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Brian Wagner

Death of the UPC? The Pros, Cons and Considerations of the GS1 2D Barcode Initiative

Feb 20, 2024

Contributed by Apis Wise


The advent of technology has revolutionized the way businesses operate, and one such innovation in the realm of supply chain and inventory management is the GS1 2D barcode initiative. GS1, a global standards organization, introduced the 2D barcode as an advanced solution to enhance data storage and retrieval capabilities. As businesses grapple with the decision to adopt this initiative, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons. GS1 DataMatrix, GS1 QR Code and GS1 DotCode are two-dimensional (2D) matrix symbology symbols that can carry all GS1 keys and attributes. It can be applied to hold trade item information such as the item expiry date, serial number or batch/lot number.


Increased Data Capacity

The GS1 2D barcode offers significantly higher data capacity than its predecessor, the 1D barcode. This enables businesses to encode more information, including product details, expiration dates, batch numbers, and complex data structures.

Enhanced Traceability

With the ability to store more information, the GS1 2D barcode facilitates improved traceability throughout the supply chain. This is particularly beneficial in industries like pharmaceuticals and food, where tracking the origin and journey of products is crucial for compliance and safety.

Global Standardization

GS1 standards are recognized and used globally, ensuring uniformity and compatibility across different regions and industries. This standardization promotes interoperability and simplifies collaboration between trading partners, streamlining the supply chain.

Error Reduction

The 2D barcode technology has built-in error detection and correction capabilities, reducing the risk of scanning errors. This results in increased accuracy in data capture, minimizing the chances of logistical errors and improving overall operational efficiency.


As technology advances, the GS1 2D barcode initiative positions businesses for the future. The increased data capacity and adaptability of 2D barcodes make them well-suited for evolving business needs and emerging technologies.


Implementation Costs

Adopting the GS1 2D barcode system requires an initial investment in technology, including updated scanning equipment and software. Small and medium-sized businesses may find this cost prohibitive, potentially limiting widespread adoption.

Training and Transition

Shifting from the traditional 1D barcodes to 2D barcodes may necessitate employee training and a temporary slowdown in operations during the transition. Resistance to change and the learning curve associated with the new technology can impact productivity.

Compatibility Issues

While GS1 standards promote global interoperability, businesses may encounter compatibility issues with existing systems during the transition. Integration challenges can arise, especially for companies with legacy infrastructure that may require significant updates.

Limited Consumer Familiarity

Unlike the ubiquitous 1D barcodes, 2D barcodes are not as familiar to consumers. This lack of recognition may hinder consumer engagement with product information and promotional content embedded in the barcodes, limiting the perceived value of the technology.

Getting Started

Companies might view barcoding initiatives as a forced requirement rather than an opportunity to improve their business and processes.

As you begin to consider adding 2D or QR barcodes to your products, start with how the data might be used and how you may use existing data to avoid manual errors.

  • How might this data enhance customer and consumer satisfaction and trust in your product and business?
  • How might you use this data for better processes, KPIs and metrics in your business during the manufacturing, processing, and packaging processes, such as packaging KPIs and OEE?
  • How might the barcodes and data improve inventory, picking and shipping accuracy?
  • Selecting which printing technology you will use (inkjet, laser, other) relies heavily on your packaging and the print environment. Printing a readable code using an inkjet coder on variable surface packaging or packaging with minimal contrast can be challenging.
  • Can you use your existing coders, or will you need new ones?
  • In-line print quality verification is highly recommended and may be used with OCR to verify other data, such as date and lot codes. Print quality, packaging contrasts, product handling, and lighting also impact this.
  • Scanning to control the line and collect valuable data, such as downtime and counts, might add to your ROI and cost justification.
  • Most importantly, include all the stakeholders who may be impacted by adding the technology and how they might benefit from the opportunities. We also recommend including a key lead or manager who works in the print areas for their input before you invest in technology that the users might not adopt.


The GS1 2D barcode initiative presents a promising leap forward in the world of supply chain and inventory management. While the benefits of increased data capacity, enhanced traceability, and global standardization are evident, businesses must carefully weigh these advantages against the challenges of implementation costs, training requirements, and potential compatibility issues. The decision to embrace the GS1 2D barcode initiative should be informed by a thorough understanding of its advantages and limitations, ensuring a seamless integration that aligns with the specific needs and capabilities of the organization.

Using a trusted partner and consultants with knowledge of these solutions will greatly benefit your discovery process. These experts often have previous experience with systems that incorporate different software and data systems, printing and scanning technology, controls logic, and the impact all of this may have on your people and processes.

Contact us to learn more about how PTIS can help your company can create value through packaging.