The EAN/U.P.C. barcode has offered price lookup functionality for decades. However, the traditional barcode no longer meets today’s growing demands for greater product information transparency, traceability, and authentication. Thus, industry is moving toward two-dimensional (2D) barcodes that can carry more information. 2D barcodes allow for a single standardized way to meet both supply chain needs and evolving consumer requirements, are much smaller than a linear barcode, can populate several fields at once in an inventory management system, and remains legible even when printed at a small size or etched onto a product.
Industry has set a date to transition to accepting 2D barcodes at point-of-sale (POS)—referred to as Sunrise 2027. GS1 US® is helping supply- and demand-side organizations and solution providers start migrating toward the “next dimension” of barcodes.
Transitioning to 2D barcodes for POS is a multi-step process. The GS1 US Sunrise 2027 initiative lays out a plan to help ensure 2D barcodes will be usable at any retail POS by the end of 2027. With this plan as its impetus, Johnson & Johnson has fully embraced the change and moved products to the GS1 DataMatrix code. Johnson & Johnson’s Diane Riccardi walked the GS1 Connect 2023 audience through the transition and how Johnson & Johnson settled on the 2D code it chose.
“Let's talk about the QR code, introduced in 1994, and ideal in the consumer marketplace to help get information quickly,” said Riccardi. “In the medical and pharmaceutical space, Johnson & Johnson must comply with regulatory requirements: unique device identification and serialization of contents. For those reasons alone, Johnson & Johnson cannot use that QR code.”
Johnson & Johnson chose the GS1 2D DataMatrix, first and foremost, because it can apply the UDI and serialization information. (GS1 DataMatrix can store nearly 2,000 characters, including alphanumeric, GS1, and binary data, ensuring globally harmonized identification of products.) From a regulatory perspective, it was the most potent option for Johnson & Johnson to use because it can be printed directly on the package and contains more space to include additional package information.
“When you think about it, in our regulatory markets, because we are a global company, we can have a customer in the United States that has one set of requirements that are different from our customers in Japan,” said Riccardi. “That DataMatrix can handle that information.”
For customers in the supply chain, by standardization, it will not matter if that customer buys the product from Johnson & Johnson or our competitors, she further explains.
“The ease in how they scan our product is standardized [with DataMatrix,]” said Riccardi. “This is huge, not only for all of our customers but for the industry as well.”
Johnson & Johnson tackled the project by dividing its products into two buckets: medical devices for its medical supply and pharmaceutical for its drugs. Ultimately, it wants 100 percent of its products with just the 2D DataMatrix on them, which is no small feat for a global multinational like Johnson & Johnson.
“We have over 100,000 products in our medical and over 10,000 products in our pharmaceutical,” said Riccardi. “We can do it as a healthcare company, and so can others.”
Johnson & Johnson has been on this journey since 2014, but its numbers prove it is trending toward completion well before GS1’s goal of sun-rising 2D by 2027.