What's a GS1-128 barcode, and how is it structured?

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GS1-128 is an application standard barcode that encodes data and provides a method of defining the meaning of the data. GS1-128 barcodes use Application Identifiers (AI) to provide information about the structure and meaning of the encoded data.

GS1-128 barcodes are important for many different types of businesses. Using barcode software, like Barcode Producer, can make the process of creating functioning barcodes easier for you.

Download Barcode Producer today to start designing perfect barcodes for your business. 

What Is a GS1-128 Barcode?

GS1-128 barcodes are mainly used by retailers throughout the shipping process. They can store a lot of information, which allows businesses to track and identify products as they move through the supply chain. They’re commonly used on individual labels, pallet shipments, and cartons.

A GS1-128 barcode can contain information to provide traceability, and they make inventory management easier while providing more efficient handling when transporting.

GS1 barcodes usually contain more information than a standard EAN/UPC code. For example, GS1-128 barcodes can include SSCC, GTIN, GSRN, GIAI, expiration dates, and batch numbers.

What Is an Application Identifier?

Application Identifiers are commonly used in industry-specific barcode symbologies. Manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and carriers in a variety of industries use GS1-128 barcodes to mark pallets with transport and pallet labels. GS1-128 barcode’s global standards make them useful for supply chain management and operation worldwide.

An application identifier is a 2 to 4-character prefix that is used to identify the meaning and the format of data. AI’s can provide identification, traceability data, dates, quantity, measurements, locations, bank account data, and many other types of information. Here is a list of all of GS1’s Application Identifiers and what they mean.

GS1-128 Structure

The GS1-128 barcode itself was developed to provide a global standard for exchanging data between companies.

The GS1-128 barcode is made of these components:

  1. Code 128 start character (START-A, START-B or START-C)
  2. Code 128 FNC1 character (FNC1 is a flagging character)
  3. Application Identifier (AI)
  4. Encoded Data
  5. Symbol Check digit
  6. Stop Character.

See the below graphic from the GS1 website:

GS1-128 Barcode Shipping Label

While GS1-128 Barcodes can be used for a variety of purposes, , they’re mainly used in global trade for shipping goods. GS1-128 shipping labels make it easier to match shipments with the data being exchanged via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

GS1-128 shipping labels are broken down into pre-defined zones, so it’s easier to understand what the information means. Each zone in a GS1-128 shipping label usually contains either text or barcode information. However, zones can be merged or left empty. Here’s a graphic illustrating the zones of a GS1-128 shipping label:

To be compliant with the GS1 General Specifications, all the barcodes on the label should be GS1-128. 

Application Identifiers are used within the barcodes themselves to specify the data format and purpose for each zone on the Shipping Label. Most GS1-128 shipping labels include zones for  Purchase Order Number, Ship To Location, Item Information, and more.

With a GS1-128 barcode, you have a lot of flexibility with where and how you can store information. The bottom zone, Zone I, is frequently used to host the SSCC-18. SSCC-18s represent serial shipping container codes through a supplier-assigned license plate. These are normally connected to an EDI document referencing all the carton contents. In addition to using the SSCC-18 barcode, many retailers use a Destination barcode in Zone G, but you can put them wherever works best for you.

Since data being received and transmitted by EDI are essential components of a GS1-128 Shipping Label, a company’s EDI solution will determine which GS1-128 Solution is needed.

How to Create a GS1-128 Barcode

For example, here’s how you might create a GS1-128 barcode for a  shipment of Belgian pralines:

  • In Barcode Producer, select GS1-128 from the list of symbologies.
  • From the Create window, click  New to enter your first Application Identifer.
  • Let’s start with “00”, which is the AI for Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC-18) Type 00 into the Application Identifier field. 
  • Enter the value in Data Field. Click OK.
  • Next, let’s add the expiration date. Click  New, then enter “17” into the Application Identifier field. 
  • Enter the 6-digit YYMMDD expiration date into the Data Field and click OK.
  • Lastly, let’s specify the weight of the product. Click New, and enter the AI for net product weight, “310y”. 
  • Enter the weight of the product in Data Field in kilograms and click OK.

The below GS1-128 barcode is for a case of Belgian pralines, which are set to expire on January 1st, 2024, and weigh 1kg. 

With Barcode Producer, you  can create perfect GS1-128 barcodes quickly and easily. 

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