Bar Codes: Y2K Redux? - Page 2

There will be a few stragglers. For instance, Best Buy didnt start its changeover until late last year. The electronics retailer is targeting October as the deadline for its project, according to Kannan.

Best Buy hired Indias Tata Consulting to scan its code for keywords like "UPC" to identify fields that should be expanded. It used programmers in both the U.S. and India to expand those fields to 14 digits so it could be ready for future bar-code expansions. But the company did not touch internal applications that could handle 13 digits or were relatively unaffected by product codes.

The vast majority of that time was spent scanning all of the companys business applications, though most problems showed up in software using electronic data interchange or other protocols that exchange data with suppliers. Commercial software was easier to handle because the company could install new versions rather than fix the actual code, as it had to do with homegrown applications, Kannan says.

When Kannans team found a commercial or homegrown application that could handle 13 digits, they left it alone, even if that meant coming back another time to expand to 14 digits. The project mandate was limited, and the company plans to retire many applications to limit the expense of the makeover, he adds.

Other companies are either finished with their bar-code remediation or close to finished, according to Dave Hogan, chief information officer of the National Retail Federation.

"The NRF has a CIO council of 40 to 45 of the best and brightest companies in I.T- Saks, Sears, Radio Shack," Hogan says. "Within that group, its a non-issue. So we think that if it is an issue, its only for a relative subset. It may have been an issue, but its not one now."

The biggest reason retailers may be ahead of the game is that they already sell European products with the extended bar codes, says Mark Rausch, manager of store systems for Wegmans Food Markets, a 66-store grocery chain based in Rochester, N.Y.

Next Page: Warming up to the 14-digit bar code that may help unify the global supply chain.