The universal product code (UPC) is a barcode symbology which is used to decode the information about the products. Wallace Flint was the first person to invent automated check out system, in the year 1932. Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland printed barcodes using ink and patented this technology. In the 196os multicolor barcodes were used to track rail cars. Six industry associations, consisting of members from product manufacturing units and supermarkets, created an industry wide committee. They worked for two years and developed the Universal Product Code (U.P.C) bar code symbol on April 1, 1973. But it was in June 1974, the U.P.C was first commercially used on a package of Wrigley’s gum.
According to an analysis, $17 billion is saved by the grocery industry annually in the year 1999. This system is useful for customers as the system improved the efficiency and the productivity which reduced the costs or increased the customer service. It also benefited the manufacturer and the retailer but it is the retailer who made most out of it because in addition to the savings, retailers now had access to detailed product movement data.
U.P.C. is being used by nearly 10,000 companies, almost in all the grocery industry of US. Today, there are over one million companies in more than 100 countries in over twenty different industry sectors, enjoying the benefits of scanning. U.P.C. symbols are used in industries such as retailing, construction, utilities, cosmetics, Pharmaceutical, publishing, Shipping, Grocery, Manufacturing Industry, postal, aerospace, automobile, software industry, etc. Today, there are two dimensional bar codes such as PDF 417 and Maxi Code. RSS and Composite symbologies are useful in barcode identification of very small items such as individual pills or a single strawberry.
Invention of U.P.C had revolutionized the barcode technology. It has made the usage of barcode very user friendly.