The UCC (Uniform Code Council) says you should convert to EAN (European Article Number )-8 and EAN-13 symbol bar code identifiers within the next two years. Are you and your vendors ready for the change?
Retail supply chains use bar codes to identify and track products and audit inventory. These bar codes are referred to by the UCC (Uniform Code Council) as GTINs (global trade item numbers). The standard GTIN in North America today is the 30-year-old UPC (Universal Product Code) 12-digit bar code format. But the UCC's 2005 Sunrise initiative recommends supply chains adopt new GTINs, called EAN (European Article Number)-8 and EAN-13 symbols, which have been developed to accommodate the growing need for unique code identifiers. By January 1, 2005, North American retailers will need to be able to process these, as well as the old 12-digit UPCs, in their supply chains and at their points of sale. All supply chain processes and applications that rely on the 12-digit standard will need to be updated.
Why Is 2005 Sunrise Compliance Necessary?
Becoming 2005 Sunrise-compliant isn't just a matter of following the rules, it's a matter of gaining a competitive advantage. After January 1, 2005, 12-digit UPC- dependent systems will limit a company's efficiency in trade with partners. Retailers who haven't adopted the new EAN standards might incur the costs associated with relabeling goods, incompatibility with supplier and vendor partner systems, and supply chain lag time.
On just about every continent except North America, retail products are marked with EAN symbols. To sell such products here, they must be relabeled with 12-digit UPC symbols. This is expensive and slows down the supply chain. Building the capacity to handle EAN symbols, as well as UPC symbols, into your supply chain will give you more, cheaper, and quicker access to products and partners. These advantages will be realized as the barriers of relabeling, vendor incompatibility, and supply chain lag are removed.
After January 1, 2005, the UCC will no longer issue UCC Company Prefixes to companies based outside North America. Therefore, these companies will mark products exclusively with EAN-8 or EAN-13 symbols, which will rapidly increase the amount of product distributed with EAN labels.
What Does Compliance Look Like?
According to the UCC, there are several stages to compliance. Compliant retailers must ensure systems and applications are able to scan and process EAN-8 and EAN-13 symbols in addition to the 12-digit UPC at the POS.
Many retailers should adopt RSS (Reduced Space Symbology) bar codes in conjunction with 2005 Sunrise. RSS bar codes are EANs for items too small for traditional UPCs, and for items that require additional data (such as expiration dates for perishables, fresh food, and drugs) at the POS.
A totally GTIN-compliant company can process, store, and communicate with trading partners using all GTINs, whether 8, 12, 13, or 14 digits. The UCC recommends that GTINs scanned from EAN-8, UPC, and EAN-13 symbols be processed and stored in their entirety. Companies that change or abbreviate the GTIN risk storing and sharing bad data with their trading partners.
There are many considerations to becoming 2005 Sunrise- and GTIN- compliant. You can (and should) learn more by visiting the UCC Web site at www.uc-council.org.