Why that U.P.C. is Smiling

ORLANDO, FLA—The Thirty-Fifth Anniversary of the Universal Product Code (U.P.C.) is being celebrated today, June 3, 2009, by GS1 US, the not-for-profit organization dedicated to the adoption and implementation of standards-based, global supply-chain solutions.

The U.P.C. is made up of a row of 59 machine-readable black and white bars and 12 human-readable digits. Both the bars and the digits convey the same information—the identity of a specific product and its manufacturer. Every U.P.C. contains three elements: the brand owner’s GS1 Company Prefix, the specific item’s “reference number,” and a “check digit,” calculated by the combination of the preceding numbers in order to ensure data accuracy.

GS1 US explains the first live use of a U.P.C. took place in a Marsh Supermarkets store in Troy, Ohio, on June 26, 1974, when a cashier scanned a package of Wrigley’s gum. Today U.P.C.s are scanned more than 10 billion times a day in applications spanning more than 25 industries, including consumer packaged goods, apparel, hardware, food services, healthcare, logistics, government, and high-tech.

Bob Carpenter, chief executive officer of GS1 US, claims, “The U.P.C. really is fundamental to commerce. It took time to build momentum, but it has succeeded because it benefits everyone: consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. And it has a lot of life left in it.”

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