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The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is a unique and globally recognized identifier for a product. GTIN-14 is a 14-digit version of this number. It's commonly used for items in bulk quantities or cases, though it's also used for other types of products. When companies need to encode a GTIN-14 into a barcode, the most common symbologies used are ITF-14 or GS1-128.

Components of GTIN-14:

The structure can be visualized as: [Packaging Indicator][GS1 Company Prefix][Item Reference][Check Digit]

1. Indicator Digit (1 digit):

This can be a number from 0-8. Typically, the indicator digit is used to represent packaging levels. If the GTIN-14 is representing the same product as a GTIN-13, then the Indicator will be a zero.

Here's a general breakdown of what each number from 0 to 8 traditionally signifies:

0:

  • Meaning: Standard packaging level or base unit. This is used when the GTIN-14 represents the same item as a GTIN-12 or GTIN-13 without any packaging variation.
  • Example: A single bottle of a soft drink.

1:

  • Meaning: A common level of inner pack or smaller bulk quantity that is not meant for individual sale, but for retailers or warehouses.
  • Example: A shrink-wrapped pack of 6 bottles of the soft drink (not to be sold individually but as a pack).

2:

  • Meaning: A larger bulk quantity, perhaps a carton or a bigger inner pack.
  • Example: A carton containing 24 bottles of the soft drink.

3:

  • Meaning: A still larger bulk quantity, could be a larger carton or a crate.
  • Example: A crate with 4 cartons, each containing 24 bottles of the soft drink.

4:

  • Meaning: Typically used to indicate even larger packaging levels, potentially pallets or larger crates.
  • Example: A pallet holding 20 crates, where each crate has multiple cartons of the soft drink.

5-8:

  • Meaning: These are reserved for further packaging levels. The exact representation can vary significantly depending on the company, product, or industry. As you go higher in the numbers, it generally represents larger or more bulk packaging. These levels are less frequently used than 0-4 but are available for companies with complex distribution or storage needs.
  • Example: Different levels of pallets, crates, or containers, each encapsulating significant quantities of the previous packaging level.

2. Company Prefix (variable length):

This is assigned by GS1. It can range from 2-7 digits, depending on the size of the company and number of items they need to label.

GS1, the global standards organization, assigns the Company Prefix. The length of this prefix (whether it's 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 digits long) is typically based on:

Size of the Company:

Larger multinational corporations that produce a wide variety of products will typically have a shorter prefix. This is because they'll need more digits available to them for individual product identification. In contrast, a smaller, local business that produces fewer products will typically receive a longer prefix.

Anticipated Number of Products:

A company that plans to have a vast number of individual products or SKUs will likely need a shorter company prefix, thus allowing for a greater range of item numbers.

Cost Considerations:

Acquiring a GS1 Company Prefix typically comes with associated costs. Shorter prefixes (which allow for more products) can be more expensive than longer ones because of the potential breadth of products they can represent.

Example:

Let's consider two hypothetical companies:

MegaCorp Industries:

  • A multinational corporation producing thousands of products ranging from home appliances to electronics.
  • Due to its wide product range and global reach, MegaCorp is given a shorter Company Prefix by GS1, e.g., 12345.
  • This allows MegaCorp to assign a longer sequence of numbers for each individual product, accommodating its vast product lineup. For instance, if using a GTIN-12, their products might have codes like 12345000001, 12345000002, and so on.

LocalFresh Juices:

  • A local juice manufacturer that produces a limited range of fresh juice products.
  • Because of its smaller product range, LocalFresh might be assigned a longer Company Prefix, e.g., 1234567.
  • With the GTIN-12 format, their products might be labeled as 12345670001 for apple juice, 12345670002 for orange juice, and so on.

3. Item Reference (variable length)

This refers to the item itself. Its length is dependent on the Company Prefix, such that the total length of the Company Prefix and Item Reference is always 12 digits.

Purpose: The Item Reference is used to distinguish individual products or stock-keeping units (SKUs) within a company's product lineup. It provides the unique product differentiation once the company is identified via the GS1 Company Prefix.

Length Variability: The length of the Item Reference varies inversely with the length of the Company Prefix. This is because, together, they always sum to 12 digits (for GTIN-14, excluding the Packaging Indicator and the Check Digit).

Assignment: The company itself usually determines the Item Reference based on internal product categorization, product launches, and other criteria.

Example:

Imagine a company named "FreshFruit Co." They've been assigned a GS1 Company Prefix of 012345. Given that their prefix is 6 digits long, their Item Reference will be 6 digits as well (since 12 - 6 = 6).

Now, let's say FreshFruit Co. produces a variety of fruits. Here's how they might use the Item Reference:

  1. Apples: 000001
  2. Bananas: 000002
  3. Cherries: 000003... and so on.

So, the GTIN-14 (excluding the Packaging Indicator and the Check Digit for simplicity) for these products would be:

  1. Apples: 012345000001
  2. Bananas: 012345000002
  3. Cherries: 012345000003... and so on.

Now, if FreshFruit Co. had a shorter Company Prefix, say 01234 (5 digits), then the Item Reference would be longer, 7 digits, to still sum to 12.

This dynamic relationship between the Company Prefix and the Item Reference ensures that both large corporations with tons of products and smaller companies with fewer products can uniquely identify every product in their range within the GTIN system.

4. Check Digit (1 digit)

*Note that this is calculated automatically by the GTIN 14 Barcode Generator

The check digit in the GTIN system (whether it's GTIN-8, GTIN-12, GTIN-13, or GTIN-14) is calculated using a specific algorithm to ensure data integrity. Its main purpose is to catch data-entry errors or scanning errors.

Here's how you calculate the check digit for a GTIN:

1. Multiply the Digits

Starting from the rightmost digit (before the check digit position) and moving left, you alternate between multiplying the digit by 3 or by 1.

2. Sum the Results

Add together all the products from the multiplications.

3. Find the Next Multiple of 10

Determine the smallest number that, when added to the sum from step 2, results in a multiple of 10.

4. The Resulting Number is the Check Digit

If the sum from step 2 is already a multiple of 10, the check digit is 0.

Example for Check Digit in GTIN-14:

Let's calculate the check digit for a GTIN-14 number: 1234567890123X where X is the check digit we want to find.

Starting from the rightmost position (excluding the check digit):

  1. 3 × 3 = 9
  2. 1 × 2 = 2
  3. 3 × 1 = 3
  4. 1 × 0 = 0
  5. 3 × 2 = 6
  6. 1 × 9 = 9
  7. 3 × 0 = 0
  8. 1 × 8 = 8
  9. 3 × 7 = 21
  10. 1 × 6 = 6
  11. 3 × 5 = 15
  12. 1 × 4 = 4
  13. 3 × 3 = 9
  14. 1 × 2 = 2
  15. 3 × 1 = 3

Now, sum all these values together:

9 + 2 + 3 + 0 + 6 + 9 + 0 + 8 + 21 + 6 + 15 + 4 + 9 + 2 + 3 = 97

To find the smallest number that, when added to 97, results in a multiple of 10, we see it's 3 because 97 + 3 = 100.

Thus, the check digit X is 3, making the complete GTIN-14: 12345678901233.

The same method applies to other GTIN formats; just remember to start from the rightmost position and alternate between multiplying by 3 and 1.

Example

1. Packaging Indicator:

Suppose we're a company producing bottled water. We want a GTIN-14 for a shrink-wrapped pack of 12 bottles, which is an inner pack not intended for individual sale. We might choose 1 as our packaging indicator for this bulk item.

2. GS1 Company Prefix:

Assuming our company, "PureWater Inc.", has been assigned the GS1 Company Prefix of 567890. This is a 6-digit prefix.

3. Item Reference:

With a 6-digit Company Prefix, our Item Reference will also be 6 digits to ensure the combined total is 12 digits.

Let's say we've determined the following codes for our products:

  1. Spring Water: 000123
  2. Mineral Water: 000124... and so on.

Given our example, we're focusing on the Spring Water.

4. Check Digit Calculation:

Now, we need to calculate the check digit for our GTIN-14 so far: 156789000123X (where X is our check digit).

Starting from the rightmost position (excluding the check digit):

  1. 3 × 3 = 9
  2. 1 × 2 = 2
  3. 3 × 1 = 3
  4. 1 × 2 = 2
  5. 3 × 0 = 0
  6. 1 × 0 = 0
  7. 3 × 0 = 0
  8. 1 × 9 = 9
  9. 3 × 8 = 24
  10. 1 × 7 = 7
  11. 3 × 6 = 18
  12. 1 × 5 = 5
  13. 3 × 1 = 3

Adding these values:

9 + 2 + 3 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 9 + 24 + 7 + 18 + 5 + 3 = 82

To determine the check digit, we find the next multiple of 10 after 82, which is 90. The difference between 90 and 82 is 8. So, our check digit is 8.

Final GTIN-14:

Combining everything, our GTIN-14 for the Spring Water shrink-wrapped pack is: 1567890001238.

To reiterate:

  • Packaging Indicator: 1
  • GS1 Company Prefix: 567890
  • Item Reference for Spring Water: 000123
  • Check Digit: 8

Thus, our GTIN-14 is 1567890001238.

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