Universal Product Code (UPC)

Most times when you are done shopping, the salesperson will have to scan the barcode of the product you picked to ascertain the product information and pricing, that code is what is called the Universal Product Code. These bar codes were originally designed to help grocery stores speed up the checkout process and better keep track of inventory, but the system currently has spread to all other retail products because of its success rate.Universal Product Code

How the Universal Product Code (UPC) Works

Universal Product Code came on board with a company known as the Uniform Code Council (UCC).

A manufacturer will have to apply to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. The manufacturer then pays an annual fee for the privilege, and the UCC in return issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number and offers guidelines on how it can be used. The manufacturer identification number can be seen in any standard 12-digit UPC code.

The UPC symbol comes in two parts:

  • The machine bar code
  • The human-readable 12-digit UPC number.

The manufacturer identification number is the first six digits of the UPC number while the next five digits are the item number. Someone who is employed by the manufacturer, called the UPC coordinator, is responsible for assigning item numbers to products, ensuring the same code is not used on more than one product, retiring codes as products are removed from the product line.

Basically, every item the manufacturer sells, and every size package and every repackaging of the item requires a different item code.

The last digit of the UPC code is called a check digit. This digit enables the scanner to determine if it scanned the number accurately or not.

Uses of Universal Product Code (UPC)

Universal Product Code is an essential part of the point-of-sale (POS) systems. They are useful in the following ways:

  • When a purchased product is scanned at checkout, pricing and product information are instantly retrieved by the POS system.
  • For planning and marketing purposes, retailers collect enormous amounts of information from POS systems on a daily basis. This information when processed are useful for marketing purposes.
  • Barcodes are also used in manufacturing for data tracking and for security.
  • Improves efficiency and productivity, by eliminating the need to manually key in the product information.
  • It helps one easily track inventory much more accurately than hand counting.
  • To spot when there‚Äôs an issue with a particular product and consumers who purchased it need to intimated or a recall issued.
  • You can use UPC to track products through production to distribution to retail stores and if necessary into consumers’ homes.

How to Get a UPC Code

Companies that have a need for a UPC Code must apply to GS1, which is a non-profit organization that maintains global standards for the identification of goods and deals with bar code issuance and maintenance.

To get a UPC, you need to apply to GS1 for membership and a company prefix. This link will redirect you to the GS1 page with detail about the UPC barcode application process. The company will be required to pay a yearly fee to maintain a UPC Code registration with GS1.

Note, having a single organization issue UPC codes ensures that no two products can have the same UPC code.

How to Lookup UPC Code Information for a Company

You can view the UPC barcode information via the GEPIR (Global Electronic Party Information Registry). This has information for GS1 registered companies globally. You can search for a company by UPC number or UPC information by company name.

There, you now know what UPC is all about and how you can use it to your advantage.


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