The sound of a beep at the checkout counter. The GS1 barcode launched a digital revolution that forever changed the way the world does business. With a simple scan a product could be identified and connected to a computerised system.
Companies of all sizes need barcode numbers to correctly identify and sell their products in stores or online. The power of the data captured through the barcode is helping to solve large and complex industry challenges.
Consumers, patients, business partners and regulators are demanding more and better product data than ever before — but complex and costly data exchange processes are producing a surge in low-quality data.
GS1 empowers businesses to create a digital version of a product that is as good as the physical one. Ultimately in using it, consumers and patients will benefit from increased product transparency and the seamless experiences that this brings.
We at Allium have recently been working on several Pimics projects involving standardized product data imports and exports using the GS1 format. We recognize that GS1 standardizations are increasingly being adopted across industries at a global level, and that is why we include here some generic GS1 information and we then focus on its product classification standard which is the GPC, as classifications are at the core of the master data managed by any Product Information Management system.
GS1 standards are the most widely used system of standards in the world. They create a common foundation for business by uniquely identifying, accurately capturing and automatically sharing vital information about products, locations, assets and more. Businesses can also combine different GS1 standards to streamline business processes such as product information retrieval or traceability.
GS1 adoption in global marketplaces
For the more than 25 marketplaces around the world that are already using GS1 standards and services like GS1 GTINs and "Verified by GS1", the benefits are clear: single product pages, increased traffic, faster listing process, a better way to detect counterfeits, simplified regulatory compliance and, most importantly, customer trust.
That’s because access to trusted product identification and product information allows marketplaces to perform a wide range of tasks, which in turn enables them to build better product catalogues and provide a better and safer consumer experience.
Testimony to the growing interest and support GS1 receives from marketplaces all over the world, is the inclusion of representatives from Alibaba, Amazon, bol.com, eBay, Google, Metro Markets, JD.com and Mercado Libre, in the GS1 Marketplace Advisory Team.
Global Product Classification (GPC)
In the following paragraphs we are going to provide practical information about one of the GS1 standards which provides universal classification for products and is called Global Product Classification (GPC).
GPC classifies products by grouping them into categories based on their essential properties as well as their relationships to other products. GPC offers a universal set of standards for everything from a car to a litre of milk, and for everything from camping equipment to footwear, home and appliances to toys.
As knowledge about products and their categorization is continually evolving, the GPC standard is continually updated. Upon completion of a GPC publication (twice per year) the GPC Service Provider (SP) sends the GDSN (Global Data Synchronisation Network) two files:
- XML Schema: A complete snapshot of all active nodes in all published standards in the GPC Schema at the point of publication. The purpose of this document is to provide a complete and correct view of what is contained in the GPC Schema at the point of publication.
- XML Delta: An XML document that contains all of the changes between the current and previous publications. The purpose of this document is to enable automatic changes/updates to GPC data contained in the GDSN.
GDSN will integrate/process the XML Delta document.
Here you can browse the latest GPC version.
How Global Product Classification (GPC) works
The GS1 Global Product Classification (GPC) standard helps global trading partners to group products in the same way, everywhere in the world. The resulting common business language is clear and instantly understandable.
This works wonders in conjunction with a PIM system, which can automatically import GPC-enabled product data from suppliers that comply with this standard, thus giving standard structure to the taxonomy of the products involved.
The GPC Schema is the whole of the GPC classification system, Segment, Family Class, Brick and Attribute, used by both sides of trading partner relationship a common language for grouping products.
The building block of GPC is a product code known as a brick. There are bricks for everything from a car to a bottle of milk. The highest level of the classification is a segment, which is defined as a particularindustry. For example, a bottle of milk belongs to the food, beverages and tobacco segment.
What are the GPC Generic Business Rules?
- Application of clear and consistent structuring.
- Use of non-culturally biased terms and spellings.
- Application of a standardised naming convention.
- Ensuring that each segment, family, class and brick has the necessary coverage and scope, with the ability to add appropriate new values as identified.
- Avoid ambiguity through clear and concise definitions.
- Provide a generic and standardised schema by ensuring that all products are uniquely placed.
- A brick must, as far as is practical, contain products that can be characterised by the same set of attribute types relevant to the product. These attributes must meet the GPC attribute rules, and be part of the global standards. Where it is deemed not practical, the split of the product sets will be determined by industry input in accordance to GPC rules.
- Products that are grouped and sold together (excluding kits) will be classified as variety packs. This applies to the class, family & segment level of the hierarchy. Variety Packs should only be created where necessary.
- The schema will allow for the creation of a class-specific brick to capture product that cannot be immediately placed into an existing brick or products that the industry determines should not be broken out. These bricks are called ‘Others’.
- Grouping products based on what they physically are and not on their intended use.
What are the GPC Attribute Principles?
This article contains excerpts taken from the official GS1 website.
- Globally applicable, hence not biased towards a region, culture or country
- Relevant, recognised and understandable to users and industry (What benefit is it providing?)
- Unique (intention, format, technicalities), objective and mutually exclusive – Includes both attributes and their values
- Non-legislation specific. It is a piece of information required globally, but will be governed / legislated for locally (i.e., If Organic, Food Quality/Food Assurance Claims etc.)
- High-level attribute - Would a user require or expect to search, subscribe or publish information through this view? The best method for collection is not necessarily how the User would publish (i.e., the ideal method of collection may require more granularity)
- Single, comprehensive, and mutually exclusive code list
- No ambiguity in any terms/words used
- All GPC Attributes will be described to show what information they are seeking to identify. No Brick Variant will be used.