Frequently Asked Questions - Bar Code

Offices | Contacts | Forms | Feedback | FAQs | Resources | News | Packaging Site Map

Listed below are compiled packaging FAQs for the 'Barcode' topic. Our 'Bar Code' web page identifies what constitutes barcode and covers barcode requirements and issues. If your question is not listed, please use either our


  • What is a bar code?
    A bar code is an array of rectangular bars and spaces in a predetermined pattern representing coded elements of data that can be automatically read and interpreted by automatic bar code reading devices.

  • What is the difference between a bar code and LOGMARS?
    A bar code is governed by a commercial standard, like ISO/IEC 16388. Whereas, LOGMARS is governed by MIL-STD-1189. However, the Military no longer uses LOGMARS and has adopted the commercial bar code standard ISO/IEC 16388 for all their bar code requirements.

  • When are bar codes required?
    Bar code markings are required on all containers and loose or unpacked items.

  • What is the required bar code density?
    The bar code density shall be from 3.0 to 9.4 characters per inch (CPI).

  • Is there a standard for bar codes?
    Bar code symbology shall comply with ISO/IEC 16388.

  • Is there a standard size label for bar coding?
    There is no standard size label.

  • Is there a standard length for the bar code?
    The physical length of a Code 39 symbol, including quiet zones, is given in ISO/IEC 16388. Refer to ISO/IEC 16388 for details.

    NOTE: We cannot post this information to our web site, since it is copyright information. Therefore, you will need to purchase copy of this document to comply with the contractual requirements for bar coding.

  • What is height of a Code 39 bar code?
    For general application the minimum bar height of Code 39 symbols should be 0.2 inch (5mm) or 15 percent of the symbol length, whichever is greater.


  • What items are required to be bar coded?
    The National Stock Number (NSN) shall be bar coded on all unit packs and intermediate containers. The exterior container shall be bar coded with the NSN/NATO stock number and the contract or purchase order number (including the call number) applied.

  • If the unit container is too small, do I still need to bar code it?
    Yes. When space does not permit placement of all the required markings, including bar code markings, on one surface of the container, the bar code labels or markings should be either placed on the opposite side of the container or the adjacent end, or they should be placed on a tag attached to the container. Markings on unit packs shall be so located as to allow the markings to be easily read and to ensure that markings will not be destroyed when the pack or container is opened for inspection or until its contents have been used.

  • Are prefixes and suffixes of a NSN required to be bar coded?
    The bar coded NSN/NATO stock number should consist of the basic 13 data characters. Prefixes and suffixes to the stock number should not be bar coded.

  • Do I apply dashes or spaces to the National Stock Number on the bar code or Human Readable Interpretation (HRI), i.e. 5998-01-476-2024?
    No. The barcode and HRI that are applied should be the standard DoD symbology as described in ISO/IEC 16388. The HRI should be the exact interpretation of the bar code data and should not contain any spaces or dashes.


  • Where are the HRI markings applied?
    The preferred location for the HRI is below the bar code markings, while the optional location is above the bar code markings.

  • Where shall bar code markings be applied?
    Bar code symbols on exterior containers shall be located adjacent to the identification or contract data marking (either to the right of or directly below). For boxes and crates 10 cubic feet and over, bar code markings are required on one end of the container as well as the identification marked side.

  • Are serial numbers supposed to be bar coded; and if so, where are they to be placed?
    Bar coded serial numbers, when required, shall be placed directly below item identification or contract data markings on all containers.


  • When do I bar code the shipping papers?
    Bar coding shipping papers is required on direct vendor deliveries (DVD).

  • When bar coding the shipping papers (element 3), do I fill in the distribution code and unit price with zeros?
    Yes. DLA Land and Maritime Master Solicitation (DSCC 52.211-9C28, May 1999) states when Bar coding shipping papers (element 3) 'the distribution code will be a two position zero filled code; and the unit price will be a six position zero filled code. No spaces shall separate the individual data elements.'   Interpretation to clarify any questions: All contractors are required to fill in the data elements for the distribution code and unit price code. 'The distribution code is two digits and will always have '00' (two zeros). The unit price is six digits and will always have '000000' (six zeros).'

Content Inquiries:

Last Updated 31 May 2018