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Barcode Compliance: Standards can be a supplier’s best friend

Every mid to large retailer references the GS1 guidelines as the basis for their barcoding requirements. The GS1 General Specifications is the global document for standardized identification, barcode marking, and barcode print quality assessment. In a perfect world, every retailer would understand the guidelines and follow them verbatim. 

Sadly, the world is not perfect and many retailers’ requirements do not mirror the global standards. In some cases, the business processes fall outside the intended scope of the global standards. Unfortunately, the majority of those retailers who do not properly follow the GS1 General Specifications either do not know such a standard actually exists or never took the time to harmonize their requirements with the GS1 guidelines.

Our TradingPartner.info division offers a retailer guideline monitoring service, which is used by the majority of retail suppliers.  Everyday our analysts review requirements and have become very proficient identifying retailers who reference GS1 standards but do not follow them.  The following are some tell tale signs they have uncovered:

  • Incorrectly referencing GS1-128 as UCC-128 (or UCC/EAN-128).  This change occurred in 2005 and all standards reference utilize GS1-128.

  • Illustration of barcode shipping label without any detailed specifics to barcode/text elements.  At a minimum, the symbology, size, and height should be provided for every barcode included on a shipping label.

  • Allow suppliers to provide barcode label and ticket samples over fax for approval. If a retailer is going to attribute compliance offset charges for what they deem non-compliant barcodes, they need to evaluate the provided samples against the ISO/ANSI grading standard for printed barcode symbols.

Barcode Print Quality Standards

The “ISO/ANSI” barcode print quality standards have been adapted by every industry.  These standards are used to evaluate how a barcode will perform against a global measuring scale.  The GS1 standards follow the “ISO/ANSI” print quality standards and also define the detailed parameters used for various scanning applications.

Recognizing the importance of standardizing the evaluation process and to insure consistent communication of print quality assessment, GS1 created certification processes for barcode verification equipment. Without this certification, there is no assurance the barcode verification device can adequately convey correct print quality grades.

In North America, only LVS and Axicon verifiers have been certified by GS1 US. (Click here to view GS1 US listing of certified hardware consultants).  If a retailer is providing barcode non-compliance results from a non-certified verifier, suppliers should challenge the validity of the provided results.


Proper Use and Calibration of Certified Barcode Verification Equipment


Verification equipment needs to be calibrated against a GS1 calibrated test card.  GS1 provides Calibrated Conformance Standard Test Cards to insure an accurate reading and recommends this calibration process be done on a DAILY basis. 

These measured test cards are offered by GS1 US and are uniquely serialized for traceability. Click here to visit the GS1 US site to learn more.

We have found the test cards to be an ideal tool to help train new employees on proper scanning techniques.  During the past year we identified one retailer whose testing lab was properly equipped but their results were invalid due to improper scanning.

Proper aperture must be used to evaluate barcode symbols.  ISO/ANSI print grades are conveyed as A,B,C,D,F and must also include the aperture used to evaluate the barcode symbol. The GS1 General Specifications define the appropriate aperture sizing based on the barcode language, size and application. For a GS1-128 barcode symbol with an x-dimension of .020”, a 10 mil aperture should be used in the barcode evaluation.  On many occasions we have seen incorrect barcode verification scan reports from a retailer using a 6 mil aperture when a 10 mil should have been used.

Training on equipment use and interpretation of barcode analysis results. Stealing lines from the movie ,”A Fish Called Wanda”, Otto makes a statement, “Apes don’t read Nietzsche” and Wanda replies, “Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it!” 

In order to help assist suppliers with barcode compliance issues so they can quickly make changes to facilitate efficient supply chain processing, retailers need to be able to provide instruction as how to correct the problem. Simply furnishing an ISO/ANSI verification report to support a chargeback is not going to help a supplier quickly resolve their problem.  GS1 US does offer educational and training programs. Click here for detailed information.

Additional information on GS1 standards and barcodes can be found at:

Bar Code Graphics is a GS1 Solution Partner and largest standards based testing facility for barcodes in North America.  As an unbiased resource, our services are utilized by the leading retailers, including Kohls, Sports Authority, Stein Mart, jcpenney, Stage, and Home Depot.  The BCG Testing Center provides barcode print quality/application evaluations for POS, coupon, and logistic barcodes. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require assistance.