GS1 US publishes Test Kit to help retailers transition barcodes

The Barcode Capabilities Test Kit aims to help retailers evaluate their readiness to transition to data-rich 2D barcodes on product packaging, including private label items.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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GS1 US, a nonprofit information standards organization, has published a Barcode Capabilities Test Kit to help retailers evaluate their readiness to transition from linear Universal Product Codes (UPC) to data-rich 2D barcodes on product packaging by 2027.

The Test Kit from the New Jersey-based group assesses a retailer's capability to scan and process 2D Barcodes at point-of-sale (POS), including on private label items, and support stocking and receiving functions in warehouses and distribution centers as items move through the supply chain. The phased migration plan for implementing 2D barcodes, dubbed "Sunrise 2027 – A New Dimension in Barcodes," aims to guide brands through labeling transition considerations while further ensuring 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," said Carrie Wilke, senior vice president of standards and technology at GS1 US. "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 multi-step process, GS1 US will be collaborating with industry to align on capabilities for success."

GS1 US recently conducted a Test Kit pilot with three national retailers and their solution providers to assess readiness, showing that POS systems must be transformed to process 2D barcodes, interpret new data and maintain efficient checkout. While retailers in the test group had image scanners installed, testing revealed numerous readiness challenges in successfully scanning, processing and storing data. GS1 US said that this indicates that hardware and software infrastructure across all POS formats needs to 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."

GS1 US, in collaboration with standards development organization Object Management Group (OMG), will feature Sunrise 2027 resources at NRF 2022: Retail's Big Show, Jan. 16-18, 2022, at booth 4749. More information on the program can be found here.