Understanding Global Location Number (GLN)

September 27, 2017

Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) and Global Location Numbers (GLN) are suddenly very popular in the serialization world.  While Origin, the HDA’s collaborative solution designed to manage GTIN master data, is now the foundation through which trading partners exchange serial data, GLN is an essential part of that foundation. (See this post for a detailed look at GTIN.) Without it, an EPCIS serial data file can’t travel from one trading partner to the other, and EPICS events have no context.

GS1 defines this way: “The GLN is the GS1 Identification Key used for any location (physical, operational, digital, or legal) that needs to be identified for use in the supply chain.”  That’s a little vague. I’d define GLN as a unique number assigned to a specific physical business location or address (like a warehouse where a product is being shipped from or to) or a business entity (for example a “bill to” location). A GLN represents the “who” in an electronic transaction. But that definition prompts some questions.

Why use a GLN for locations?

Why use GLN when you have a set of numbers in your current system that represent sold-to, bill-to, and ship-to locations? Businesses communicate to each other based on a common language. In a B2B e-commerce environment where millions of transactions are exchanged every day, that common language makes it possible for businesses to understand each other with globally unique identifiers. Without it, you get confusion and errors. By assigning a unique number to your company as a whole, and to each pertinent department and location, and communicating the meaning of it (name, address, etc.) with trading partners, we ensure that every time we transmit our GLN, those partners will understand exactly which location, etc. we are referring to in the transaction document. And the best part of it is that these GLNs are global, meaning we can exchange them with any number of partners and all of them will understand which location we are referring to and—most important of all—that the number is accurate and reliable.

What’s the benefit of GLN?

Simply put, GLN is a more efficient standard for trading partners to identify legal entities (companies), functions within a company, and physical and digital locations The healthcare industry uses many other standardized numbering systems to identify trading partners and their locations in addition to GLN, including state license numbers, DEA numbers, and mailing addresses. Unfortunately, none of those are universally applied or accepted in a global supply chain. To bring true interoperability to the industry, trading partners had to adopt a universal location number. Hence GLN. GLN consolidates all partner locations including manufactures, distributors, dispensers, and healthcare providers, and is therefore a critical part of transaction history.

How do you obtain a GLN?

The first step in getting a GLN is to get a GS1 Company Prefix, the first component of a GLN. When GS1 U.S. issues a GS1 Company Prefix, it does so via a Membership Certificate. Printed on this certificate is the company name that you joined with and a corresponding GLN to identify your company. Should you need more GLNs than the one assigned to you, printed on the certificate, just use your GS1 Company Prefix to build as many as you need, following the GS1 construct.

How do you create additional GLNs?

A GLN is a 13-digit identifier, made up of your GS1 Company Prefix, a Location Reference that you assign, and a calculated check digit. To generate additional GLNs, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Use your company prefix as the base for the new GLN. Example: 0399999
  1. Create a five-digit location reference—i.e., a random five-digit number that you haven’t used before for the specific company prefix number. Example: 00020
  1. Now that you have 12-digits (039999900020), the final step is to generate the check digit. To do that, you will need to use the GS1 Check Digit Calculator. At the site, enter your 12-digits to calculate the check digit: GLN: 0399999000208 (8 being the check digit)

Note: This GS1 U.S. utility contains the correct algorithm needed to calculate accurate check digits compatible with GS1 Standards. Do not use other software’s check digit calculators unless you first verify they are compatible with the GS1 algorithm.

Repeat these steps for every individual physical location or business entity that you need to identify. Share these GLNs with your trading partners for B2B electronic transactions along with the complete name, function of this entity (ship from, ship to, bill to, etc.), and the address for each location (also known as GLN master data).

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