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Barcodes And UPCs Explained

When it comes to product labels and labelling machinery, it is easy to get caught up in the design and aesthetics of the finished product. While the design of your labels is critical, there are also many practical requirements which you need to consider. Depending on your products, there will be regulations that your labels need to meet in order to stay compliant. For example, food packaging has a long list of requirements when it comes to labels, as do pharmaceutical and medical products. One requirement that almost every product must have on the label is a barcode. In this article, we are explaining everything you need to know about barcodes and UPCs on your products.

Why Do Products Need Barcodes And UPCs?

Before you fire up your advanced labelling system and get to work on labelling your products, you need to make sure your barcodes are up to scratch. They might not look attractive on your label, but they are essential for scanning your products. Whether within your own business, or by external vendors, barcodes make it easy to sell your goods in almost any store. These little snippets of information are used for automatic product identification, and while they are not a legal requirement, they are crucial for selling your products in a wide range of markets.

What Information Is On A Barcode And UPC?

When you look at a label, you will see there is both a barcode and a UPC. These are two separate elements, but they work together as a way of identifying a product. UPC stands for Universal Product Code, and it is a 12 digit number found on all products. The barcode depicts the UPC in a way that can be easily scanned by machines. The first six numbers in a UPC are the identification number for the manufacturer, the next five are the item number, and the final number is the check digit.

UPCs must be applied for from the Uniform Code Council before they can be used on your labels. Product manufacturers need to pay a yearly fee in order to be a part of the UPC system. Once registered, your products can be scanned in stores and businesses across the world.

How To Design Labels With Barcodes And UPCs That Work?

Not all barcodes are created equal, and if yours are not up to scratch then it can cause issues with scanning. There are a few rules to follow to make sure your barcodes and UPCs are working properly:

  • The Quiet Zone: Each barcode has a quiet zone, which is the space around the code. It must be free from any images or text to allow for easy scanning. The size of the quite zone should either be 1/8th of an inch, or 10 times the width of the narrowest bar on the code.
  • Black And White: It can be tempting to try and incorporate your barcode into your label design but using colours can cause issues with scanning. Keep your barcodes black on a white background.
  • File Formats: When you send your labels to print, you must supply your barcode in the correct format. Label printing machinery will need your barcode in a PDF or EPS file, or as a spreadsheet of UPC numbers.
  • Label Placement: Your barcodes need to be perfectly placed on your products for them to work properly. Use the right labelling machines to ensure your labels aren’t applied creased or unevenly as it I can prevent scanning.

To discuss your labelling machinery or if you have any questions, speak with our specialists today.