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Use Your EPC to Indicate Country of Origin

By employing a simple coding scheme, you can quickly identify where items in your supply chain were manufactured, and ensure that your customs declarations are accurate.
By Doug Harvel
Dec 21, 2014

A commercial invoice is a document used in foreign trade, as a customs declaration provided by the person or corporation that is exporting an item across international borders. Although there is no standard format, the document must include a few specific pieces of information, including the parties involved in the shipping transaction, the goods being transported, the country of manufacture and the Harmonized System codes for those goods. A commercial invoice must also include a statement certifying that the invoice is true, as well as the signature of the individual making that statement.

A commercial invoice is used to calculate tariffs, international commercial terms—such as the cost in a cost, insurance and freight CIF) document—and is commonly used for customs purposes. Normally, when goods are a full case, identifying the country of origin (COO) is easy. But when an item can be produced at several locations and placed in the same case at your facility, it becomes difficult to ensure that information on the commercial invoice is correct.

Some companies have created multiple tables to maintain the COO associated with each inventory item, and must use them when printing commercial invoices. This strategy requires several employees to continually update and maintain the tables. Even this does not guarantee that the correct country of origin is assigned to an item, however, unless someone visually checks every product's COO.

This is where RFID can make this process less complicated, while also ensuring that the COO information is always accurate. GS1 standards dictate that for a 96-bit RFID tag, the serial number in an Electronic Product Code (EPC) can be no more than 38 bits and that, therefore, when read as a decimal numeral, it must be less than or equal to 274,877,906,943. In simple terms, this 12-digit decimal number can be shown as XXX,XXX,XXX,XXX.

In your serialization scheme, you can use the first two to four positions for the COO, with the first position designating who encoded the EPC. For example, you can make the first digit a 0 if the EPC was encoded internally, or a 1 if it was encoded by your RFID label vendor or service bureau.

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