The abbreviation EAN stands for “European Article Number”. It designates an identification number with which goods can be uniformly marked all over the world. This allows trade items to be clearly identified internationally. The EAN has actually been replaced by the official designation GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) since 2009, but the term is still in common use. Depending on the version, the identification number consists of either eight or 13 digits.
Using the EAN in practice
Entrepreneurs who want to mark their products with an EAN must apply for one from the GS1 Group, which manages EAN numbers. License fees must be paid for this. The entrepreneur then affixes the EAN to his product. Usually, it is also printed as a barcode on the packaging of the goods, so that barcode scanners at supermarket scanner checkouts can automatically record the goods and thus also the associated price. If a customer wants to know what is behind the printed EAN number, he can call up the number on various Internet portals.
Structure of the EAN-13 or GTIN
The EAN with 13 digits is made up of several individual components. The longest part is the base number, which consists of a three-digit country prefix and a company number. The country prefix for Germany ranges between the numbers 400 and 440, while a fictitious country prefix of 978 or 977 is used for books and press products. In addition to the base number, a three- to five-digit article number and a check digit are specified. The check digit is used to ensure that the data contained in the EAN is correct.
Different structure of the EAN-8 or GTIN short number
The EAN-8 consists of eight digits and is shortened so that a barcode can be indicated even on very small products. This standard can only be used if the EAN-13 barcode would take up more than a quarter of the entire front of the product. The EAN-8 is composed of a two- to three-digit country prefix, four to five digits as the article number, and a check digit.
Advantages of the EAN number
The EAN supports consumers as well as retailers in being able to identify an article perfectly and without overlaps. The entire movement of goods is facilitated by the EAN. Warehousing can be automated as well as shipping and transport. In the supermarket, the barcodes are automatically recorded at the checkout and even the buyer can see at home which product it is by means of the number. Additionally, dealing with EAN is not nearly as error-prone as manually entering item numbers or prices into a POS system or warehouse management system. Supermarkets no longer have to label each product individually, but can limit themselves to a price label at the corresponding shelf location. This also reduces the amount of staff required.
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