10 steps to barcode your product

Introduction

This guide takes new barcode users through the basic steps they must take to begin using GS1 barcodes.

juice

Ten Steps to Barcode Implementation

  • Step 1: Register with GS1 India
  • Step 2: Generate numbers through DataKart
  • Step 3: Select a barcode printing process
  • Step 4: Select a "primary" scanning environment
  • Step 5: Select a barcode
  • Step 6: Pick a barcode size
  • Step 7: Format the barcode text
  • Step 8: Pick a barcode colour
  • Step 9: Pick the barcode placement
  • Step 10: Test barcode quality

Step 1: Register with GS1 India

GTIN imageBefore a company can begin using barcodes, they must first register with GS1 India to obtain the numbers (GS1 Identification Keys) that go inside the barcode. GS1 Identification Keys are available for trade items, logistic units, locations, parties, assets, coupons, etc. which are unique all around the world and can be used to identify everything in the supply chain. The identification key for a trade item (product) is called GTIN. This is the number seen beneath a barcode and starts with prefix 890. 

 For information on how to obtain your GS1 barcodes see 'Get a Barcode'

Step 2: Generate numbers through DataKart

DtaKart_logoAfter registering with GS1 India, a company receives access to DataKart, an online service through which they can begin assigning identification numbers (GTINs) to their products. Companies can also upload, organise and manage all their product information and product images in DataKart which is accessible by potential buyers and consumers whenever they scan a product barcode using mobile applications (e.g. Smart Consumer mobile app). 

 

More information

See the DataKart page for detailed information and view this video for a quick overview. 

Step 3: Select a barcode printing process

Printing Methods

Traditional: flexography and offset

Digital: thermal and laser

Direct Marking: e.g. etching, engraving

See scanner environments & printing methods

To begin, you should decide what you are barcoding and if the barcode will carry static or dynamic information inside it.

If the information is static (always the same), the barcode can be printed using traditional printing presses directly on the package (e.g., tea carton) or on a label that is applied to the package (e.g., label on a juice bottle.)

If the information is dynamic then either digital or a combination of digital and traditional printing will be required.

  • If the product requires multi-colour graphics and a barcode with dynamic data, the graphics could be pre-printed using traditional printing presses and leave a blank portion of the label for digital printing inline during production and packaging.
  • If the product only requires text and a barcode with dynamic data, a label could be printed inline and applied to the package (automatically if high volume or by hand if low volume). It could also be printed directly on the package itself without using a label.
  • Also, a barcode with static data could be printed directly on the package using a digital printing method, for example when the same packaging is used for different products.
 
 

Step 4: Select a “primary” scanning environment

Scanning Environments

See scanner environments & printing methods

The specifications for barcode type, size, placement, and quality all depend on where the barcode will be scanned. By knowing where your barcode will be scanned you can establish the right specifications for its production.

Barcodes to be scanned at the retail point-of-sale will need to support omni-directional scanning.

If the barcode will be scanned at point-of-sale as well as in the warehouse, you will need to use a symbol that accommodates point-of-sale scanning, but printed in a larger size to accommodate scanning in the distribution process.

Barcodes on healthcare items to be scanned in hospitals and pharmacies do not require omni-directional scanning, unless the items are also scanned at retail Point-of-Sale.

Step 5: Select a barcode

Selecting the right barcode is critical to the success of your barcode implementation plan, here are some high-level tips: 
 
barcodes_overview
  • If you need to barcode a trade item that will be scanned at the retail Point-of-Sale (POS), first symbol of choice is the EAN/UPC symbol. This symbol is guaranteed to be scanned by POS systems all over the world.
  • If you are printing a barcode with variable information like serial numbers, expiry dates, or measures, then you will use GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, or GS1 DataMatrix (2D symbol).
  • If you want to encode a URL into a barcode to make extended packaging information available to the end consumer, then you should use a GS1 2D symbol (e.g. GS1 QR code).
  • If you need to barcode an outer case to be scanned in a logistics environment, and you want to print directly on corrugated carton, ITF-14 may be the choice for you.

There are other factors to consider so contact your closest GS1 India office and speak with someone on our implementation team.

More information

See the GS1 barcodes page for an overview of the key characteristics for each of the GS1 barcodes.

Step 6: Pick a barcode size

After the correct barcode symbol is specified together with the information to encode in it, the design stage begins. The size of the symbol within the design will depend on the symbol specified, where the symbol will be used, and how the symbol will be printed.

Symbol sizes

The X-dimension is the specified width of the narrowest element of a barcode. X-dimensions are used together with the symbol heights to specify the permissible symbol sizes.

For each scanning environment the relevant symbols are listed with their target X-dimension and corresponding target height. Besides the target sizes also the allowed minimum and maximum sizes are specified.

Omni-directional

EAN/UPC symbols are suitable for omnidirectional scanning since they can be read from all directions by a fixed scanner.

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EAN/UPC symbols

EAN/UPC Symbols are designed for scanning by retail omni-directional scanners. This means that EAN/UPC Symbols have two segments which are taller than they are wide. There is a fixed relationship between symbol height and width. When one dimension is modified, the other dimension should be altered by a proportional amount.

Consideration of the printing process

The final major consideration for symbol size is the capability of the selected printing process. The minimum size (magnification) and correct Bar Width Reduction (BWR) for a symbol varies by printing process and even from press to press. Printing companies should establish a minimum symbol size (magnification) and BWR to achieve acceptable and repeatable quality results.

 

See GS1 General Specifications, “GS1 System Symbol Specification Tables” in section 5 for information on the allowed sizes of all GS1 Symbols based on the application where they are used. Symbol Specification Table 1 provides the details for the retail point-of-sale scanning environment.

Step 7: Format the barcode text

HRI

The text beneath a barcode, called Human Readable Interpretation (HRI), is important because if the barcode is damaged or of poor quality to begin with, then the text is used as a back-up.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on HRI:

Does the Human Readable Interpretation need to be a certain size?
The human-readable text must be clearly legible and in a size proportional to the symbol size.

Is the Human Readable Interpretation supposed to be above or below the symbol?
HRI should be placed below the barcode and grouped together wherever physically possible while maintaining the HRI legibility and minimum barcode height.

I see parentheses around the Application Identifiers (AI) under some barcode symbols. Are they supposed to be there and are they encoded in the bars and spaces of the symbol?
All AIs must be enclosed in parentheses in the Human Readable Interpretation, but the parentheses are not encoded in the symbol.

How many digits do I print beneath the EAN/UPC Symbol in the Human Readable text?

  • You must print 13 digits below the EAN-13 Symbol.
  • You must print 12 digits below the UPC-A Symbol.
  • You must print eight digits below UPC-E and EAN-8 Symbols.

Step 8: Pick a barcode colour

colours

The optimum colour combination for a barcode symbol is black bars with a white background.

If you want to use other colours, the following may help you in choosing satisfactory ones:

  • GS1 barcodes require dark colours for bars (e.g., black, dark blue, dark brown, or dark green).
  • GS1 barcodes require light backgrounds for the Quiet Zones (area free of printing around the barcode) and spaces (e.g., white).
  • GS1 barcodes require light backgrounds for the Quiet Zones (area free of printing around the barcode) and spaces (e.g., white).
  • In addition to light backgrounds, “reddish” colours may also be used. If you have ever been in a darkroom with red lighting and tried to read red copy, you know it can virtually disappear. This is also true of similar colours such as orange, pink, peach, and light yellows. Given the fact that most barcode scanners use a red light source, you can quickly see why these colours may be suitable for backgrounds, but should be avoided for bars.
  • In many cases the symbol background is not printed and the colour of the packaging substrate is used as barcode background. However, if the symbol background is printed beneath the bars, the background should be printed as solid line colours.
  • If you use multiple layers of ink to increase the background opacity, each layer should be printed as a solid colour.
  • If you use a fine screen to deliver more ink to the substrate, be sure there are no voids in the print caused by the screen not adequately filling in.

imageMore information

As explained, black bars and white spaces are the optimal combination, but other colour combinations can be used. Consult a printing company listed under our Solution Provider Programme for additional guidance.

Step 9: Pick the barcode placement

juicebox

When discussing symbol location we are referring to the symbol placement on the design.

When assigning symbol placement first the packaging process should be considered. You should consult the packaging engineer to make sure the symbol will not be obscured or damaged (e.g., over a carton edge, beneath a carton fold, beneath a package flap, or covered by another packaging layer).

After determining the proper placement, the printing company should be consulted. This is because many printing processes require barcodes to be printed in a specific orientation to the feed direction of the web or sheet.

When using flexographic printing, the bars should run parallel to the press direction. If the bars are required to run perpendicular to the press direction check to ensure the symbol is not distorted.

When using either silk screen or rotogravure printing processes, the symbol should be aligned parallel to the cell structure on the screen or gravure plate cylinder to provide the smoothest bar edge possible.

imageMore information

To determine the proper location for GS1 barcodes refer to the placement rules in section 6 of the GS1 General Specifications.

Step 10: Test barcode quality

Once you have the artwork of your product label incorporating the barcode image, you should send it to your closest GS1 India office for verification, before any bulk printing. This will help you avoid printing poor quality barcodes that don't scan easily. GS1 India uses an ISO-based verifier to test your barcode symbol in the way a scanner does, and grade the symbol’s quality.

GS1 India's Barcode Verification service tests the barcode based on which symbol is used (1D or 2D), where it is used, or what identification number it is carrying. A comprehensive diagnostic is conducted based on the barcode symbol's size, colour, print quality, print contrast, magnification, numbering, light margins, bar width, representation, check digit calculation, and more. 

Testing a barcode's scannability also ensures that they scan instantly when scanned using mobile apps in different scanning environments and in poor lighting conditions. 

imageMore information

Read more about GS1 India's barcode verification service

GS1 General Specifications Section 5 provides a quick reference list of symbol quality specifications depending on the symbol type, the application, and the GS1 identification key the symbol is carrying.

Links

  • GS1 India's DataKart: Information on how to assign GTINs through DataKart, its functionalities and benefits.
  • GS1 General Specifications: The GS1 Standard that describes how GS1 barcodes and identification keys should be used.
  • GS1 GTIN Allocation Rules: This standard provides specific rules on GTIN allocation that apply to prevalent industry practices for the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry.
  • GS1 Barcodes: Information of all GS1 barcodes, including an overview of printing methods and scanning environments.

Contact

Find your closest GS1 India office location: http://gs1india.org/contact-us