Code 128 - Warehousing, shipping, and transport of goods

April 23, 2021

Whether for warehousing, transportation, or shipping: The linear barcode "Code 128" has been an integral part of various industries since the 1980s and is particularly impressive due to its good readability. Learn more about this dynamic barcode type and its areas of application now. 

Structure and characteristics of Code 128

First, let's take a look at the most important facts about Code 128. This barcode type was developed in 1981 by Computer Identics, in particular by Ted Williams, and is defined in the ISO/IEC 15417 standard. As a linear, i.e. a one-dimensional (1D) barcode, it is generated from black and white bars of different widths. It allows the encoding of the following information: 

Before the start character and after the stop character, a white area (bright field or quiet zone) of at least 10 modules must be present. This makes it easy to distinguish Code 128 barcodes from other types with a single glance. The check digit serves as a standard, avoiding incorrect entries. 

Which data can be stored in Code 128?

Since all characters of the ASCII data set can be transferred onto a Code 128 barcode, i.e. all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet, the numbers 1-9, as well as special characters, an astonishing variety of data can be encoded onto it. This makes it one of the preferred solutions in the industry compared to the previously used Code 39. 

What is GS-1?

The GS1-128 standard was introduced in 1989 and uses a series of Application Identifiers to include additional data such as best before dates, lot numbers, quantities, weights, and many other attributes required by the user. This substandard is particularly suitable for product identification. Barcodes that conform to GS1 specifications are experiencing international popularity - currently, around 2 million companies worldwide are members of the GS1.

What are the differences between 1D and 2D barcodes?

What are the advantages of Code 128?

The popularity of Code 128 in the industry is no coincidence. This one-dimensional bar code offers numerous advantages over other barcode types, such as the EAN code or Code 39. We have compiled an overview of the most important benefits of Code 128 for you: 

Code 128 - The disadvantages at a glance

As the comparison between 1D and 2D barcodes has already shown, one-dimensional barcodes also have some significant disadvantages, which is why they are not suitable for every use case. This also applies to Code 128: 

Where is Code 128 used? 

As already mentioned, this barcode type is most frequently used in the transport of goods, for example for marking containers, in distribution, and in warehousing. Here, a wide variety of information about the respective goods can be flexibly encoded and read with a wide range of conventional scanners or smartphones. The focus here is clearly on non-POS areas. 

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Feel free to take a look at our overview of the different types of barcodes. You can also find detailed information about the Data Matrix Code and the PDF417 Reader on our blog.


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