12 GS1 Identification Schemes / Encoding Schemes and Their Uses

GS1 is a non-profit, global organization that creates and maintains global standards for business-to-business and supply chain communication. In essence, a standard is created so that when a barcode is scanned or an RFID tag is read, the stored data can be interpreted and understood. Without standards, a custom barcode could be created and placed on a product, but without a standard in place and software to make sense of that number, it is simply a number. However, with GS1 standards to help interpret that data, the barcode or RFID tag’s EPC number becomes a unique set of data that provides information about the associated asset.

GS1 currently has  12 Identification Schemes, which are also called encoding schemes or identification keys. They are CPID, GTIN, GIAI, GLN, SSCC, GSIN, GINC, GRAI, GDTI, GCN, GSRN, GMN. These identification keys are used for identifying specific items or assets across the world, and that key data is assigned and kept in a global registry managed by GS1.

When a company signs up with GS1, they are assigned a company prefix and then asked to upload information about their items/assets that will need to receive a GS1 Verified number. GS1 asks companies to upload 7 core product attributes for most items/assets, which includes GTIN (each item must be assigned a GTIN if not already), brand name, product description, product image URL, global product classification code (each item must be categorized with a GPC), net content, unit of measure, and country of sale.

After all the item/asset data is uploaded to GS1’s secure Cloud, each product can be assigned a number based on the Identification Key / Identification Scheme that the company is using. The type of Identification Scheme or Encoding Scheme that a company will use depends on what the current practice is in that industry as well as the type of product/service that needs to be identified.

Learn more about each Identification Scheme below.

GS1 Identification Schemes

Components & Parts

> CPID - Component / Part Identifier

Used For: Identifying components and parts that are not typically sold individually.

Used On: Parts and components, as well as physical and digital documents that reference those parts and components

Who Uses It: Manufacturing companies

For Example: A motor for a specific washing machine or temperature sensor for a specific model refrigerator.

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s CPID Summary


> GTIN - Global Trade Item Number

Used For: Combining specific product identification with batch/lot numbers, and serial numbers. Also used to digitally identify products or services on catalogues, purchases orders, or invoices.

Used On: Products like consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or raw materials.

Who Uses It: Manufacturers, Distributors, Retailers

For Example: Identify a box of Mayonnaise as well as the batch information

Notes: There are four GTIN formats, GTIN-8, GTIN-12, and GTIN-13

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GTIN Summary

Company Assets

> GIAI - Global Individual Asset Identifier

Used For: Identifying fixed company assets within a company for easy identification and record keeping.

Used On: IT Equipment, Vehicles, Furniture, etc.

Who Uses It: Any companies with tangible assets

For Example: Identify a specific laptop among hundreds of identical laptops within a company

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GIAI Summary

Location Information

> GLN - Global Location Number

Identifying a specific geographical address for business transactions, but can also be used for internal physical locations such as dock doors, storage lockers, etc.

Used On: Can be used on most products to specify a location that the item is stored, shipped from, shipped to, etc.

Who Uses It: Logistics companies, Manufacturers, Storage Facilities

For Example: To identify where a pallet of goods is stored in a large manufacturing warehouse - Bin 456

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GLN Summary


> SSCC - Serial Shipping Container Code

Used For: Identifying unit loads on pallets, roll cages, and parcels - for keeping certain trade items together for logistics or storage purposes.

Used On: Logistic units in transit

Who Uses It: Logistics companies

For Example: To identify loads of cargo that is shipping together

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GLN Summary

> GSIN - Global Shipment Identification Number

Used For: Identifying shipments that are -

  • One or more logistic units
  • Assigned to units going to the same place that will be delivered together
  • Assigned to these items for the entire length of transport - from origin to final destination

Used On: Shipments of Products/Goods

Who Uses It: Governments, logistics companies, large manufacturers

For Example: One GSIN will identify five pallets sent from Company 1 to Company 2 that will be traveling together for the entire journey.

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GLN Summary

> GINC - Global Identification Number for Consignment

Used For: Identifying shipments that are -

•One or more logistic units

•Consignment merchandise/assets/items

•Intended to be transported together for part of the journey

Used On: Shipments Consignment Merchandise

Who Uses It: Transport & Logistics Companies

For Example: Identify a retail consignment shipment in transit

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GINC Summary

Reusable Shipping Assets

> GRAI - Global Returnable Asset Identifier

Used For: Identifying returnable transport items (RTI) - Reusable pallets, crates, roll containers, etc.

Used On: Reusable pallets, crates, plastic cartons, etc.

Who Uses It: Companies that utilize reusable shipment containers

For Example: Plastic reusable pallets

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GRAI Summary


> GDTI - Global Document Type Identifier

Used For: Identifying physical and electronic documents.

Used On: Physical documents like certificates, driver’s licenses, passports or on electronic documents like images and important digital documents

Who Uses It: Any company that needs to uniquely identify physical documents or electronic documents.

For Example: Architectural plans for an apartment complex

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GDTI Summary


> GCN - Global Coupon Number

Used For: Identifying paper or digital coupons, tickets, or loyalty points

Used On: Paper and digital coupons, tickets, loyalty discounts

Who Uses It: Product manufacturers, product resellers, grocery stores, retail stores

For Example: Coffee Manufacturer creates coupons for a discount on their coffee to be used in all major grocery stores

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GCN Summary


> GSRN - Global Service Relation Number

Used For: Identifying relationships between either:

·An organization and a service provider - for instance a nurse and a hospital

·An organization that is providing a service to a customer - for instance an account number, or loyalty card number.

Used On: Digital databases, files, and paper discussing those relationships

Who Uses It: Any company with a relationship that needs to be uniquely identified

For Example: To identify a relationship between a hospital and a nurse practitioner

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GSRN Summary

Specialty Healthcare Devices

> GMN - Global Model Number

Used For: Identifying healthcare device product model from inception to sale - including post-sale use and maintenance.

Used On: Medical device and physical or digital documents relating to the medical device.

Who Uses It: Healthcare Companies Only

For Example: To identify and keep all information together about a c-pap device that just went to market

Learn More: Checkout GS1’s GMN Summary

Notes: This format has only been approved for medical devices in regulated healthcare companies.


For more information on GS1 Identification Schemes / Encoding Schemes - or anything related to RFID and IoT, comment below or  contact us!