Barcode Interpretation

pencil and barcode image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

A barcode, also known as a universal product code (UPC), is a machine-readable form of information to be scanned on the surface of a product. The barcode is read by a scanner that transmits it into a database where it can be tracked. Each number on a barcode has a special meaning, and these numbers are added, multiplied and divided in some formula to give each of them their own uniqueness. Each barcode is composed of three segments.

Manufacturer's Number

The UCC company prefix (the manufacturer's number) number may consist of 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits. This number is assigned by the GSI-US. Generally, larger companies have longer numbers.

Product Number

The item code (product number) is the number assigned to identify individual products and may consist of two to five digits (100 to 100,000 item codes). This number is assigned by the individual company.


Check Number

The check digit is calculated from the company prefix and item code numbers, to ensure the data has been composed correctly.



About the Author

Ann Moore has been an English instructor for over 20 years and started writing professionally in 2011. After teaching junior high and high school, she now teaches writing at Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence, South Carolina. Moore enjoys writing articles about animals, education, culture and society, health and fitness, and home and garden. She received her Bachelor of Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Photo Credits

  • pencil and barcode image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from