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SKU vs Barcode

The terms SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) and barcode – sometimes referred to as UPC (Universal Product Code) – are quite often considered the same, especially by the public. However, these two items are quite different, although they visually look the same. These two tools are considered barcodes. They basically have small, equal length vertical lines. However, each tool is specifically designed and used for a different purpose.

SKU (Stock Keeping Unit)

As the name implies, SKU is a type of barcode used within a company or a business. It serves as a tool for keeping track of inventory from within. Also, it consists of alphanumeric codes, which are unique to each company. When new stock arrives at a business, each product is labeled a predetermined SKU code. This code allows the workers to keep track of the number of items sold and the number of items remaining. As a result, this makes SKU valuable in retail. Also, SKU can be used to label both physical items and non-physical services. Non-physical services could include repair hours. Several electronic shops and warehouses utilize SKU. Examples of companies that use SKU include Amazon and eBay. Each company has its own unique SKU. Each SKU usually contains information about the producer, item cost, size, and location within a store. However, users of SKU typically keep the data within the code simple to prevent confusion.

Barcodes (Universal Product Code)

A barcode is essentially an external code that is assigned to each company's product for the purpose of tracking. It consists of 12 numeric codes and digits. The use of barcodes is generally assigned and governed by a central authority. Each company's product has a unique code. This regulator assigns each product a single identifying code, which becomes associated with the product until it is discontinued. Barcode use in the US is regulated by GS1, which is the American subsidiary of a global institute. Within other countries, especially in Europe, a 13-digit form of a barcode is used.

Comparing SKU and Barcode

Although these two codes are similar visual, they are considered different. The difference between these codes is discussed below.

Scope of Use

An SKU is a locally assigned code that allows businesses to keep track of their inventory. It helps them know the number of items that have been sold and the remaining number. Therefore, SKUs are used internally within a business. On the other hand, a UPC barcode is assigned to each product by a central organization so as to identify that item uniquely. Therefore, no two products can have the same barcode.

Difference in Code

SKU are alphanumeric codes of varying lengths depending on the company's rules. At the same time, UPC barcodes are 12-digit numeric codes with the exception of the 13-digit European version.

Cost of Use

As long as an organization has the required tools, SKUs are free to create and use. the opposite is the case with UPC. Each manufacturer purchases barcodes for their specific products.

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