When you buy some products like biscuits, chocolates, flacks, etc, you can see some bar codes on that product.

Doubt may come to your mind that what it is. This post clears your doubt by giving complete information about that code.

It informs you about the meaning of digits in universal product code, the importance of code, its types, and it also tells about the steps to be followed to get the code for your products.


Universal Product Code (UPC) is a 12 digit special code assigned to every item sold in the store. The code helps in identifying the product, store traffic trends, and also inventory details.

That helps further in maintaining complete ordering information for the business.

It provides real-time data to the store or the super-market to ensure they never run out of stock for fast-moving items. It also makes the billing system easy and swift.

UPC-A and UPC-E are two main types of Universal Product Code. UPC-A includes zero, and UPC-E does not have zero.

Understanding the Universal Product Code

The first 6 digits are a unique code that is provided to the vendor. Thus, the vendor will have the same code even if the store differs.

The next 5 digits act as the unique reference specified for the product, and the last digit will be the check digit which is generally used to cross-check if the UPC for the product is correct or not.

The UPC is scanned against a scanner that reads the bar code and lets the system know if everything is okay or not.

Universal Product Code example

What are the steps to get Universal Product Code(UPC) for a product?

  • The first step is to get the GS1(Global standard Organization, also known as Unifor Code Council) company prefix. To get it, you have to fill online application form and signup for a prefix capacity plan. It shows the number of universal product codes you can get under your company prefix.
  • You have to pay the fee for the code. A prefix capacity plan can be expensive. So make sure that the plan you have chosen will accommodate the long-term use of your business.
  • Once you pay the fee, GS1 allocates a 6 digit number that is the manufacturer identification number.  This number becomes the first 6 digits of the universal product code on all the products of your company.
  • After getting your company prefix, you can give internal product numbers (5-digits) to your product. You have the freedom to choose your own digits, but each product should have a unique UPC. Make sure that the exact number is not used for more than one product. This 5-digit  number represents the product itself.
  • After generating your company prefix and internal product code, generate your check digit. It generates after several calculations by adding and multiplying digits in the code based on an algorithm monitored by the global standard organization(GS1). Manually also, you can calculate the check digit.
  • Confirm check digit is correct or not. If the check digit is incorrect, UPC will not scan properly.
  • Once all three sets of digits, company prefix, internal product code, and check code are generated, register this number with GS1 so that your product information will be tied to the number you have created.

UPC link

It is a simple tool generated to synchronize company-specific UPCs and generic UPCs( those beginning with the prefix 033383).

It helps the vendor to communicate his GTINs encoded in the universal product code to his customer. It also allows customers to download the data into their point of sale system to scan the UPC on the packaged goods.

Benefits of UPC link

  • It helps the trading partners to communicate in the form of one uniform file format.
  • It allows the trading partners to sync the product information to brand owners.
  • It acts as a remedy in the situation of immediate purchasing.
  • This tool helps to increase inventory accuracy and traceability.
  • It helps to exchange the complete list of data with more accuracy.
  • It decreases the number of transactions that are necessary to communicate data required for transition. Hence it saves time and increases efficiency.

How many types of bar codes are there?

There are three types of bar codes. They are 1. Universal Product Code (UPC) 2. International Article Number (IAN) 3. International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

How does the bar code help?

  1. One of the most significant advantages of using UPC is that it controls human errors while billing, thus providing exact details to the firm. It also saves time that is wasted in manually entering all the details.
  2. The UPC is easy to be designed and printed. The company does not have to spend a fortune on this. The data thus collected from the system can be utilized for several valuable purposes such as inventory management, demand forecasting, order placing, and many others.
  3. The same data extracted can be used by several disciplines of the business such as finance, store department, planning, and so on.
  4. Data is available for use within no time as everything is captured in an instant.
  5. It helps the business to perform better and also assists in better business decision-making policies.
Universal Product Code

The main disadvantage of bar code is bad printing quality and color combination.

When the color combination between the bar code and packing paper of the product is the same, it isn’t easy to scan and read the bar code.

Difference between SKU and UPC

Many people get confused between the terms SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) and UPC (Universal Product Code).

It is crucial to know the difference between them for a person who handles inventories and a small businessman.

Before knowing the differences, let us have a look at what is SKU?

SKUs are a type of alphanumeric code generated by businesses or organizations to track their inventories in the warehouse. It may contain both alphabet and number.

  • SKU numbers are unique numbers assigned by the company itself and are unique for each company. That is because, different retailers use different SKUs for the same product as per their convenience. But UPC is used universally and is assigned by GS1, and these numbers remain constant even if the retailer is different.
  • SKU numbers are alphanumeric, and the company decides the length of the code. Whereas UPCs are numeric codes, and the size of the code is 12 digits.
  • SKU codes are generated by the companies freely and used internally. But UPCs are given by GS1, and companies should purchase them by paying.

Get more definitions about Universal product code and other ERP-related terms here.


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