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What’s the difference between UPC and EAN

Prior to you looking to buy a barcode, there’s this tutorial written to assist you with understanding the difference between UPC Barcodes and EAN Barcodes. The following are both the EAN barcode numbers and a UPC Barcode number. The EAN consists of 13 digit numbers and the UPC consists of 12 digit numbers.

GS1, which is an organisation that was established in order to supply all new barcodes. They have created confusion between UPC (Universal Product Codes) and EAN (European Article Numbers also called International Article Numbers). UPC-A barcodes was the initial format for product barcodes. With demand growing in Europe, Asia and Australia, country codes were then added. The US and Canada country code consists of zero which isn’t printed under the barcode image nor is it placed in US and Canadian Inventory databases.

We still believe that if you are currently doing business in the United States and Canada exclusively. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using UPC or EAN barcodes. As the majority of the world is now using EAN barcodes.

The history of EAN vs UPC confusion

When UPC for the grocers was first birthed in the US, only 12 digits were actually needed which includes the check character. A symbol was designed where the left half of the symbol consisted of “odd” parity numbers. The right side consisted of “even” numbers. Each printed barcode number has two bars and two spaces which makes up 7 modules. Odd parity means the printed representative of the numeric barcode digit has an odd barcode number of dark modules. Even parity printed barcode digits have an even number of dark modules.

The UCC has chosen to call the UPC barcode a 10 character symbol which they printed to 11 characters in human-readable form. The 10 characters that identify the manufacturer and item were then printed below the black and white bars. The database number was printed halfway up the left hand side. Furthermore, only 10 digits of the number in their files were chosen to carry over. The reason behind this decision was both political and practical.

Before the concept of symbol marking was even thought of, a popular consulting firm had been taken on by the UCC to calculate the number of digits. This was needed to attain the goals of the grocery industry. Many factors were considered, never the least of which was the amount of power computers could use. A 10 digit long number was recommended. It was a difficult sell to convince the large number groups who were all involved that they’d have to change. It didn’t matter what database system they were currently using to the newly conceptualised 10 digit number.

Brand New UPC and EAN Barcodes

Instead of admitting that the hired consulting firm was incorrect and to make sure not to open the number of digit arguments up again. The final decision was to remain the same way that the UPC barcode number was a 10 digit symbol and number. An additional factor that was considered was that it was more time consuming to enter the EAN barcode number. The UPC barcode number was more easy for humans to read when the symbol did not scan. They adopted the illusion by insisting that the check number be stripped at the scanner. The SN (system number) was essential for in-store responsibilities. But it wasn’t required in files transferred between different systems. The illusion was forced again by not printing the SN in accordance with the 10 product barcode digits. Not printing the check number at all.

Once the UPC barcode number had been in use for a number of years, Europe eventually recognized the usefulness of the UPC barcode number. But thought a 13th digit was required to separate the different countries. We included the extra number by including the left side of the barcode with 3 characters of even numbers and 3 characters of odd numbers and then setting them in various patterns. Every pattern represents a different country code. The barcode scanner recognizes a series of numbers as the right side of a barcode number if the numbers of the characters are all even. It knows the left side of it is composed of all even OR if three characters are even numbers and three characters are odd numbers. 

You should now know what’s the difference between UPC and EAN. If you are still unsure you can contact  us.

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