Universal Product Code (UPC)

What Is A UPC?

A UPC (or Universal Product Code) is a 12-digit numerical code and a barcode that is given to a consumer product that is used in identifying what it is and who its manufacturer is.

Universal Product Codes are necessary if you plan on selling your products through a physical or online marketplace, as it allows all parties to keep track of those products throughout the entire supply chain. With UPCs, products can move throughout the supply chain faster and more efficiently and give all those involved more visibility into the current status of your products. They also allow retailers to know when to order more inventory of a particular product. And can help speed up checkouts by allowing employees to simply scan a barcode.

In order to for U.S. sellers to obtain a UPC, you’ll need to pay a fee and apply to GS1 UPC, a non-profit organization that is in charge of upholding global business standards.

UPC Codes Broken In Parts

The UPC code that is assigned to your product can be broken down into several parts as they signify different things. First, GS1 will give you a 6-digit manufacturer identification number. These six digits will be the first numbers used for all products that you sell.

The next five numbers are referred to as the item number and will be more specific to the particular item you sell. These are numbers that you or someone in your business would assign. Each number will have to be unique and specific to each product.

The final digit of the UPC is referred to as the check digit. Several calculations are used to in determining this number but its primary purpose is to ensure that all the other digits are accurate and that the UPC is valid.

Universal Product Code vs. SKU

Universal Product Code (UPC) and a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) serve two distinct purposes.

At their core, SKUs are for internal use only and help your business figure out how much inventory you have of a particular product, where it’s being sold, and how often it’s being sold. They don’t have a specific number limit and often use letters for identification as well.

UPCs are more for external use as they allow other people within the supply chain to know what the product is, who makes it, and where its coming from. UPCs come with barcodes and are scanned at checkout and the number associated with them is in part up to GS1.

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