GS1 US Test Kits Help Retailers Gauge Readiness for 2D Barcodes

Product packaging transition slated to take place by 2027
UPC Code
Linear UPCs will transition to data-rich two-dimensional barcodes on product packaging by 2027, a timeline set by the retail industry with GS1 US to provide consumers with more information about products.

With linear Universal Product Codes (UPCs) set to transition to data-rich two-dimensional barcodes on product packaging by 2027 – a timeline created by the retail industry with GS1 US to provide consumers with more information about the products they buy – GS1 US has created a Barcode Capabilities Test Kit to help retailers evaluate their readiness for the change.

The kit assesses a retailer’s capability to scan and process 2D barcodes at the point of sale and support stocking and receiving functions in warehouses and distribution centers as goods move through the supply chain. It’s also part of a phased migration plan for implementing 2D barcodes – known as “Sunrise 2027 – A New Dimension in Barcodes” – which will lead brands through labeling transition issues while further ensuring the reliability of 2D barcode scanning. 

“Global retailers, brands and solution providers have been moving toward the use of 2D barcodes to provide consumers with detailed product information and transparency,” explained Carrie Wilke, GS1 US’ SVP, standards and technology. “However, there are many other supply chain benefits, including improved inventory management, recall readiness, sustainability, ethical sourcing, product authentication and brand trust. A single 2D barcode conveys limitless information in a machine-readable format and while the transition is a multistep process, GS1 US will be collaborating with industry to align on capabilities for success.”

“2D barcodes on products will be an important new gateway to digital experiences,” said Kelly Schlafman, director of intelligent packaging at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. “We are living in the age of the informed consumer – the explosion of digital access to content is a key element to remain competitive.”

GS1 US recently ran a test kit pilot with three national retailers and their solution providers to assess readiness. According to the results, POS systems need to be transformed to process 2D barcodes, interpret new data and maintain efficient checkout. Although retailers in the test group had installed image scanners, testing showed various readiness issues in successfully scanning, processing and storing data. The takeaway was that hardware and software infrastructure across all POS formats must evolve.

“While the transition to 2D barcodes is still in its infancy, we understand that benefits around sustainability, traceability, supply chain visibility and meeting the needs of consumers are creating a great deal of interest across industry,” said Marcia Mendez, senior program manager at Walmart. “Ultimately, suppliers will likely drive this evolution as they increasingly label their products with 2D barcodes; however, retailers will need to ensure that not only can they scan 2D barcodes, but also read and ingest the data, which we’ve learned are two very different capabilities during the pilot project.”

As a neutral global standards body, GS1 is coordinating the effort to ensure that recommendations and guidance take into account the needs of all stakeholders to produce a fully interoperable global solution. The organization’s ongoing work with the retail industry includes testing with the University of Memphis AIDC Lab, with insights to be incorporated into guidance developed for the industry globally.

Resources to help industry members include a GS1 US Advanced Data Carriers at Point-of-Sale Getting Started Guide as well as implementation support for GS1 Digital Link. Additionally, GS1 US and Neeedham, Mass.-based standards development organization Object Management Group (OMG) will feature Sunrise 2027 resources at NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show, taking place at New York’s Javits Center Jan. 16-18, 2022, at booth #4749. 

Ewing, N.J.-based GS1 US, a member of GS1 global, is a not-for-profit information standards organization that enables industry collaboration to help boost supply chain visibility and efficiency through the use of GS1 Standards, the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world. 

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates approximately 10,500 stores under 48 banners in 24 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, PG’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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