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Version 16.0901
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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about UNSPSC®

Membership FAQs

GS1 US Related Questions

Miscellaneous

What is the UNSPSC?
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The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a hierarchical convention that is used to classify all products and services. It is the most efficient, accurate and flexible classification system available today for achieving company-wide visibility of spend analysis, enabling procurement to deliver on cost-effectiveness demands and allowing full exploitation of electronic commerce capabilities.

The UNSPSC was jointly developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Dun & Bradstreet Corporation (D & B) in 1998. It has been managed by GS1 US since 2003.
 

Who owns the UNSPSC?
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) owns all rights to the UNSPSC. The U.S. Copyright Office has also granted copyright registration to the UNSPSC and the U.S. Patent and Trademark office has granted trademark protection. UNDP addresses all legal issues and will take appropriate legal action to protect its interests in the UNSPSC.
 
Who manages the UNSPSC?
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The UNDP appointed GS1 US as code manager in May 2003. The code manager is responsible for ensuring compliance with the principles of the UNSPSC as well as the integrity of the code schema. GS1 US is responsible for overseeing code change requests, industry revision projects, issuing regularly scheduled updates to the Code, communications with members, as well as special projects and initiatives as determined both by the UNDP and member requests.
 
Does GS1 US make all the management decisions regarding UNSPSC?
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As Code Manager, GS1 US is charged with managing code maintenance, designated projects, appropriate communications with members and the user community and other duties as assigned. The UNDP has taken an active role in developing criteria and. The UNDP is also actively participating in outreach and communications to members and other organizations who share an interest in the UNSPSC. The Membership and user communities of UNSPSC provide vital information to the management team to guide on strategy, policies, processes and other areas as needed.
 
Why should businesses classify products & services?
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Classifying products and services with a common coding scheme facilitates commerce between buyers and sellers and is becoming mandatory in the new era of electronic commerce. Large companies are beginning to code purchases in order to analyze their spending.

Nonetheless, most company coding systems today have been very expensive to develop. The effort to implement and maintain these systems usually requires extensive utilization of resources, over an extended period of time. Additionally, maintenance is an on-going, and expensive, process. For each new item coded, it takes on average of an hour and a half to assign a code. Also company’s suppliers usually don’t adhere to the coding schemes of their customers – if they assign codes at all.

Much duplicated effort and expense has gone into making codes. If there was a single universal coding convention that all companies could draw from – even if the companies wanted to customize it for specific purposes – there would be a great deal of savings.

By classifying their products & services, businesses can assist their customers with:

  • Finding and Purchasing - a product and service coding convention brings many benefits to the purchasing function of a company
  • Product discovery - a common naming convention allows computer systems to automatically list similar products under a single category. When a person is searching for the category, he or she finds precisely the things being discovered and nothing else.
  • Facilitates expenditure analysis - when every purchase transaction of an enterprise is tagged with a common set of product identifiers, purchasing managers are able to analyze enterprise expenditures.
  • Control and uniformity across the company - codes bring a single, uniform view of all expenditures in a company. It ties together all departments and divisions, including business functions such as purchasing and settlement.
Should UNSPSC be used in our company?
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All companies should consider using the UNSPSC as a routine matter of business.

The Marketing and sales organizations should endeavor to mark-up electronic catalogs, invoices, and other commercial documentation with the UNSPSC.

Purchasing departments should incorporate the codes in purchasing systems to assist employees throughout the company to find and purchase supplies and, for themselves, to analyze the supplies expenditures of the company.

By embedding UNSPSC classification standards into your management systems - purchase orders, invoices, electronic documents, product catalogues, websites - all parties throughout the extended supply chain benefit.

Here are some examples:

  • Procurement can keep an eye on how much is spent buying what. This information is readily available to them to analyze the specifics in the buying process at the level of detail that most suits the business needs in a timely and precise manner. They can cut in half or less the time it takes to find the products needed by searching by commodity code through brokers, on line exchanges, business partners, etc. across the globe. They can spot buying patterns across departments or business units to leverage better conditions from suppliers and realize overall savings.
  • Marketing is able to get field data fast for market research, product development, and sales analysis, ultimately delivering to the company's bottom line, via customer satisfaction.
  • Sales can monitor sales channels and distribution all the way to the store shelf or end user. They can gather market intelligence quickly via electronic platforms for accurate sales analysis. They can extend the reach of their products to customers across the globe by publishing e-catalogues, registering with search engines or third-party market places.

 

How does UNSPSC work?
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XX Segment
The logical aggregation of families for analytical purposes
  
XX Family
A commonly recognized group of inter-related commodity categories

   
XX Class
A group of commodities sharing common characteristics

    
XX Commodity
A group of substitutable products or services

   
  
XX Business Function
The function performed by an organization in support of the commodity 

All UNSPSC entities are further identified with an 8-digit structured numeric code which both indicates its location in the taxonomy and uniquely classifies it. An additional 2-digit suffix indicates the business function identifier. A structural view of the code set would look as follows:

Hierarchy
Category Number
Name
Segment
43
Information Technology Broadcasting and Telecommunications Communications Devices and Accessories
Family
20
Components for information technology or broadcasting or telecommunications Computer Equipment and Accessories
Class
15
Computers Computer accessories
Commodity
01
Computer switch boxes Docking stations
Business Function
14Retail
 
For more information on how the UNSPSC hierarchy is set up and how UNSPSC works, please read the White Paper.
 

If I can't find the code for my product, what should I do? How do I make changes to the code? How do I add a new code?
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We highly encourage our members to request codes that they feel will enhance UNSPSC's current capabilities, as well as sponsor full segment revision projects as appropriate. UNSPSC is a member-based organization and we work closely with our members to address issues of both breadth and depth in the codeset.

Any individual or entity can request a change to the code (addition, deletion, move, or edit) after becoming a member of UNSPSC. Requests are posted on the UNSPSC website and voted by Segment Technical Advisers - voting members who have elected to become actively involved in the update of the UNSPSC by contributing their specific expertise.
 

How do I find a product or service in the code?
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The easiest way to find the codes that you are searching for is to do a search of the codeset.

Click on “Search the Code” at the top of the page. We suggest entering a description in the “Search Title” box. It can be a partial description; use “%” as a wild card. For example, entering “%Clamp%” will return all codes containing the word “clamp”. From there you can determine specific clamps that may pertain to your business.

Sometimes a commodity may not be found because:

  • Different phrases are used in different regions. For example, the term “cooling exchanger” is the same commodity as a “heat exchanger”; “allen wrenches” are the same commodity as a “hex key”
  • The item may be described by what it is rather than how it is used.
  • The code is only searchable in English (this will soon change)
What is my company's UNSPSC?
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UNSPSC is a commodity code that identifies goods and services sold by a company, not generally the company itself. If another company is asking for your UNSPSC, it is probable they are trying to determine your primary area of business.
 

Translation Strategy
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We are committed to providing the translations to the code that our members need and are taking a methodical and disciplined approach to achieve timely, first quality translations. Monitor our UNSPSC website and newsletters for the most current information.

All translations for UNSPSC are done by user companies who volunteer their services to accomplish such translations. If your company would like to help with a translation, please contact UNSPSC at info@UNSPSC.org.
 

What should I do when a new version of UNSPSC is released?
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Use the unique identifier (contained in the UNSPSC audit file) to help decide what course of action to take (i.e., do nothing or implement the new version). The unique identifier does not change when a commodity is reclassified. The unique identifier is called the “effective_id” or the "changed-id" (depending on the status of what happened to the code.

For example, when a new code is added to the codeset, an "effective_id" is created (this is NOT the same as the UNSPSC code number). When a code is deleted from the codeset the unique identifier is shown in the "changed_id" column and in the "effective_id" column is shown the unique identifier for the UNSPSC code to which the deleted code can be mapped.

We recommend that companies periodically compare the Unique Identifiers in your file with the audit file distributed with the latest release of the codeset. This method will identify if a specific commodity has been moved or deleted and enables a fact-based analysis of the impact of the changes on your ERP system.
 
How is UNSPSC funded?
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UNSPSC is funded through member fees.
 
Is there a fee to become a member of UNSPSC?
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Yes. The fees are nominal and are intended to fulfill the mission of the UNDP. The latest version of the code, less membership benefits, will always be available free of charge to the general public.
 
Is this an annual or one-time fee?
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It is an annual fee. It covers the first year of membership in the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) and is renewable annually thereafter.

By maintaining your membership you can enjoy the valuable business-building benefits including continued participation in UNSPSC maintenance, development and related activities. Click here to view membership options.
 

How long does it take to process my application?
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That depends on the method you use to join. If you choose to utilize the online member application and pay by credit card, your membership is processed and activated within 48 hours.

Should you decide to mail in the application with a check, the normal processing time is three to five business days upon receipt. Upon processing your application you will receive an acknowledgement email from us, providing you with login and other information you need as a UNSPSC member.
 

When will I be billed for my membership renewal fee?
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You will be reminded of your membership renewal via email approximately 90 days prior to your membership expiration. The actual billing schedule for companies will be based on the anniversary month of joining the UNSPSC.
 
Who can I contact if I need additional information on my membership renewal?
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The UNSPSC Customer Service team can be reached at info@UNSPSC.org. While emails are received at any time, the team will respond during regular business hours, Monday-Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST. Any request should be answered within 3 business days.
 
I mark some of my products with a UPC and some with a GS1 symbol. What do I mark with UNSPSC?
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UNSPSC is a commodity classifier; it is not marked on products. Generally commodity identifiers are assigned by manufacturers/suppliers although this may vary by needs of the business or the marketplace.
 
Will UNSPSC replace GTINs?
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GTINs are used to identify trade items while UNSPSC is used to classify commodities, which generally are not as granular as trade items.
 
How does the UNSPSC and the GS1 Global Product Classification (GPC) relate?
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GPC (unlike UNSPSC) provides detailed classification attributes and values for products primarily in retail trade. UNSPSC (unlike GPC) provides a global classification framework for all products and services in all industry sectors. The two systems do not overlap and are complementary to each other.
 
Do you have any training scheduled about UNSPSC?
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A free "Introduction to UNSPSC" on-demand webinar and slides are available click here to access the webinar. This program was developed by a respected UNSPSC consultant and provides a 20-minute overview of the codeset, its use and benefits.
 
Can you give me a list of members?
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Due to privacy agreements, we do not divulge specific member names. However, our members comprise global corporations such as General Electric and Deutsche Telekom as well as small firms. Several government entities, as well as universities and other educational institutions also utilize UNSPSC.
 
How often do you release new versions of UNSPSC?
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Our policy calls for at least one release per year. In special situations an additional release may be added to the schedule.
 
What is the Harmonized Code?
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The Harmonized Code (commonly referred to as the HS – Harmonized System - classification) is designed primarily for, and required to be used in, customs documents for the purpose of applying trade tariffs. The UNSPSC was designed for procurement and purchasing systems for analytics.

HS is maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and requires international governmental consultation and approval.
 

What is the difference between NATO and UNSPSC?
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The UNSPSC is an "open source" standard for content, meaning that it is truly in the public domain. The United Nations owns the copyright to the work contributed by the UNSPSC volunteer experts. For this reason, the codeset can be used without any use restrictions or licensing fees. While the NATO system is a very good system, it is designed to meet the needs of NATO whereas the UNSPSC is designed specifically for commercial procurement purposes.
 
How does UNSPSC differ from NAIC and SIC?
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The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) coding systems which describe the operations of a business, while the UNSPSC provides a very specific product-centric viewpoint.