On the 26th of June 1974, a significant milestone was achieved in the realm of retail history when the first linear barcode was scanned. This innovation originally aimed to assist supermarkets in swiftly looking up prices at the point of sale (POS). Over time, it has evolved into the globally recognized standard for commerce, with its global specifications overseen by the international standards organization GS1.

Even today, linear barcodes are scanned over 6 billion times daily. However, as the demand for more detailed product information on packaging continues to rise, an increasing number of brands are embracing 2D barcode formats to meet broader business objectives.

GS1 is now gearing up for a transition away from 1D barcodes to introduce a new 2D barcode format known as the QR Code Powered by GS1. During the GS1 Global Forum in Brussels in February 2023, the standards organization announced an official sunrise period for 2D codes, set to commence in 2027.

What is the QR Code Powered by GS1?

By extracting the data from retail barcodes and putting it at the end of a URL, QR Code powered by Gs1 is a straightforward, standards-based framework that enables information encoded in QR codes to be added to the internet. QR Code Powered by GS1 QR codes contain identifiers that can be used to access various product details, like the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is a number encoded in a linear barcode and used to identify a product at the checkout.

Domino x GS1 Digital Link EN3

Why is GS1 transitioning barcodes to the QR Code Powered by GS1?

In recent years, many brands have been responding to the growing demand for more data by incorporating secondary barcodes into their product packaging. A single package may now feature a QR code for consumer-facing applications, alongside several other data carriers intended for use in point of sale (POS) systems, internal stock control, or supply chain operations management.

Although consumers have become more proficient at using 2D codes, the presence of multiple 2D codes on product packaging can still be confusing. It can also lead to scanning issues at POS systems and occupy valuable space in the packaging design.

GS1 has initiated a formal process to facilitate the industry’s transition to a single, data-rich 2D code. This unified code allows various devices, including warehouse machinery, POS scanners, specialized apps, and smart fridges, to access information about a product.

A single QR Code Powered by GS1 can provide different information depending on the scanning device and opens up opportunities to enhance supply chain visibility, ensure product safety, and provide a wealth of information to consumers, both at home and in-store.

Through the introduction and official launch of the QR Code Powered by GS1, the organization is adapting the GS1 system to function in this data-focused era. The QR Code Powered by GS1 standard was developed in collaboration with some of the world’s largest retailers, manufacturers, and transport and logistics companies. It modernizes the barcode in a way that is accessible to everyone, fostering better connectivity and information sharing, thereby enhancing transparency, product authenticity, traceability, and enabling consumer engagement.

Much like when linear barcodes were first introduced in the 1970s, few could have foreseen their eventual significance. We are now on a similar journey with 2D codes and the QR Code Powered by GS1, and Domino is actively supporting this transition. As a world-leading provider of coding and marking solutions, with expertise in helping brands meet regulatory serialisation requirements through 2D codes and longstanding partnerships with key industry associations, including GS1, Domino is well-positioned to assist manufacturers in preparing for this new dimension in barcodes.

How much of a change will it be for manufacturing to move from 1D to 2D barcodes?

While the QR Code by GS1 standard offers a vision and roadmap for a future where a single, data-rich 2D code replaces the 1D linear barcode, manufacturers must address certain challenges when transitioning to the QR Code Powered by GS1.

First and foremost, manufacturers need to decide what information should be included in the code, whether it will comprise dynamic, batch, or item-related data, or more comprehensive product-focused details. Depending on their specific applications, brands may need to gather and consolidate data from ERP systems and production lines to integrate into the 2D Code.

The choice of solutions for printing the QR codes is another important consideration, encompassing technology for product handling, printing, and code inspection. Just like any product code, a QR Code Powered by GS1-enabled barcode can only be effective if it is correctly printed and can be accurately scanned.

Dynamic data within a 2D code, such as batch-related information (including batch numbers, ingredient variations, nutrition, and allergen information), product expiry dates, and unique product IDs, necessitates in-line, on-product coding instead of pre-coded labels.

Coding products in real-time on production lines presents its own set of challenges. In such cases, simply attaching a coder to an existing production line may not be the optimal solution, as production machinery is often not designed with coding in mind. Therefore, careful product handling or the presentation of the product to the coder becomes a critical factor in achieving high-quality codes. Manufacturers who choose to code products in-line without effective product handling may experience production line variations that can adversely impact the quality of the final code.

At a minimum, poor-quality 2D codes resulting from inadequate product handling can lead to a high number of rejections, rework, and defective stock. Such subpar codes can also affect lines requiring the aggregation of serialized products. The consequences can be even more severe if an unreadable 2D code leaves the factory unnoticed, potentially resulting in financial penalties, fines, loss of business, product recalls, and legal implications for the brands.

Codico is committed to assisting brands and manufacturers in preparing for the era of dynamic 2D codes. Domino has developed a range of globally compliant solutions tailored to handle the rapid processing of serialized data and the high-quality, fast-paced printing of 2D codes. They also offer verification systems and solutions to ensure code accuracy and facilitate data sharing.

What is the time frame for the implementation of QR Code Powered by GS1?

While the QR Code Powered by GS1 standard offers a vision and roadmap for a future where a single, data-rich 2D code replaces the 1D linear barcode, manufacturers face specific challenges when transitioning to the QR Code Powered by GS1.

First and foremost, manufacturers must determine what information to include in the code, whether it will consist of dynamic, batch, or item-related data, or more comprehensive product-specific details. Depending on their specific applications, brands may need to gather and consolidate data from ERP systems and production lines for integration into the 2D Code.

The choice of solutions for printing the QR codes is another significant consideration, encompassing technology for product handling, printing, and code inspection. As with any product code, a QR Code Powered by GS1-enabled barcode can only be effective if it is correctly printed and can be accurately scanned.

Dynamic data within a 2D code, such as batch-related information (including batch numbers, ingredient variations, nutrition, and allergen information), product expiry dates, and unique product IDs, requires in-line, on-product coding instead of pre-coded labels.

Coding products in real-time on production lines presents its own unique challenges. In such cases, simply attaching a coder to an existing production line may not be the optimal solution, as production machinery is often not designed with coding in mind. Therefore, careful product handling or the presentation of the product to the coder becomes a critical factor in achieving high-quality codes. Manufacturers who opt for in-line coding without effective product handling may encounter production line variations that can negatively impact the quality of the final code.

At a minimum, poor-quality 2D codes resulting from inadequate product handling can result in a high number of rejections, rework, and defective stock. Such subpar codes can also impact lines that require the aggregation of serialized products. The consequences can be even more severe if an unreadable 2D code leaves the factory unnoticed, potentially leading to financial penalties, fines, loss of business, product recalls, and legal implications for the brands.

Codico is dedicated to assisting brands and manufacturers in preparing for the era of dynamic 2D codes. Domino has developed a range of globally compliant solutions tailored to handle the rapid processing of serialized data and the high-quality, fast-paced printing of 2D codes. They also offer verification systems and solutions to ensure code accuracy and facilitate data sharing.

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