The Universal Product Code, UPC, has been the dominant product identification standard in the United States for since it was established in the 1970's. It is a 12 digit code, unique to a product, which allows it to be scanned and read in virtually any major retail establishment.
In order to facilitate sharing UPC item information among trading partners, UPC catalogues by QRS and GE were developed in the early 1990's. An EDI 832 transaction can be used to load the catalogs with UPC information. A supplier can load their product codes one time and all of their retailers can pull the information.
The European Article Number, EAN, is an expanded UPC with 13 digits, the first two are the country code. It is widely used throughout the rest of the world. A UPC code formed in the United States is compatible because the country code for the US is 00 and the missing first digit is assumed to be a zero.
The Global Trade Item Number, GTIN-14, expands to a 14th digit with the new digit providing a level of packing. An example of usage would be for a carton containing identical items. It could be identified with a GTIN carton level indicator.
The Uniform Code Council is the organization that assigns manufacturer's ID numbers, which are used within the product identification codes to assure that products are uniquely marked. The UCC also establishes the standards for many EDI guidelines.
The UCC has a sunrise date stating that all North American retailers should be able to handle the EAN (13 digit code) by January 1, 2005. It is recommended that if upgrading technology to meet this sunrise date, that room for the full 14 digits be provided to support GTIN in the future.
The UCC has also implemented UCCnet for global data synchronization, facilitating exchanging GTIN information in near real time
Major retailers, such as Macy's, now have the capability to transmit UPC (12 digits), EAN (13 digits) and GTIN Numbers (14 digits) in their 850 purchase order transactions.
To obtain a UPC manufacturer's number, contact GS1 US, formerly the Uniform Code Council