January 16, 2008

Understanding GS1, GS1 US and IDEA’s Role in Standards Creation and Implementation: Part One


GS1, formerly known as EAN, is the leading global organization dedicated to the design and implementation of standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors. The organization’s goal is to simplify global commerce by connecting the flow of information with the flow of goods.

GS1’s main activity is the development of the GS1 System, formerly know as the EAN.UCC System, which is a series of standards designed to improve supply chain management. This system is the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world.

A management board composed of key leaders and drivers from multi-nationals, retailers, manufacturers and GS1 Member Organizations governs GS1. As a result, the GS1 management board has a global, multi-sectorial make-up. GS1 represents its interests at meetings with official bodies (i.e. United Nations, NATO, and the European Commission), international associations, and other institutions. EPCglobal, leader of the industry initiatives for Electronic Product Code™ Standards, and Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) are GS1 initiatives that have separate management boards.

GS1 System

The GS1 System enables companies of any size, industry, or geography to communicate in The Global Language of Business™ in over 140 countries worldwide. Collectively, over one million member companies around the world utilize these business tools to drive costs out of the supply chain and improve business productivity and efficiency.



The GS1 System is composed of four key areas:


  • BarCodes: Numbering and bar coding
    • Global data and application standards for bar codes that use the globally recognized GS1 Identification Keys to automatically identify things such as trade items, locations, logistic units, and assets.
  • eCom – EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)
    • Global standards for electronic business messaging that allow rapid, efficient and accurate automatic electronic transmission of agreed business data between trading partners.
  • Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) – data synchronization
    • The Global Data Synchronization Network™ (GDSN™) is an automated, standards-based, global environment that enables secure and continuous data synchronization, allowing all partners to have consistent item data in their systems at the same time. Global Product Classification (GPC) is a key component of GDSN, enabling effective category management.
  • EPCglobal – RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
    • A new global standards system that combines RFID technology, existing communications network infrastructure and the Electronic Product Code (a number for uniquely identifying an item) to enable immediate and automatic identification and tracking of an item through the whole supply chain globally, resulting in improved efficiency and visibility of the supply chain.

GS1 Member Organizations

The standard development and management of the GS1 System is facilitated by GS1’s Member Organizations (MOs). MOs are usually national associations, which provide tools and support that enable their own member companies to manage their supply chains and trade processes far more efficiently. Specifically, the main responsibilities of MOs are:


  • The allocation of unique numbers, which is the basis for the complete range of standards
  • Providing training and support on numbering, bar coding, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), data synchronization and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • Supplying information on the standards and the continuing evolution of the GS1 System


The Member Organizations for the United States and Canada are GS1 US (www.gs1us.org), formerly UCC, and GS1 Canada (www.gs1ca.org). Companies wishing to use the GS1 System apply for membership to a Member Organization. Companies in countries where there is no MO obtain their membership directly from the GS1 Head Office.


GS1 US, formerly the Uniform Code Council (UCC), functions as a primary resource for the development of worldwide standards for identification codes, data carriers, and electronic commerce. More than 250,000 member companies doing business in 25 major industries use open, global standards to optimize their supply chain and business processes.

For more than three decades, GS1 US has championed business standards, new technologies, and global cooperation in order to bring the world’s supply chains together. The mission of GS1 US remains focused on leading the establishment and implementation of global standards to drive improvement of the supply and demand chains. GS1 US connects companies in the global supply chain with standards-based solutions that are open, consensus-based, and universally endorsed.

As a member organization of GS1, GS1 US is part of a fully integrated global organization representing over a million companies doing business across 145 countries using the GS1 system.

IDEA’s Role in Standards Creation and Implementation


As a member of GS1 US, IDEA is the official standards-creating body for the electrical industry, serving as such throughout the eCommerce revolution and solving challenges along the way. Our passion and dedication for data standardization are well respected and we are partnered with GS1 US in developing United Nations Standard Products and Services Codes (UNSPSC) for a new era of global eCommerce.

Many of the standards we’ve created address eCommerce, EDI, XML, and product identification challenges that are common to most industries. As a result, the standards-based infrastructure upon which our products and services are built helps deliver the same time- and money-saving benefits to countless industries that rely on clean data and efficient practices to drive costs out of the supply network.

Stay tuned for Part Two which will address IDEA’s unique role within the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).


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