What are the different types of barcodes and how are they used?

Once the use of the Global Trade Item Number or GTIN has been incorporated, barcodes can be used. Applying the GTIN to the product in a machine-readable format determines the barcode to be used. Barcodes simply allow the receiver to automatically capture the information contained inside the barcode; hence, barcodes are referred to as a type of “automated data capture”. Barcodes can help manage your inventory, fulfill orders and track your product. The barcode is made up of lines and spaces and the number beneath is the GTIN. There are applications of barcodes at all levels of packaging, including the item, case and pallet. Barcodes can carry different attributes simply identifying the product or identifying the brand owner, product, and batch/lot number. 

The barcode has print quality and minimum size requirements. Please refer to the GS1 General Specifications for detailed information. Barcodes are printed using specific hardware and software which can be purchased from or outsourced to a label manufacturer.

The most commonly used barcode at point-of-sale is the UPC used on packaged produce. This barcode is used in the United States and Canada. It is scanned at checkout and contains a 12-digit identification number or GTIN-12. 

Elsewhere in the world, an EAN (International or European Article Number) is used. The EAN-13 is used for packaged produce and is scanned at point-of-sale. It contains a 13-digit identification number or GTIN-13. 

Where less space is available, the GS1 DataBar Stacked Omni-directional barcode is used; e.g. on loose produce. It carries a GTIN similar to the UPC. There is a family of GS1 DataBar barcodes but the stacked omni-directional barcode is the one used for loose produce. 

The GS1-128 barcode can be used on cases, pallets and Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs). The GS1-128 encodes a 14-digit GTIN and provides a means to capture multiple pieces of information to be encoded in a single barcode. Application Identifiers (AIs) are used to help interpret these different types of information correctly. GS1-128 barcodes are not intended for data scanned at point-of-sale, but designed to be scanned in the warehouse. 

The use of the GTIN inside barcodes at the case level is so widely used in the food industry that many buyers have automated their receiving process, saving them warehouse labor and congestion at the dock. The Produce Traceability Initiative requires all produce cases to be labeled with a GS1-128 barcode which includes the 14-digit case GTIN as well as the Batch/Lot Number. Produce cases that do not have barcodes with the GTIN encoded, have to be treated as an exception to any automated receiving process; thereby requiring the receiver to perform manual activities to handle the produce. This is very burdensome and can be a costly activity for the receiver.


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