March 2011: Have you heard of the PLU DataBar Initiative?
To increase accuracy and speed at checkout, some retailers have begun to request an addition to PLU labels found on produce. It's called the DataBar, but has also been referred to as item-level GTINs, stacked barcodes, the new PLU label, or RSS Limited Barcode. It's no wonder there's some confusion! Let's clear it up.
The PLU label is the small sticker that carries the 4 or 5 digit Price Lookup Code that is keyed in at the register to identify a product. Some retailers are asking suppliers to ensure they have a barcode on each PLU label that can be automatically scanned at the register in addition to the Price Lookup Code. Here's the good news: If you currently have a UPC code on each item or bag - no worries, you're covered. For those suppliers with labels too small to fit a UPC (such as those found on apples or citrus) the barcode solution you'll need is called a GS1 DataBar Stacked, or simply stacked barcode. It looks like this:
The barcode contains a 14-digit code, which is also called an item-level GTIN. This is NOT the same as the 14-digit GTIN used for PTI compliance on the case.
The difference is: the GTIN on the PLU label should always start with a "0" to identify it as an item code, whereas a GTIN on a case label starts with a number between 1 and 8 identifying it as a case or master case code. Both types of GTIN should contain the brand owner's GS1 Company Prefix. (If you've been using the PMA-assigned '33383' Company Prefix, you are encouraged to purchase your own company prefix, which is a part of the PTI and Databar compliance.)
If you currently use PLU stickers and think you might be a candidate for DataBar, here are 6 things you need to know:
1. Find out if your retail customers are requiring/allowing customer-specific DataBar barcodes. Kroger is, for example.
2. Get your GS1 Company Prefix - if you don't already have one.
3. Assign your case and item-level GTINs. We have a simple, free Excel tool to help you do this - contact us if you'd like it.
4. Next you'll need to synchronize your GTINs with your retailers. The PMA has created an online tool, called Databar Online, which you can use to upload your GTINs. Retailers also log into this database to download their suppliers' GTINs. You can learn about accessing PMA's DataBar online here.
5. Upload your item-level GTINs to the PMA Databar Online database.
6. Work with your label printer to redesign your labels to include the DataBar. (The standard for readability is ISO/IEC 24724:2006). You'll still need to put the PLU Code and Country of Origin on the label. (Yep, it'll be really small!)
Need help with GTINs? Contact us at 650.264.6200.
Important Decisions Have Been Made by the PTI Steering Committee - Here's What They Mean for You
The PTI Steering Committee recently decided on two key issues that affect the way the Initiative will be implemented: commodity/base-level GTINs will not be accepted, and field-packed cases do not need to have date-specific lot numbers. As always, the Traceability Insider will share our opinion on how this affects you.
Commodity GTINs Are Not PTI Compliant
The commodity GTIN consolidates multiple packing configurations for a single commodity (e.g., ACME Farms 8 x 2 lb. bags of Green Grapes, ACME Farms 16 x 1 lb. clams of Green Grapes, etc.) into a single GTIN (ACME Farms Green Grapes). This would simplify the GTIN list management without reducing recall effectiveness (after all, a recall is not determined by a packing configuration - but rather by the lot/date). Those in favor of allowing commodity GTINs reiterated that they enable traceability, the key objective of PTI. The primary argument against was the added complexity for retailers to maintain a parallel system of SKUs for every GTIN, as a commodity GTIN could not be used alone to receive a load. In the end, the nay's prevailed (all retailers voted against it, as did a majority of shippers).
For shippers with a modest number of GTINs (e.g., <100), this is inconsequential. For shippers who line pack and have a very large number of GTINs (e.g., citrus, stone fruit), this means their printing system will have to be able to determine the packing configuration of each case as it passes the label or print head. The HarvestMark team has already deployed this type of system in a packhouse. The configuration determines the drop a case was filled on, looks up the packing configuration for that drop, and prints the appropriate GTIN - at full speed on a line with mixed cases.
You will still have to buy a company prefix - remember that GS1 allows shippers to use packaging level 1 through 8 - so if you have <800 GTINs, you only need a single company prefix for 100 items.
Want to learn more about in-line PTI? Contact us here.
The original PTI best practices stipulated that a lot number must be specific to a particular day. Many field-packing producers argued that this was unnecessarily precise: in a recall, an entire block or ranch would be plowed under - not a single day's harvest. This pragmatic approach prevailed, and now the best practices will allow field-packed lot numbers to span more than one day if the shipper is willing to accept the increased scope of a recall.
The consequence of this decision is that a field-packing shipper can now print labels in advance, and not worry about over-printing. This both potentially eliminates the need to put equipment in the field, and makes managing multiple GTINs easier. The HarvestMark team was an early advocate of this approach, and has deployed these preprinted PTI solutions successfully. Retailers who require visible date coding can still be served with a date label or ink stamp applied to the case. We have solutions that use non-date-specific labels, yet still capture sub-lot-level information, such as date, crew, block, variety, and so on.
Contact us to find out how we can deliver the best PTI solution for your business, without pushing a lot of unnecessary equipment into your fields.