Barcoding: Start here

Barcodes provide a common way of uniquely identifying, accurately capturing and automatically sharing vital information about products, locations and assets.

The benefits

Using barcodes can save you time, reduce errors, cut costs and improve operational efficiency.

Step 1

Determine what you want to use it for?

It is important to know if you are going to use for one of the following categories:

Category Remark
Use the barcode on very small items. You will probably need a GTIN-8 or Databar, contact us to discuss the detail.
Will you weigh an item or cut off a certain length and stick on a barcode (with the pricing included) to be scanned at the point of sale? You would probably need a 28 or 29 Prefix.
Use the barcode on an item of which the characteristics would not change on a regular basis. You would probably use a normal Prefix (a range of GTINs (barcode numbers) that you could allocate to items).
Do you need to identify a logistical unit by way of a Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC)? It will help to know how many SSCCs you allocate. You may not need a prefix with many GTINs.

Step 2

How many barcodes do you need? – Get a prefix

Think about the future use and determine how many you need. We issue ranges of 1,10, 100, 1000 and 100 000. (Step 1 will also give an indication of how many barcodes you may need).
What would help is to think about the following:

  • The different types of products. Each size will have to have a separate barcode.
  • For each type of product the different variants (flavours, colours, etc)– each will have to be uniquely identified.
  • If you allocate a barcode e.g. to your item, you could allocate up to 8x 14 digit barcode. (If you have items that vary from item to item in terms of weight, length, size, etc. then this is no possible).

At this point we should have enough information to advise which prefix you should apply for.

Follow the steps in Get a Barcode for getting your prefix.

We will then issue you with the prefix and give you a spreadsheet with all possible barcodes that you can allocate to items.

Step 3

Attend a barcode training workshop

If you’ve bought a license for a, 100, 1000 or 100 000.number prefix you could attend the mandatory training for no additional cost. If you acquired a single of 10 number prefix you could attend the training at a huge discounted price.

It is very important to attend the training – during training you will work through all the new terms and understand how barcodes work and will also give you many ideas on how to start using the GS1 standards and solutions.

From this step onwards, you could get the details of the steps that follow by downloading the following document: 10 steps to barcode implementation or follow the following link: 10 steps to barcode your product

We could assist you with all the steps. Call us on +27 11 777 3300 or simply send an e-mail to

Our APP service providers specialise in barcode application and printing and could also assist you: More information.

Step 4

Assign numbers to your items

You can use the spreadsheet that we will provide to keep track of which barcode has been assigned to which item.

Please start with the 1st barcode in the range and assign barcodes thereafter in number order! Do not try to group certain barcodes or assign them all over the range – this could only confuse you and could lead to assigning the same barcode to a different item!

Step 5

Select a barcode printing process

Decide what you will barcode and if the barcode will carry static or dynamic information inside it.

If the information is static (always the same), the barcode can be printed using traditional printing presses directly on the package.

Step 6

Select the “primary” scanning environment

By knowing where your barcode will be scanned you can establish the right specifications for its production – the barcode type, size, placement, and quality.

Step 7

Select a barcode symbol

Selecting the right barcode symbol is critical to the success of your barcode implementation plan, but here are some high level tips:

  • If you need to barcode a trade item that will be scanned at the retail point-of-sale (POS), first symbol of choice is the EAN/UPC symbol.
  • If you are printing a barcode with variable information like serial numbers, expiry dates, or measures, then you will use GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, or GS1 2D symbols.
  • If you want to encode a URL into a barcode to make extended packaging information available to the end consumer, then you should use a GS1 2D symbol.
  • If you need to barcode an outer case to be scanned in a logistics environment, and you want to print directly on corrugated carton, ITF-14 may be the choice for you.

Get detailed information about barcode symbols here.

Step 8

Pick a barcode size

The size of the symbol will depend on the barcode symbol specified, where the symbol will be used, and how the symbol will be printed.

The final major consideration for symbol size is the capability of the selected printing process. The minimum size (magnification) and correct Bar Width Reduction (BWR) for a symbol varies by printing process and even from press to press. Printing companies should establish a minimum symbol size (magnification) and BWR to achieve acceptable and repeatable quality results.

Step 9

Format the barcode text

The text beneath a barcode, called Human Readable Interpretation (HRI), is important because if the barcode is damaged or of poor quality to begin with, then the text is used as a back-up.

The human-readable text must be clearly legible and in a size proportional to the symbol size.

HRI should be placed below the barcode and grouped together wherever physically possible while maintaining the HRI legibility and minimum barcode height.

Step 10

Pick a barcode colour

The optimum colour combination for a barcode symbol is black bars with a white background. If you want to use other colours, the following may help you in choosing satisfactory ones:

  • GS1 barcodes require dark colours for bars (e.g., black, dark blue, dark brown, or dark green).
  • The bars should always consist of a single line colour and should never be printed by multiple imaging tools (e.g., plate, screen, cylinder, etc.).
  • GS1 barcodes require light backgrounds for the Quiet Zones (area free of printing around the barcode) and spaces (e.g., white).
  • Given the fact that most barcode scanners use a red light source, you can quickly see why the following colours may be suitable for backgrounds, but should be avoided for bars: red, orange, pink, peach, and light yellows.

Barcode colour examples:

Step 11

Pick the barcode placement

Decide where the barcode symbol will be positioned on the item.
When assigning symbol placement first the packaging process should be considered. You should consult the packaging engineer to make sure the symbol will not be obscured or damaged (e.g., over a carton edge, beneath a carton fold, beneath a package flap, or covered by another packaging layer). Make sure that the symbol is also not bent to such an extent that it will not scan.

After determining the proper placement, the printing company should be consulted. This is because many printing processes require barcodes to be printed in a specific orientation to the feed direction of the web or sheet.

Our APP service providers specialise in barcode application and printing and could also assist you: More information.

Step 12

Build a barcode quality plan

Make sure that your barcode will scan! This is important as you may be penalised if you deliver your item to a retailer and it does not scan. If you don’t deliver to a retailer you may find customers not opting to wait for someone at the till to type in the barcode number.

The barcode print quality should adhere to ISO/IEC 15416 plus other requirements from GS1.

Therefore please make use of our GS1 barcode verification service – more information.

You could also make use of the services of our APP service providers that specialise in barcode application and printing: More information.