GS1 US is part of one of the largest identification and standards organizations in the world. Best known as the administrator of the UPC barcode, GS1 US is a neutral not-for-profit organization that maintains and advocates for the use of a host of other data standards that support the supply chain.
A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique number that is assigned to just your company by GS1 US. It’s the foundation of GS1 Standards and is used in identification numbers, including Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), which identify products at the item or packaging level, and Global Location Numbers (GLNs), which identify locations such as stores or warehouses. GS1 Company Prefixes come in different capacities and prices depending on how many identification numbers you need to create.
The most common use of a GS1 Company Prefix is as a basis for assigning UPCs to products, however, prefixes are also used in EDI. The main function it serves for EDI is as a basis for assigning a unique Serial Shipping Container Code (also known as SSCC18) to the GS1-128 carton labels that you affix to each of your cartons when shipping as an EDI compliant vendor.
In addition to licensing GS1 Company Prefixes, GS1 US started offering members the ability to license a single GTIN with no renewal fee in 2020. When you license a single GS1 US GTIN, your company is uniquely and exclusively identified as the owner of that number, and you get access to other GS1 US member benefits such as education and member support.
Whether you licensed a GS1 Company Prefix or a single GS1 US GTIN, you have access to GS1 US Data Hub | Product, which is an online tool to create and manage GTINs and barcodes.
If you licensed the GS1 Company Prefix, you will use this tool to create GTINs and assign them to specific products. Single GTIN users do not have to create their own GTINs but can use Data Hub to manage product information and download UPC barcode files.
In Data Hub, users can download UPC barcodes in .png format and send to your in-house printer, or to an outsourced partner such as a barcode labeler or your package designer.
The GS1-128 barcode identifies individual cases that contain items that are sold to consumers. This type of barcode enables the encoding of detailed product information such as batch/lot, serial number, or expiration date which is used for shipping, receiving, and warehousing and is not meant to pass through point of sale. With one scan of the barcode at receiving, the contents of the carton will be automatically updated in your trading partners systems. The detailed product information encoded into this type of barcode supports traceability processes and recall readiness.
Two types of GS1 identifiers can be encoded into a GS1-128 barcode: one that is based on your already-created GTIN and more commonly, the SSCC. You should always check with your trading partner to find out which type they require.
The Serialized Shipping Container Code (SSCC) is used to identify an individual logistic unit, such as a carton or pallet. The SSCC is generally encoded into a GS1-128 barcode. The SSCC enables a logistics unit to be tracked individually to support order and delivery tracking and automated goods receiving. Because the SSCC provides a unique number for the delivery, it can be used as a lookup number to provide not only detailed information regarding the contents of the load, but also as part of the ASN process.
Typically, this means that just one scan of the SSCC on a logistic unit at a receiving bay can be linked to a pre-received electronic ASN of the contents of the logistic unit to facilitate speedy receiving, reconciliation, and put-away processes. Alternatively, when tracking a unit in transit, the SSCC provides all the information required for accurate identification. The SSCC can be captured when a specific logistic unit is dispatched, arrives at its destination, or at any other intermediary point in the supply chain.
The SSCC will appear on your GS1-128 labels to identify and differentiate the individual logistic unit. The SSCC must be unique. The GS1 Company prefix is a unique identifier for your company and helps to ensure that the SSCC will not be used by another vendor. This is the primary reason for retailers to require its use. Repeated SSCC labels will cause backups at the point of receipt of goods and will lead to retailer assessed chargebacks for vendors.
Some retailers and marketplaces will ask you to present your GS1 Company Prefix or GS1 US GTIN certificate. You can find a digital copy of your certificate online by going directly to your myGS1US account. You can also access your myGS1US account through Data Hub by clicking on the Print Identifier Certificate link in the Identifier Tools area. Once on your myGS1 US home page, click on the Identifier Certificates button on the homepage in the Quick Actions section. For a walk-through with visuals, visit the Print A Certificate page in the GS1 US Data Hub Help Center.
*In this publication, the letters “U.P.C.” are used solely as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code,” which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to certify compliance with a Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO.