You know a bar code when you see one. Just about everything you can buy has one. But what do they do (besides make the till go ‘beep’)? Bar codes, whether UPC, EAN, or SSCC-18, are standardised by GS1, a non-profit organisation that sets standards for supply chain issues globally.
So how do bar codes assist the warehousing world?
When vendors and manufacturers send their goods off to retailers, the bar codes allow the products to be tracked at every stage of their journey through the supply chain. When a shipment is initially packed at a manufacturer’s warehouse, they usually get an 18 digit SSCC-18 code which identifies all of the pieces in the packing unit. This 18 digit code and some other key data is recorded on the GS1-128 shipping label (which can be referred to as a UPC-128 or an EAN-128 depending on the origin of the goods).
Once the goods are received by the retailer’s warehouse, they are scanned in by the GS1-128 label, and become part of the retailer’s inventory. The product’s entire history so far can be tracked, so long as the labelling process was done correctly.
If a flaw is noticed in any unit at any point in the supply chain, that unit can be traced back to its point of origin. The manufacturer will often be able to identify which production line it was produced on and at what time. This helps immensely with quality control issues, and allows faster manufacturer response time to problems.
If a product recall is necessary due to safety concerns, the proper use of barcodes throughout the process can limit the recall to just those units that may be unsafe, allowing the rest of the production run to be sold. This alone is generally worth the hassle of documenting everything carefully.
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