A UPC is a Universal Product code. In order to get one, a manufacturer has to apply to the Uniform Product Council and has to pay an annual fee to get a unique code for their product. The code that a manufacturer in turn will receive consists of a scannable bar code as well as a 12 digit UPC code number. The 12 digit code number consists of 3 parts. The first six digits are the manufacturer’s identification number. The proceeding five digits are the Item id number. And the final digit serves as a check digit to make sure that the right item was processed. Every single item produced by a manufacturer regardless of size, or packaging needs a unique item number. So even the same products in a different box will need different UPC codes. A UPC coordinator is responsible for giving each product by a certain manufacturer a unique UPC code, as well as getting rid of a UPC code when a certain product is no longer in production or use. A UPC coordinator is hired by each manufacturer. The final check digit in a UPC code has a fairly complex calculation which is performed by a scanner to make sure the right product was scanned. The first step is to sum the digits in the odd positions for the first eleven digits of the UPC code. Then, find the product of that sum and 3. After that, sum all of the digits in the even positions. Next, find the sum of steps two and three. And finally, figure out the smallest number when added to the sum found in step four, results in a multiple of 10. If that number matches the final check digit of the UPC code, then the scanner has successfully scanned the product code.

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/upc.htm

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