Bar coding has been in regular use since the early 1970s. While at first, bar coding had primarily industrial applications, now you can find bar codes everywhere that goods need to be accounted for quickly and without (human) error. Barcoding provides an easy way to identify and/or track a product all the way from the factory where it was made to the check-out counter where it is purchased. Here are a few things you should know about how to use bar coding:
- If your bar code is going on an item that will be scanned at a register in either Canada or the United States, you will need a UPC bar code. UPC is an abbreviation for Universal Product Code. To use UPC bar codes, you must apply for and receive permission from the Uniform Code Council, and pay an annual fee. What you get in return is a manufacturer identification number, which is a six-digit code. Those six digits will be the first six digits on the UPC code on your product-the next five digits are the item number.
- Every product in every permutation requires a different bar code. In other words, the four-pack of toilet paper has one bar code, the six-pack of toilet paper has a different bar code, and so on.
- There are a few different categories for barcodes and you will need to find out if there is an established standard within the industry you are in. Odds are that your industry already has established standards that apply to how the symbol is printed and how a scanner reads the symbol. The standard for a particular application requires the use of a particular symbology, or pattern of bars and stripes. So find out from someone familiar with industry standards what the existing symbology is for your industry.
- If you've done your math, you're probably wondering what that last number is in a bar code: That number is known as a check digit. This digit is a way for the bar code scanner to know if it scanned the number correctly. That digit is arrived at through a formula using the numbers within the bar code. The scanner performs this calculation every time it reads a bar code, and if the scanner's calculations do not match the check number, the scanner knows that an error was made. The check digit is a part off the bar code number that will be assigned to you by the Uniform Code Council.
- Some bar codes use a system known as zero-suppressed bar code numbers. The way a zero-suppressed bar code number works is that if there is a set of four numbers, all zeroes, the set is eliminated, thus resulting in a much smaller bar code. This is a handy way to fit a bar code onto smaller packages.
Okay, that's probably enough to get you started. Check the links for more detailed information. And, good look selling your stuff! Finally, if you're starting to feel overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about how to use bar coding, take a break for a moment at BarCodeArt.