Before beginning to use barcodes, the numbers used on barcodes need to be created . In most cases, these are Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) also known as Universal Product Codes (UPCs) or European Article Numbers (EANs).
GTINs uniquely identify products down to very specific details and can track a product as it moves through the global value chain all the way to the end user. If a product comes back into the value chain as a re-sold item or needs to be recalled, it can be re-identified by its original GTIN.
GTINs can also be used to identify specific packaging configurations, including pallets, cases, inners, and point-of-sale/point-of-use items or even distribution/warehouse logistics.
Although GTINs are frequently encoded within a barcode, they can also be used on their own (some major online sellers use GTINs to authenticate a product before allowing it to be sold on their platform).
Beginning January 1, 2019, all new GTINs created will be non-reusable and will be permanently assigned to each unique product.
Using a GTIN to identify products:
Increasingly, trading partners mandate that their suppliers have standardized product identifiers before they will agree to do business with them. In Canada, that means GTINs.
There are multiple types of GTINs with GTIN-12s, GTIN-13s and GTIN-14s, being 12, 13 and 14 digits in length respectively.
GTIN-12s and GTIN-13s are made up of three parts:
GTIN-14s include an extra part at the beginning called an Indicator Digit. Ranging from 1-8, this digit indicate what packaging level the rest of the GTIN refers to. Indicator “9” is utilized only when there is additional information about weight and counts are provided (Variable Weight and Count) that need to be included.
Example of GTIN-12:
Example of GTIN-13:
Example of GTIN-14:
You will need different kinds of GTIN for different uses. Each can be encoded into specific barcode types (known as barcode symbologies).
For Retail Point-of-Sale Products, only GTIN-12 and GTIN-13 are approved for retail point-of-sale applications.
For Logistic units (Inner packs, Cases and Pallets) consisting of a homogeneous grouping, you can use GTIN-14s or assign GTIN-12s or GTIN-13s.
Generally, you will need one GTIN for each of your products and another, different type of barcode for each packaging format, such as pallet or case.
You may find you need more GTINs than you thought.
You should also consider how many barcodes you will need as your business grows to ensure you have enough GTINs to cover any new products you launch or updates to your existing products.
GTINs refer to unique products, when products change substantively, it may require a new GTIN to ensure it is not confused with your older versions, or other products in the value chain. GTIN Management Standards are designed to help.
In Canada, GS1 Canada supports the GTIN Management Standards with the GTIN Allocation Assistant, a decision support tool that leverages content in ECCnet Registry to walk users through a series of simple questions. The tool then provides a quick and easy decision on whether the proposed product or packaging changes require a new GTIN.
Find our more about GTIN Management Rules at the global level by visiting the global GS1 GTIN Management Standard webpage.
In general, three guiding principles should be considered by any brand owner when introducing changes to an existing product: