The United Nations Standard Product and Service Code, or UNSPSC, is a classification platform for products and services being bought, sold and exchanged in the global e-marketplace. It can be regarded as a kind of specialized language, used to classify and define products and services being traded in world e-commerce markets. And, like any language, it needs to be used regularly in order to be of any benefit.
The more UNSPSC coding is used, the more useful it becomes, and those in charge of UNSPSC classification had multiple challenges ahead of them in order to create a “user friendly” product. The current version was revised in 2001, and has over 18,000 listings. In the US, it competes with the eClass classification system.
UNSPSC is meant for classification (i.e. taxonomy), rather than identification. It aims to categorize products rather than describe them in detail. In mechanical engineering, this means the UNSPSC system is often used in conjunction with more specific standards. For example, the “bearings” category will have a sub-class, “ball bearing” (or “bearing, ball.”)The noun modifier identifies a particular type, but not much else. To fully identify the product, standard attributes, with specific values, must be applied. These allow products listed as “bearing, ball” to be accurately identified for engineering BOMs, product orders etc, using an identifier such as the GS1 GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) system. The UNSPSC coding “language” therefore acts as an interface with company catalogs, industry standard dictionaries etc.