Explain Number Systems
The U.P.C. System Numbers
In September of 1969, members of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) met with members of the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) to discuss an “inter-industry product code”. After several months an inter-industry committee was put together and aptly named the “Ad Hoc Committee”. On March 31, 1971 the Ad Hoc Committee on the subject, Uniform Grocery Product Identification Code (UGPIC), made a number of basic decisions including its decision that the code would be an all numeric ten digit universal product code. They also created the “Symbol Selection Subcommittee”.
Requests for proposals for a code and symbol were distributed with a goal to make a selection within two years. Late in 1972 the Ad Hoc Committee and the Symbol Selection Subcommittee came to the conclusion that at least five “system numbers” or classes would be required in addition to the ten digit number. This actually fit nicely into George Laurer’s creation because he understood a check digit would be required and a system number digit providing 10 classes allowed him to make two symmetrical half symbols. This was the birth of the system numbers.
System Number assignments at the time the
U.P.C. code and Symbol was announced April 7, 1973
|System Number 0||Regular U.P.C. Codes (Groceries)|
|System Number 2||Random weight items, such as meat and
produce marked at store level.
|System Number 3||National Drug Code (NDC) and National Health Items (HRI)|
|System Number 4||Reserved for expansion of NDC and/or HRI in
a special 11 digit form
|System Number 5||Reserved for use on coupons|
|SN's 1, 6,7,8, & 9||The remaining 5 system numbers were reserved
for unidentified uses
System numbers have evolved over the years as the use of the U.P.C. expanded into the all the major markets. When it became apparent that System Number 4 would not be needed by NDC or HRI, the Uniform Code Council (UCC) was persuaded to allow the use of that system by the retail industry. UCC allowed System Number 4 to be used by the retail industry in the same manner as the grocers used System Number 2. That use in now waning and System Number 4 is being held in GS1's (new name of UCC) number bank for future use . System Number 1, and 6 through 9 are being assigned as needed.
In the middle of 1976 the European code and symbol, the EAN was announced. The ingenious design by the inventor of the original U.P.C. made the EAN look like the U.P.C. and indeed, the U.P.C. would fit within the EAN-13 as a subset. This design actually expanded the UPC/EAN to a 13 digit symbol. The US was assigned the “Country Flag” “0” and numbering systems 0 through 9. The county flags 1 through 9 and their system numbers were used to identify up to 99 code issuing countries. Because the U.P.C. had been underway for three years, the country flag 0 was not printed in human readable form on Version A symbols. It was simply implied.
The evolution of the U.P.C. has caused the use of the terms “country flag” and System Number to fall into disuse. Usually one refers to the “prefix” which incorporates the country flag, the system number, and all numbers assigned to the purchaser of the prefix. It should be pointed out that the country designations have been expanded to include the first three digits of the prefix, allowing for almost 1000 countries to be desiginated.