturers, distributors, brokers, operators, industry associations, government agencies, logistics, and technology providers are focused on improving transparency, operational efficiencies, traceability, and food safety with GS1 Standards.
GS1 Healthcare US
The GS1 Healthcare US Initiative is an industry group that focuses on driving the adoption and implementation of GS1 Standards in the healthcare industry in the United States to help improve patient safety and supply chain efficiency. GS1 Healthcare US brings together members from all segments of the healthcare industry to address the supply chain issues that most impact healthcare in the United States. Facilitated by GS1 US, GS1 Healthcare US is one of over 30 local GS1 Healthcare user groups around the world that support the adoption and implementation of global standards developed by GS1.
GS1 Connect is the annual conference and exhibit held each year by GS1 US. It features presentations from experts in the healthcare, retail, foodservice, and grocery industries who share GS1 Standards implementation best practices and offer tips to address today’s most pressing business challenges. Brand, retailer and distributor hosted “How to Do Business With” sessions, Trading Partner Roundtables, the “Standardsville” exhibit area, Tech Track, various networking opportunities provide numerous opportunities for attendees to connect and learn. GS1 US University courses and workshops are offered for those looking to build their GS1 Standards foundational knowledge.
GS1 Connect also features an awards program called the GS1 US Excellence Awards. The awards recognize member companies that have demonstrated strategic vision and produced positive results in community engagement, customer satisfaction and/or process improvement in three distinct categories: Innovation, Operations, and Small Business Achievement.
Additionally, the Roger Milliken Career Achievement Award honors individuals who demonstrate outstanding innovation and leadership in the application of GS1 Standards and industry best practices to improve supply chain collaboration. Roger Milliken was known for being a catalyst for transformational best business practices across multiple industries. Among his many achievements, Milliken revolutionized the design of the textile plant, transformed how businesses controlled their inventories, supported energy efficiency well before the green manufacturing movement, and developed quality initiatives that set the standard for modern-day operational excellence. The award program continues in his memory.
Some GS1 Standards used commonly in the United States:
- GTIN – A Global Trade Item Number can be used by a company to uniquely identify all of its trade items. GS1 defines trade items as products or services that are priced, ordered or invoiced at any point in the supply chain.
- GLN – A Global Location Number can be used by companies to identify their locations, giving them complete flexibility to identify any type or level of location required.
- GDSN - The GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network™ is a network of interoperable data pools enabling collaborating users to securely synchronize master data based on GS1 Standards. GDSN supports accurate, real-time data sharing and trade item updates among subscribed trading partners.
- EDI - Electronic Data Interchange provides global standards for electronic business messaging that allow automation of business transactions commonly occurring across the entire supply chain.
- EPCIS – Electronic Product Code Information Service enables disparate applications to create and share visibility event data, both within and across enterprises. This sharing is aimed at enabling users to gain a shared view of physical or digital objects within a relevant business context.
- SSCC – A Serial Shipping Container Code can be used by companies to identify a logistic unit, which can be any combination of trade items packaged together for storage and/ or transport purposes; for example, a case, pallet or parcel.
- UPC-A – The most commonly seen barcode – found on products for retail checkout. It encodes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN-12) and is also used by retailers to identify privately owned brand products sold only in their stores.
- ITF-14 – The ITF-14 barcode is generally used on higher packaging levels of a product, such as a case or carton and can be directly printed on corrugate material.
- GS1-128 - The GS1-128 is a barcode that can include a product's GTIN and additional data, such as Best Before Date, Batch/Lot Number, Quantity, Weight, and many other attributes.