Barcodes – what are they?

Barcodes - what are they

 4 min read

A barcode is a sequence of graphic characters that combines light and dark elements, bars and lines. Thanks to scanning the code, it’s possible to read all information about the product. 

Let’s go back a few decades to comprehend the essence of barcodes better. Canada and the United States were the real pioneers when it comes to these graphic characters. They were created in 1973 under the name UPC (Universal Product Code) and were implemented by UCC (Uniform Code Council). The development of barcodes was promoted by various supermarkets and customer service departments.

The EAN code (European Article Number) was developed on the basis of the UPC code. It was introduced by the EAN International Organization in 1977. It aimed at creating a system that could be implemented outside North America. Today, EAN codes are used for marking items for wholesale and retail. When analyzing cooperation of an online store and a dropshipping wholesaler, it’s possible to encounter the code in two versions:

  • EAN-13 code – has 13 digits: country code (first 3 digits), manufacturer or distributor number (next 4-7 digits), product number (next 2-5 digits) and check digit (the last digit). As a fun fact, this code is scanned 6 billion times a day all over the globe.
  • EAN-8 code – contains 8 digits: country code, product number and check digit. In most cases it’s found on lighter packages.

The responsibilities of UCC and EAN International were taken over by GS1 in 2005. This organization is supposed to ensure that codes are unique and correct. Its branches can be found in 111 countries, including Poland – Poznan. Thanks to GS1, Poland acquires unique barcodes required for cooperation with Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Google, Carrefour and Tesco.

Why do we need to barcode products?

  • Barcodes make it possible to manage goods in an efficient way. Having to enter a series of digits into a computer or cash register would waste a lot of valuable time of employees. Moreover, it could result in a mistake. A barcode reader increases productivity and helps to avoid potential errors.
  • Easy identification of each product.
  • Communication between various parties of the supply chain becomes much more efficient. We know which products have been delivered and we’re able to determine any shipping discrepancies.
  • The possibility to quickly locate pallets and packages in warehouses, e.g. dropshipping warehouses.
  • Faster loading and unloading of delivery trucks.
  • More efficient management of retail spaces.

How to assign barcodes?

Any brand owner has the right to barcode his/her products. In the case of manufacturers, the digits are assigned from their own range. If the brand owner outsources the manufacturing to an external company, this company can choose numbers from its own range or authorize the manufacturer to use his/her digits.

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