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GS1 celebrates 50 years of digitalisation in commerce

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On March 31, 1971, leaders from the biggest names in commerce came together and transformed the global economy forever by developing the Global Trade Item Number (known as the GTIN). This numerical code uniquely identifies every single product and is the core of the barcode, the most important supply chain standard in history. Today, the barcode is scanned over six billion times every day and remains one of the most trusted symbols in the world.

The 1971 historic meeting took place in New York City and included leaders from the biggest names in groceries, retail and consumer goods at the time, including Heinz, General Mills, Kroger and Bristol Meyer. The executives agreed to create a system to uniquely identify every single product, calling it the Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN. With great foresight, they believed that the GTIN could have a positive impact even beyond the grocery store from warehouses to boardrooms and would boost speed and efficiency of transactions and processes that could transform everything from supply chains to consumer experiences. And they agreed at the meeting to continue to innovate together to create a system that would benefit businesses and consumers alike. Decades later, the BBC named the resulting outcome one of ‘The 50 things that made the world economy’.

“This is one of the great, untold stories in the history of the modern economy. Half a century ago, fierce competitors came together, put aside their differences and remade global commerce for the better with the development of the GTIN, which in turn led directly to the creation of the barcode. As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, we call on businesses to collaborate once again to meet the needs of the 21st century economy by rapidly deploying and implementing new technologies, including data rich, next generation barcodes,” said Kathy Wengel, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer, Johnson & Johnson and Chair, GS1 Management Board.

Mr. S. Swaminathan, CEO, GS1 India said, “The 50th anniversary of the GTIN is a historic milestone in the journey of GS1. We have a long history with the retail industry and the ubiquitous beep of the scanning of a barcode at retail store checkouts is synonymous with the same. With the focus of the Indian Government to drive the economy on the path to achieve US$ 5 trillion and empowering SME manufacturers under the Atmanirbhar Bharat program, we believe GS1 has a major role to play in the evolving ecosystem. Today GTINs have become a key enabler for manufacturers to list their products in Retail and online marketplaces.”


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