The Global Location Number (GLN) is one of 12 unique Identification Keys within the GS1 Standards. Many businesses know of GS1 Standards from the retail industry’s most common product identifier, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). This is the number at the bottom of your UPC or EAN barcode and what is captured when scanned at the point of sale, placed in a marketplace listing, or picked and scanned in a stockroom for shipping. The GS1 GTIN uniquely identifies products globally and links to the company that assigns them to their product for full transparency with their trading partners and consumers. The retail industry has adopted and scaled the GTIN standard for the last 50 years, transforming physical and digital retail.
Just as the GTIN has standardized the way companies identify their products to be interoperable with systems and trading partners, the GLN is a unique, standardized 13-digit number used to identify legal entities, operational parties, and physical and digital locations within a business. The GLN allows users to answer “who” and “where” questions within their own organization and throughout the global supply chain. For example, a supplier shipping a product identifies the “what” is being shipped by assigning a GTIN to the product. When this information is combined with the company’s GLN, they can communicate “who” is shipping the product, “where” it is coming from, “where” it is now, and “who” and “where” it is going.
How do you get GLNs, and how are they assigned?
If your business is currently a member of GS1 US or any other GS1 member organization, you have most likely licensed a GS1 Company Prefix to create and assign GTINs to your products. Organizations that have licensed a GS1 Company Prefix can also generate and allocate GLNs using the same Company Prefix based on the licensed capacity; for example, if your company licensed a Prefix with a 100 capacity, they could create 100 GLNs. GLNs can then be created and assigned to an organization’s parties or locations.
A party is an entity that must be represented in a business-related transaction. A GLN identifying a party answers the question of “who” is involved within the use case leveraging GS1 standards. This may be a legal entity or function.
- A legal entity is any business, government body, department, individual, or other institution that has a standing in the eyes of the law and has the capacity to enter into agreements or contracts. This could be whole companies, subsidiaries, or divisions within a company.
- A function is an organizational subdivision or department most commonly segmented based on the specific tasks being performed, as defined by the organization, such as an accounting department, purchasing department, hospital pharmacy, etc.
A location is a particular place or position. A GLN identifying a location is used to answer the question of “where” something has been, is, or will be and can be physical or digital.
- A physical location is a tangible place that may be represented by an address, coordinates, or other means. Physical locations like a manufacturing facility, distribution center, dock door, bin location, or something mobile, such as a truck or ship, can be fixed.
- A digital location is an electronic (non-physical address) such as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) gateway or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
When an organization creates GLNs, it defines a prescribed data set that describes the party or location. This data is considered core information required to enable use cases and establish relationships (e.g., parent company, party/location name, address, coordinates, roles, collaborative identifiers, etc.). The GLN and associated party or location information is then saved in a database, such as GS1 US Data Hub │ Location, and can be accessed or shared among supply chain partners.
Where are GLNs used?
Proprietary entity and location identifiers can present problems in the market as a business scales its operations. Some common challenges are duplication, where two or more trading partners use the same location codes and a non-standardized complex code structure that makes application programming difficult and costly and can lead to errors in trading partners’ systems.
GLNs provide a consistent and standardized way to identify parties and locations throughout all of the systems and processes where data is sent and received throughout the supply chain. This includes databases and IT systems, EDI transactions, visibility applications, and centralized product data repositories like the Global Data Synchronization Network. GLNs can also be embedded into barcodes, identifying a product’s destination or capturing where it came from.
Industry initiatives for improved data quality and governance strongly incentivize businesses to adopt the GLN standard. As businesses continue digitizing data, they want to ensure it can be shared, ingested, and scaled across current and future supply chain trading partners’ systems.
Business Benefits of Using GLNs
All parts of the GS1 System of Standards are designed to work together to address the needs and priorities specific to an organization. This means that those already using GTINs to identify their products or Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCC) to identify their logistic units can incorporate GLNs to provide the “who” and “where” to the “what” already being identified. The GLN is a global standard that can be used by any organization involved with any industry sector worldwide. This enables any party or location to be uniquely identified using the same standardized identifier, regardless of where they do business. This will build trust with your trading partner community as they will know they are getting reliable, consistent information about who they are interacting with and where each company is conducting business.
To learn more about the Global Location Number and other GS1 Standards, please visit the GS1 US website at http://www.gs1us.org.
Comply PRO+ encourages the adoption of GLN codes and has fields for the GLN on the Company and Supplier pages.