What are Global Location Numbers? – A Complete Explanation

GLN number

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GLN, short for Global Location Numbers, is an essential tool for enhancing the efficiency and clarity of supply chain management across interconnected economic environments. Serving as unique identifiers, GLNs help organisations pinpoint physical locations, legal entities, and operational units precisely, thus facilitating smoother business transactions and logistics management.

This comprehensive guide is designed to introduce GLNs to newcomers and deepen the understanding of those familiar with the concept. We will delve into the nature of GLNs, explore their various types, and elucidate their structure and significance. Additionally, we will outline the steps to obtain GLN numbers and answer some frequently asked questions towards the end.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

What is a GLN Code?

Meaning of GLN code

A Global Location Number, sometimes called an Operational Point, is a unique 13-digit numerical code designed to identify specific locations within a global supply chain. 

These locations extend beyond physical locations such as warehouses and factories to include operational points like delivery points, loading docks, and rooms within a building, trading parties and legal entities such as buyers, sellers, and company subsidiaries, as well as functional groups within a company, like purchasing or accounting departments.

Note – According to GS1 standards, each company must generate multiple GLNs to represent each physical location, operations centre, legal entity, and functional group involved in its business activities.

GLNs are developed and managed by GS1, an international organisation that establishes global standards for business communication. They are compliant with ISO/IEC 6523 standards of information technology.  

GLN identifiers are integral to the Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) and are essential in various e-commerce transactions. They are most commonly used in purchase orders, delivery documents, and payment documents. 

It’s important to note that the GLN number itself does not contain specific location details. Instead, it serves as a key to access a database where detailed information about the location is stored, thereby enabling efficient and accurate data retrieval.

GLN Terminology

 A Global Location Number fundamentally answers two critical questions in the supply chain: “who” and “where.”

The “who” aspect of GLN is answered in two main ways: through a “legal entity” or a “function.”

  • Legal Entity: This refers to any organisation with legal standing in the eyes of the law. Legal entities can be businesses, government bodies, departments, individuals, or any other institution capable of entering into agreements or contracts. GLNs assigned to legal entities ensure that each party in a transaction is distinctly recognisable, facilitating smoother legal and financial interactions.
  • Function: This category refers to specific organisational departments that perform distinct tasks. Examples include a purchasing department within a legal entity, an accounting department, a returns department or a nursing station. GLNs help differentiate these internal units to streamline communication and operational workflows.

The “where” question in GLN usage concerns the location, which can be physical or digital.

  • Physical Location: A physical location is any tangible place that can be identified by an address, geographical coordinates, or other means. Common examples include a manufacturing facility, a distribution centre, a dock door at a shipping yard, a farm, or a specific bin within a warehouse. GLNs for physical locations facilitate logistical operations by making it easier to track where goods have been, are currently, or will be.
  • Digital Location: A digital location represents non-physical, electronic settings, such as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) gateway. GLNs assigned to digital locations ensure accurate and secure data exchanges across various technological platforms.

Types of GLN Codes Defined by GS1 Application Identifiers (AIs)

While GLNs do not vary in type, they can be differentiated based on the context of their use through GS1 Application Identifiers (AIs). 

GS1 Application Identifiers are numeric prefixes used in barcodes and EPC/RFID tags to define the meaning and format of the encoded data elements. This system is developed by 

GS1 and is detailed on their GS1 Application Identifiers reference page.

Here is a list of different GS1 Application Identifiers that specify the use of GLNs. 

  • Ship to – Deliver to Global Location Number: AI (410) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the consignee.
  • Bill to – Invoice to Global Location Number: AI (411)- Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the addressee of an invoice.
  • Purchased from Global Location Number: AI (412) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the company from which the trade item has been purchased.
  • Ship for – Deliver for – Forward to Global Location Number: AI (413) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the internal or subsequent final destination.
  • Identification of a physical location – Global Location Number: AI (414) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of a physical location.
  • Global Location Number of the invoicing party: AI (415) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the invoicing party.
  • Global Location Number of the production or service location: AI (416) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of the production or service location.
  • Party Global Location Number: AI (417) – Specifies that the data field contains the GLN of a party.

What is a GLN Barcode?

A GLN barcode is a scannable representation of a Global Location Number that streamlines automated data capture in logistical and commercial settings. This format transforms the 13-digit GLN into a barcode that can be quickly read by barcode scanners, enhancing the efficiency and precision of processes such as inventory management, shipping, and receiving. 

The GLN is exclusively encoded using the GS1-128 barcode symbology. This system is chosen for its ability to integrate GS1 Application Identifiers, allowing for a flexible and comprehensive method of encoding essential data alongside the GLN.

GLN barcode

Who Needs a GLN Number?

Six scenarios where acquiring a GLN number becomes essential

GLN numbers are vital for entities engaged in activities where precisely identifying locations or parties is critical. Here are several scenarios where acquiring a GLN becomes essential.

Participating in Global Trade

Organisations that operate in international markets often need GLNs to comply with global trading standards. GLNs simplify customs procedures and facilitate global logistics by providing a standardised method for location identification.

Engaging with Large Retail Chains

Businesses that supply products to major retailers are typically required to use GLNs. These numbers are crucial for managing the supply chain logistics, from warehouses to retail outlets, and ensuring compliance with the retailers’ internal systems.

Implementing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

Companies that use EDI to transmit business documents in electronic format often require GLNs. These identifiers ensure that information such as purchase orders and invoices is uniquely identified and accurately exchanged between trading partners.

Compliance with Regulatory Requirements

In sectors like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, regulatory bodies require the use of GLNs to ensure the traceability and accountability of products throughout their lifecycle. GLNs help track product movements and manage recalls effectively.

Streamlining Logistics and Distribution

Entities that manage complex logistics networks use GLNs to optimise and streamline operations. GLNs assist in accurately identifying delivery points, warehouses, and distribution centres, enhancing efficiency and reducing errors in the supply chain.

Enhancing Data Synchronisation

Companies participating in the Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) need GLNs to synchronise product and location data with their trading partners. This synchronisation ensures that all parties in the supply chain have consistent and up-to-date information.

How Many Global Location Numbers Do You Need?

Determining the number of GLNs your organisation needs depends on several factors related to the scope and complexity of your operations. Here are guidelines on how to assess the number of GLNs required for efficient management and compliance. 

Evaluate Your Locations

The primary use of GLNs is to identify distinct physical locations involved, such as manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail stores, and offices. Each unique address or location that plays a role in your business operations or supply chain should have its own GLN. This ensures that each site is distinctly recognised in logistical processes and business transactions.

Consider Legal Entities

If your business operates multiple legal entities, such as subsidiaries or divisions that are legally separate, each entity will require its own GLN. This is crucial for clear legal and financial delineation in contracts, invoicing, and regulatory compliance.

Operational and Functional Units

Organisations with multiple functional units, such as a finance department, a shipping department, or a procurement unit, need to assign GLN to each unit.  

Digital Locations

If your operations include digital or virtual locations, such as electronic data interchange (EDI) gateways or online portals, these should also be considered for GLN assignment. Identifying these digital nodes helps streamline electronic transactions and data exchanges.

Future Expansion

Plan for future growth by considering potential new locations, legal entities, or operational units that might be added as your business expands. Allocating GLNs in advance can facilitate smoother transitions and quicker integration into existing supply chains and operational frameworks.

Compliance Requirements

Review any industry-specific regulations that might dictate the number of GLNs needed. Some sectors, especially healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and food services, have stringent requirements for location identification to ensure traceability and safety compliance.

Structure of a GS1 GLN Number

Structure of a GS1 GLN number

The Global Location Number provided by GS1 is structured to ensure unique and universal identification across global supply chains. Here’s a breakdown of the components that make up a GLN. 

A GLN consists of 13 digits, divided into three main parts.

  1. GS1 Company Prefix: The first part of the GLN is the GS1 Company Prefix, which typically ranges from 7 to 9 digits. This prefix is unique to each company and is assigned by GS1. It identifies the company within the global marketplace.
  2. Location Reference: Following the GS1 Company Prefix, the Location Reference number is the second part. It is assigned by the company and specifies particular locations or operational units. The length of the Location Reference varies depending on the length of the GS1 Company Prefix to ensure the entire number remains 12 digits.
  3. Check Digit: The final single digit of the GLN is the check digit. This is calculated using a specific algorithm applied to the other 12 digits of the GLN. The purpose of the check digit is to ensure data integrity by catching any errors in recording or entering the GLN.

Why is a GLN Number Important?

Five reasons why a GLN number is important

Here are several key reasons why GLN codes are crucial. 

Facilitates Global Standardisation and Compliance

GLNs enable the unequivocal identification of business operation points. They are integral in establishing global standards for identifying locations and entities. This standardisation simplifies international business transactions, helping companies comply with global trade regulations and practices, such as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in healthcare. 

Improves Supply Chain Efficiency and Visibility

GLNs allow for the unique and unambiguous identification of physical locations, legal entities, and functional units, enhancing efficiency and visibility along the supply chain. This clarity reduces errors and ambiguities in logistics, distribution, and inventory management. 

Assigning a unique identifier to every element of the supply chain also allows companies to automate and synchronise their operations more effectively, improving workflows and reducing costs. Additionally, GLNs help prevent human shipment errors and support a fully automated EDI communication system, ensuring a smooth flow of goods between business partners.

Enhances Data Quality and Management

With GLNs, businesses maintain a high level of data integrity and accuracy. GLNs help prevent data entry errors and ensure every transaction or communication is correctly linked to the intended entities and locations. They create a single source of truth for reliable party and location information, facilitating quick, accurate, and actionable data exchange.

Supports Effective Communication and Collaboration

GLNs facilitate clearer communication and collaboration both internally and with external partners. Having a consistent, standardised way to identify parties and locations ensures that information is directed appropriately and efficiently. 

This standardisation allows businesses and their trading partners to use the same identifiers across markets and channels, enhancing interoperability and reducing complexities in business interactions.

Enables Real-Time Tracking and Reporting

GLNs are vital for real-time tracking of goods and assets throughout the supply chain. This capability is crucial for managing logistics, especially in sectors where time-sensitive delivery and accurate location tracking are essential. Additionally, GLNs support robust reporting and analytics, allowing companies to gain insights into their operations and make informed decisions.

How to Get a GLN Number?

Five steps on how to get a GLN number

Obtaining a Global Location Number is a straightforward process that involves several key steps. Here’s how you can get a GLN number.

Step-1 Register with a GS1 Member Organisation

The first step in acquiring a GLN is registering with your local GS1 Member Organisation. 

You can find your local GS1 Member Organisation by visiting the GS1 Office List Page.

Step-2 Apply for a GS1 Company Prefix

After registering with GS1, the next step is to apply for a GS1 Company Prefix. To apply, follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to the GLN section on your GS1 Member Organisation’s website.
  2. Click on ‘Get a GS1 Company Prefix.’ You will be redirected to a GS1 Company Prefix application page.
  3. Use the dropdown menu to select the number of GLNs you need.
  4. After selecting the appropriate quantity, click ‘Add to cart.’
  5. A popup will appear, allowing you to review your cart before proceeding to checkout.
  6. Complete the checkout by clicking ‘Confirm order’ and follow the on-screen instructions to finalise the payment and order process. You will receive a welcome email from your GS1 Member Organisation with all necessary details, including access to myGS1, your online member centre.

Step-3 Assign Location References

With your GS1 Company Prefix in hand, you can begin assigning location references to different operational units within your organisation. The number of locations you can assign using the Company Prefix will be determined by the different “capacities” you selected when purchasing GLNs. 

These location references, along with your company prefix, form the first twelve digits of your GLNs.

Step-4 Generate Check Digits

Each GLN must have a check digit to complete the number. This check digit is calculated using a modulus-10 method. You can use the GS1 Check Digit Calculator or perform the calculation manually. 

Let’s learn how to calculate the check digit manually using “123456789012” as our example GLN. Assume N1 to N12 represent the first 12 digits of your GLN.

  • Assign each digit a weight: Alternate between multiplying each digit by 1 and 3, starting from N1 to N12. Here’s how the digits line up. 
  • Calculate the sum: Multiply each digit by its corresponding weight and sum the results – 1×1+2×3+3×1+4×3+5×1+6×3+7×1+8×3+9×1+0×3+1×1+2×3. This equates to 1+6+3+12+5+18+7+24+9+0+1+6 = 92
  • Calculate the check digit: To calculate the check digit, find the nearest higher multiple of ten, which is 100 in this case. Then, subtract the sum from this multiple to find the check digit. For our example, this will be 100−92 = 8

Thus, the check digit for the GLN “123456789012” is 8, making the complete GLN “1234567890128”.

Step-5 Render the GLN in the Chosen Format

Once the GLN is fully assigned and verified, encode the complete GLN into practical formats such as barcode labels or RFID tags using software like Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software. These formats ensure the GLN is easily scanned and integrated into various supply chain management systems, enhancing operational efficiency and data accuracy across different platforms and technologies.

How Much Does a GLN Cost?

The cost of obtaining a GLN number varies by country and depends on several factors, including the size of your business and the location identified with the GLN. Below is a table showing the cost of obtaining GLNs. 

Please note that these prices are subject to change. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please contact the GS1 Member Organisation in your country.


Number of Locations
Initial Fee
Annual Renewal Fee

New Zealand

Number of Locations
Licence Fee

United States

Number of Locations
Initial Fee
Annual Renewal Fee

The Bottom Line

In summary, Global Location Numbers play a pivotal role in optimising the accuracy and efficiency of identifying locations and entities within the global supply chain. This guide has outlined the process for obtaining a GLN, the costs involved, and the broad utility of implementing GLNs within various business contexts. 

Embracing GLNs enables organisations to meet international standards, streamline operations, and enhance the reliability of business interactions across diverse industries. As businesses continue to expand and operate globally, the integration of GLNs is crucial for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of supply chain management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Provides GLN Numbers?

GLN numbers are provided by GS1, a global non-profit organisation that develops and maintains standards for supply and demand chains across multiple sectors.

Is a GLN Number Mandatory?

GLN numbers are not universally mandatory but are essential for businesses participating in global supply chains that require standardised location and entity identification. They are often required by large retailers, healthcare providers, and industries where precise tracking and data synchronisation are necessary.

Who Needs a GLN?

GLNs are needed by manufacturers, retailers, healthcare entities, and any organisation involved in global trade that requires accurate location tracking and efficient supply chain management. They are crucial for businesses looking to streamline operations and enhance communication with trading partners.

Why Do I Need a GLN When I Have a Postal Address?

A GLN provides a unique and standardised identifier recognised globally and supports automated supply chain management processes. Postal addresses, on the other hand, can vary in format and detail depending on the country and can be subject to change due to local administrative decisions causing inconsistency in global trade. 

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