UCC Readies New Produce UPC’s for Prime Time

May 08, 2002
Rick Moss

With perishables now representing fifty percent of grocery store sales, and growing, its not hard to convince most operators that a barcode standard covering produce, deli, fish and other variable measure products is overdue. A proposed solution, Reduced Space Symbology (RSS), has been in development since 1998 by the Uniform Code Council, and is now well into the testing phase. A pilot run last year at Dorothy Lane Markets was considered a success and others are in the works.

An update on the project was presented as a Category Close-Up session at the FMI Show on Monday afternoon by Greg Rowe of UCC and Dave Piccirilli of Wegmans — one of RSS’s early proponents. The presenters pointed to keying error rates as high as 27 percent for produce (…how many checkers can distinguish a Gala from a Fiji?), and category shrink estimated at close to 15 percent, as prime examples of the need for accurate scanning.

For the new double barcode system, developers built in capacity far beyond the current UPC’s: new digits assigned to GTIN’s; to net weight; to “extended” price (over the current $99.99 limitation); to pack date and batch/lot tracking numbers. The intended benefits to variable measure categories to be derived from the more accurate technology include: reduced shrink, the possibility of enabling CPFR, electronic invoicing and payment, improved category management, and more intelligently planned co-marketing.

Despite an impressive starter list of supporters — retailers, suppliers, associations and tech partners — obstacles to achieving critical mass for RSS are not being taken lightly. The new standard calls for a significant change in business processes and, in many cases, a hardware and POS software overhaul. However, key findings from the UCC cost/benefit analysis show a return on investment within three to 17 months. Ultimately, they predict a one-hundred store chain could see savings in excess of $2.3 million.

  • Report by Rick Moss, RetailWire co-founder

Moderator Comment: Will retailers using UCC’s Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) have a significant advantage over those that do not? Does it make sense for smaller independents as well as 100+ store chains? [George
Anderson – Moderator

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