The UK and and the USA use two slightly different types of barcode labelling systems. This straight away begs the question – what if a British company is receiving commodities or supplies from abroad? Will printing equipment available over in the UK be able to read American barcode Labels?
The GS1 underpins Barcode label Standards
The fundamental design and structure of a barcode label is standardised by the Global GS1 system. Basically this system sets standards locally and internationally for companies in all parts of the supply supply chain – manufacturers, distributors, retailers, hospitals, transporters, customs organisations, software developers, local and international regulatory authorities.
Local development authorities
US and UK labels differ in the type of symbols the barcode scanner reads. The symbols in the UK are called EAN-13 where 13 symbols are shown, and the US symbols are called UPC-A where 12 numbers are shown. Both countries have a barcoding authority to develop and administer numbering. For each country to join each others authority obviously proves useful to keep abreast of progress, changes and development.
All authorities major aim is to regulate development for global purposes and therefore both systems can be read by barcode label scanning equipment on both sides of the Atlantic.
How did the UPC symbology begin?
The barcode label was originally invented by Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland in 1948. It started to be used commercially in the early 1970’s. The UPC was a new type of symbology that was first seen in America in 1976 on a pack of Wrigleys chewing gum. While manufacturers were simultaneously adopting barcode labels, the usefulness of the barcode required the adoption of expensive scanners by a critical mass of retailers. Customer needs were understood better with the implementation of the UPC as well. This was clearly evident when only about 5 weeks after installing barcode scanners, sales in grocery stores typically started climbing and eventually leveled off at a 10-12% increase in sales that never dropped off.