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What is a UPC code?

Modern warehousing is the result of an intricate dance between suppliers and distributors.

Almost like magic, both groups manage to keep near-perfect track of their part, be it providing new inventory as it runs low or plucking individual pieces from a sea of products. A lot of the success of this tango is due to the use of Universal Product Codes (UPCs). In fact, warehousing and distribution centers would be very different places without these nifty little codes.

How Do UPCs Help Product Fulfillment?

Everybody knows where to find the UPC on their favorite products, often because they’ve had to clip them for rebates or warranties. Fewer people realize that those little codes are like the Social Security Numbers of merchandise. Applied at manufacturing, the UPC tracks products throughout their lifecycle.

UPCs make it possible to house hundreds of thousands of products in a single warehouse environment. In many warehouses, products are divided into bins for distribution, each tagged with the UPC of the item inside. When the worker or inventory robot responsible for selecting merchandise for orders needs to locate an item, they need only choose it in the warehousing software to pinpoint its location.

Once at the correct bin, the UPC can be used to check items into and out of inventory, reducing loss and increasing inventory accuracy. It’s also a helpful check to ensure that the correct item has been selected, since the UPC will be visible on the product packaging.

Warehousing Without UPCs

A warehouse without unique tracking codes like UPCs would be a chaotic place. You’d have to be very careful about labeling products, especially if you sold a lot of things that looked very similar, like pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals. Even then, errors would be commonplace and you’d spend even more money trying to deal with returns. In short, without UPCs, warehousing is a costly and frustrating business.

UPCs and portable barcode scanners make modern warehousing and distribution inexpensive and allow companies to expand their product offerings exponentially. Without having to rely on visual inspections and struggle with similar-sounding names, you can be confident that your products only go where they’re wanted.

Without the ivories and ebonies of the UPC, it would be impossible to maintain a significant amount of inventory at any given location or feel confident our online orders will always arrive perfectly picked. They’ve revolutionized business since the first UPC was scanned in 1974. From the factory to the warehouse and beyond, they give us a simple way to track an enormous array of products.

 

April 28, 2015
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