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What is a GS1-128 Barcode? The Ultimate Guide in 2024

1.8 minutes

In this article, we explore what the GS1-128 Barcode is and some of its benefits. We also share some of its common challenges and our 6-step process of creating a GS1-128 barcode along with a case study to better illustrate the process for you. 

GS1-128 barcode

What is a GS1-128 Barcode?

A GS1-128 Barcode, formerly UCC/EAN-128, is a continuous and variable-length symbology that encodes up to 2,335 alphanumeric or 3,118 numeric characters. It's commonly found on shipping and container labels to provide comprehensive information about the goods transported.


For a company producing books, a GS1-128 Barcode might appear as (415)0591234567890(3202)001500(15)221231. Here, (415) is a code indicating a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), (3202) represents the price, and (15) denotes the expiration date. Each section provides vital details about the book.

GS1 128 barcode

Components of GS1-128 Barcodes

GS1-128 barcodes consist of various components. Let’s explore each below:

Application Identifier (AI): This is a two to four-digit prefix that identifies the type and format of data that follows.

Data Field: The information being encoded, whose length varies based on the AI.

Control Characters: These ensure the barcode is being read correctly.

Quiet Zone: A clear space ensuring the barcode scans correctly.

Benefits of using GS1-128 Barcodes

Using GS1-128 barcodes offers several benefits. We will explore some below:

High Data Capacity: 

GS1-128 Barcodes can encode up to 2,335 alphanumeric or 3,118 numeric characters. This extensive data capacity makes them ideal for complex logistics operations. Such data richness means companies can embed a plethora of information, from manufacturing details to special handling instructions, all within one barcode.


Multiple pieces of information can be encoded within a single barcode. This adaptability ensures that businesses can customize the barcode to suit varying needs, whether it's for a perishable food item or a high-end electronic gadget.


Widely accepted and used globally, ensuring universal understanding and scanning capabilities. This global recognition ensures smooth cross-border transactions and reduces chances of logistical errors arising from barcode misinterpretation.

Error Detection: 

Incorporates a check digit to verify accurate scanning. This additional layer of verification significantly reduces the risk of scanning errors to ensure that the right products are delivered to the right places.

Enhanced Traceability: 

Allows for detailed tracking of goods throughout the supply chain, from production to delivery, ensuring transparency and authenticity. With this feature, businesses can swiftly pinpoint any irregularities or disruptions which leads to quicker resolutions and bolstered consumer trust.

Common Challenges with GS1-128 Barcodes

While GS1-128 Barcodes offer numerous benefits, they also present certain challenges. Here are some of them:


Requires a solid understanding of its components to ensure accurate use. A slight mistake in the encoding process can lead to incorrect information or make the barcode unreadable which leads to disruptions in supply chains or sales processes.


Given its data capacity, it can be lengthy which requires more space on packaging or labels. For products with limited packaging real estate, this can pose design challenges, sometimes forcing brands to redesign their packaging or forgo some data elements.


The need for specialized printers and scanners can be more expensive. Apart from the initial investment, there are costs associated with maintenance, training personnel, and potential software upgrades that make it a significant consideration for smaller businesses.

Interoperability Issues: 

Some systems may not be equipped to handle or accurately read the extensive data encoded in GS1-128 Barcodes, especially if they're tailored for simpler barcode formats.

Maintenance Needs: 

With more data encoded, it's crucial to regularly update and verify the information in the barcode, especially for products with changing attributes, like batch numbers or expiration dates. This can add to operational overhead.

GS1 128

6 Steps to Create a GS1-128 Barcode

Use our 6-step GS1-128 barcode creation process for your organization. Simply follow the steps below:

1. Acquire a GS1 Company Prefix

Begin by registering your company with the local GS1 office. This unique prefix will be a foundational element, ensuring that your products are distinguishable in the global marketplace.

Example: Sunshine Foods recently expanded its product line and registered with the GS1 office in their region. With their newly acquired GS1 Company Prefix, they are now ready to make their mark in international markets.

2. Identify Your Product

Every distinct product you offer needs its own identification number. Assign a unique number, which, combined with your GS1 Company Prefix, will create the product's Global Trade Item Number (GTIN).

Example: After launching their new flavor of chips, CrispySnacks Inc. decided to assign it the number 56789. Combined with their GS1 prefix 12345, the product's GTIN is 1234556789.

3. Determine Necessary Data

Reflect on the essential details customers or stakeholders might need. Whether it's a batch number, expiration date, or another piece of data, this information will need to be encoded in the barcode.

Example: AquaClear, a bottled water company, understands the importance of quality assurance. Thus, they decided to include the batch number and expiration date as essential details on their GS1-128 barcode.

4. Encode the Data

After gathering the requisite details, use Application Identifiers (AI) to specify the type and format of the data. Application Identifiers will guide the barcode scanner in interpreting the data you've encoded.

Example: TechToys Ltd. is releasing a new electronic gadget. They use the AI "3102" to indicate the weight of the product and "15" to signify the production date to ensure that scanners can understand these data points.

5. Choose the Right Software/Printer

To bring the barcode to life, you'll need a barcode generation software that supports GS1-128 encoding. Furthermore, invest in a reliable printer, like the Zebra ZT230, that can accurately reproduce the barcode on your product packaging or labels.

Example: Organica Cosmetics wanted to ensure their GS1-128 barcodes were of top quality. They invested in the BarcodeMaster software, known for its GS1-128 support, and printed their codes using the well-reviewed Zebra ZT230 printer.

6. Test the Barcode

After generating the barcode, use a barcode scanner to ensure it can be read correctly. This is a safeguard against potential disruptions in the supply chain or at the point of sale.

Example: After adding barcodes to their range of gourmet sauces, FlavorFiesta Ltd. took a proactive step. They scanned each barcode variant with a professional scanner to confirm it was readable to avoid any possible hiccups at retail checkouts.

Case Study

Green Veg Organics, a company that produces organic vegetable juice, wants to create GS1-128 barcodes for their products. Here’s how they implemented our simple 6-step process:

1. Acquire a GS1 Company Prefix

GreenVeg Organics contacts their local GS1 office and registers their company. They are provided with a unique GS1 Company Prefix: 1234567.

2. Identify Your Product

The company's best-selling product, "Organic Carrot-Beet Juice", is assigned a unique number: 8901234. Together with the GS1 Company Prefix, the GTIN for this juice becomes 12345678901234.

3. Determine Necessary Data

GreenVeg Organics decides they want to include the batch number (B2023) and the expiration date (31st December 2023) in their barcode, to ensure transparency and safety for their consumers.

4. Encode the Data

Using Application Identifiers, GreenVeg Organics encodes the product's GTIN, batch number, and expiration date as follows: (01)12345678901234(10)B2023(15)231223.

5. Choose the Right Software/Printer

The company uses "Barcode ProMax" software that supports GS1-128 encoding. They design the barcode label, ensuring all data is accurately encoded. GreenVeg Organics then prints the barcode using their Zebra ZT230 printer, ensuring high-quality, scannable barcodes on every juice bottle.

6. Test the Barcode

Before rolling out mass production, the team at GreenVeg Organics scans the barcode using their in-house scanner. They confirm that the scanner reads the GTIN, batch number, and expiration date correctly to ensure the barcodes are ready for distribution and sale.

We hope our article has now left you with a better understanding of what GS1-128 barcodes are and how to create them.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article on barcode tagging or our article on how to check expiry date from barcodes. 

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