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Using RLA/ANSI-12N Codes for Compliance Labeling

Using RLA/ANSI-12N Codes for Compliance Labeling

by , , RLA Standards Committee

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 95

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Compliance labeling is the bane of product marketing managers. It complicates their job more than others in any manufacturing environment. Why? Because they are required to include all this information onto their product packaging and labels. Sure, product re-designs, and procedural modifications necessary to be in compliance are expensive, but packaging and labeling real-estate is constrained. Cluttering packaging with information about regulatory compliance, and covering your exquisite industrial designs with labels, interferes with their goal of producing an attractive packaged product.

MSDS, FCC or FDA safety information, WEEE, RoHS and other emblems are important labels, but integrating the icons and information can mar the image of a new, sleek high-end audio component. And, so many of these regulatory icons are confusing and meaningless. In California, all manufacturers are required to list maintain and update a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. That list, too, has be included.

Recently, the Reverse Logistics Association’s Standards Committee developed a new standard for product labeling that can relieve much of this clutter. Approved by ANS (MH10.8.2.12N) and managed by the RLA ( ) these Smart QR Labels allow for a single QR code label to include a multitude of information data fields, including information about regulatory compliance, along with normal product information such as model and serial number. To quote a hackneyed television commercial, “and wait! There’s more!” Because QR code standards can contain up to 4000 characters of information, consumer facing information such as one-click product registration, technical support and product accessories can be contained in the same label. Truly, one label does it all! It can be titled, “Scan here for complete product information.”

How does this work? What the RLA Standards Committee developed is essentially a “data dictionary” of field titles called FI’s for Field Identifiers. This enables a compressed field length. In addition, we have established a standardized field delimiter that strings multiple fields together in the same label. Currently, QR code protocols expects the content of a label to be a single field. While proprietary solutions are available, an open standard facilitates universal recognition. This is an open standard and it is ISO 15434 compliant. There are no licensing fees. With today’s smart phones, access to the data is simple. Because it is based on QR codes, the information is available without access to the Internet. Product labels can be scanned anywhere with industrial scanners or smart phones.

Currently about 300 field titles have been defined. The list includes the relevant UPC codes (AI’s from GS1) and fields for each of the required regulatory notices. Also included are the GHS disclosures and fields for import/export control. However, in today’s market, product packaging and labels should be about the consumer experience. Each of the regulatory labeling requirements are ostensibly there for the consumer’s protection—regardless whether users understand the arcane notices or not. With 12N labels, there is sufficient space to improve your consumer promotional scores by including the information behind the spirit of these regulations in a user accessible format—On the same label! You may want some proprietary encrypted information on your label. You may want multiple languages or currencies. By optimizing the utilization of the full capacity of a QR Code label, you can do all of this.

Our protocols allow label designers to create a string of fields. Some of these fields can be encrypted and some of them public so that any smart phone can read them. The Global Harmonized System displays information about hazardous materials and what to do in an emergency. Add the 12N fields G078 (MSDS First-aid measures) and G079 (MSDS Fire-fighting measures) to your label. They can be scanned by any smart phone. This means that when an emergency occurs, anyone with a smart phone can access this information quickly before the first responders arrive.

Concerned about recycling? Add the 12N fields R011 Hazardous Materials list, and R013Disposal/Recycling instructions to your label.(There are dozens more fields related to recycling.) Consumers want to dispose of their products responsibly. Using 12N labels makes the instructions for doing so simple and easy to access. And still, there is room for more information on the same label!

Visit our list of fields at and see how many you could use. If any are missing, let us know and we will add them.

For further information, please contact us at
RLA Standards Committee
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