by UL Materials and Supply Chain
A UFI (Unique Formula Identifier) can only ever be associated with one formulation i.e. two products with different compositions cannot have the same UFI. In the case of re-branded products which have the same composition, for marketing and/or confidentiality reasons you may want to have a different UFI for each brand even though they have the same formulation. This will prevent customers knowing that two re-branded products are identical.
There are two main approaches for generating UFIs for products:
- Mixture-centric approach: Every formulation has a single UFI and regardless of what packaging/market/brand the mixture has, the UFI on the label is the same.
- Advantages: Typically less UFI codes to manage
- Disadvantages: Customers will be able tell that re-branded products have the same formulation
- Product-centric approach: Every (re-branded) product has its own UFI.
- Advantages: Customers will not be able tell that re-branded products have the same formulation
- Disadvantages: Potentially a lot more UFI codes to manage
The UFI is generated using the combination of a VAT number (or company key) and a formulation number, which ensures that no duplicate UFIs can be generated. If you decide to have a different UFI for each re-branded product you can generate them in two ways:
- Each re-branded product has the same formulation number. The VAT number (or company key) will be different depending on which company the re-branded product is for. If you choose to use the VAT number of the company you must ensure that the company themselves have not generated the same UFI.
- Each re-branded product has a unique formulation number. You use the same VAT number. [This may be an easier option as everything can be managed internally].
Keeping track of information
Whichever approach is used it is really important to keep a track of which UFI corresponds to which product. The same UFI must never be used for mixtures with different compositions or kept when a product has changed composition. You must also keep track of any composition changes for a product that will require a change in UFI (and subsequent PCN update and relabelling).
For every mixture it is advisable to have a system that shows the following information for every mixture and/or product:
|Internal formulation/product code of the mixture||This will typically need to be converted into the formulation number which will be used to generate the UFI (unless the product code already conforms to the criteria).
Checks must be made to ensure that there are no duplicate formulation numbers otherwise two mixtures with different compositions could have the same UFI.
|Internal formulation number used to generate the UFI||9-digit number between 0 and 268435455.
May be same as product code.
|VAT number (or “company key”) used to generate the UFI|
Decoding the UFI
It is possible to decode the UFI to reveal the VAT number (or “company key”) and the formulation number. The algorithm for creating UFIs was not kept secret because the information used to generate the UFI is not considered to be confidential information. Decoding the UFI will not reveal any compositional details of the product, however it can reveal the VAT number. If you are a toll formulator, you will probably want to hide sensitive information about business relationships and identical mixtures. This can be achieved by:
- Using the clients VAT numbers
- Using different formulation numbers for different clients
As there are “UFI decoders” easily available online, think carefully about what information you use to generate your UFI and assume they can be visible to others.
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