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Grant W. Hunter, vice president of education and solution partners with GS1 US, relates the history and evolution of that organization, which has crafted a set of standards for global commerce in multiple industries.
GS1 previously was two separate efforts sponsored by the Uniform Code Council and European Article Numbering Association. Based in Brussels, GS1 consists of some 108 member organizations working to drive supply-chain efficiencies through the application of standards.
Although the group's highest profile has been in retail and general merchandise, a number of other sectors, including healthcare and food services, are beginning to participate, Hunter says. One recent effort includes a regime for produce traceability, in partnership with the Produce Marketing Association in the U.S. The work will lead to creation of a UPC barcode for product identification on a global scale. Hunter says GS1 is focused on much more than the elements of a standard barcode, devised years ago by the UCC. Today, it embraces such crucial aspects as the location of product and containers in transit, utilizing electronic data interchange (EDI) technology.
In the U.S., the organization has focused on the inclusion of software vendors and other technology partners in barcode standardization. GS1 can connect those entities with its extensive membership, consisting of more than 200,000 companies in the U.S. alone. That particular effort was launched in February 2011 and is open to anyone working with Gen 2 tags and barcodes. It is rapidly picking up traction, Hunter says, adding that participants "realize the value of where it's going."
The need for regulatory compliance provides companies with a "huge motivation" to get involved. Major retailers such as Walmart and Kroger are driving adoption through supplier mandates. Still, says Hunter, there's an issue with the incorrect use by some companies of the barcode numbers. "Our job is to help them to implement standards properly."
GS1 is working with a number of partners, including the World Customs Organization and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, to educate pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors on the new e-pedigree law. The standards can help companies to achieve the level of visibility required by law to track the drug supply chain from end to end.
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