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What is a universal product code (UPC)?

A UPC is short for universal product code, is a type of code printed on retail product packaging to aid in identifying a particular item. It consists of two parts, the machine-readable barcode which is a series of unique black bars, and the unique 12-digit number beneath it.

The purpose of a UPC code is to make it easy to identify product features, such as the brand name, item, size, and color, when a product is scanned at checkout. The UPC Code tracks both sales at the checkout counter and inventory in the warehouse.

UPC codes have a number of advantages to businesses and consumers. Because they make it possible for barcode scanners to immediately identify a product and its associated price, UPC codes improve speed. UPC codes also improve efficiency and productivity, by eliminating the need to manually enter product information. They also make it possible to track inventory much more accurately than hand counting, to know when more product is needed on retail shelves or in warehouses. Or when there is an issue with a particular product and consumers who purchased it need to be alerted or a recall issued, UPC codes allow products to be tracked through production to distribution to retail stores and even into consumer homes.

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