What are barcodes?
The most common barcodes are produced from a set of bars, and spaces between bars, of varying widths. They have the advantage that barcode scanners can read them easily, even if humans cannot. Normal letters, at which humans are so adept, are still almost impossible for computer scanners to read reliably, even in the case of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) fonts.
The idea of a barcode is to encode an identification number for something that will be unique. Using this unique number in the form of a bar code, the information about the item can be looked up in a database using the code number.
In the case of supermarkets; food products that have been assigned unique EAN barcode/numbers, correspond to the supermarkets own database containing pricing information, stock levels etc. At the checkout the barcode is scanned and the price charged to the customer. In addition the information collected from the scan is used for automatic reordering and a host of other management information about the products they sell.
How did it all start?
The idea of the barcode was first proposed in the US in the late 1960s as a method of automating the input of numbers (or codes) into computer systems.
The supermarkets of the day wanted a way of identifying products as they passed through the stores without the labour of continually typing numbers into a keyboard. This would also speed the movement of goods through the checkout.
This requirement eventually gave rise to the 12 digit UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode, which in turn has been extended to produce the 13 digit WPC (World Product Code), often known by local labels such as EAN-13 (European Article Numbering 13 digit code). These are now widespread, and are being insisted upon by major supermarket chains.
The most common forms of barcodes are: the UCC/EAN 13 digit codes and a shorter version known as EAN-8, containing only 8 digits; the ITF (Interleaved 2 of 5) barcode; the Code 39 (also known as Code 3 of 9); and the EAN-128, which is a specific form of the Code 128 barcode.
UCC/EAN codes are used primarily for retail applications whereas code 128 with its combination of alpha and numeric content is used for non point of sale applications.
How do I go about barcoding my products?
Your first call should be to Label Power. We will guide you through the process and advise you on the best way to go about barcoding your products. You will also need to contact GS1 Australia.