The United States cotton industry has worked aggressively to improve handling and storage efficiencies and reduces operating costs of the movement of raw fiber throughout its supply chain. In 1998 the United States industry adopted a standard identifier of each bale of raw cotton. This not only assists the U.S. cotton industry in moving toward more electronic processing of information, but also minimizes record-keeping errors. This system is called Permanent Bale Identification or PBI. The PBI system allows textile mill customers of U.S. raw cotton to streamline their receiving and inventory operations.
The PBI effort begin in 1996 when a Task Force was established by the U.S. cotton industry within the membership of the National Cotton Council. The Task Force was asked to investigate how a single identifier could be developed for every bale of US produced cotton. The PBI system involves placing a permanent, unique number on each bale of cotton at its origination point — the cotton gin. It is placed on each bale in a standard tag format and will remain on the bale throughout the entire handling and marketing process.
The PBI Task Force felt several operating principles were important to define in this initial stage of the effort. First, gin numbering series can no longer be repeated each year. This is the most essential element of the PBI system. To ensure that no PBI number will be duplicated over a specified time period, USDA agreed to expand its traditional monitoring of bale numbers used by gins from one year to five years. Therefore, beginning with the 1997 crop, bale numbers used by gins cannot be repeated for a five year period. In subsequent years, gins are required to pick up the number series and not repeat numbers used in previous years.
Also, the Task Force understood the importance of minimizing disruption of internal business operations at warehouses, so the PBI system permits warehouse receipting and sampling practices to remain unchanged. Gin/warehouse operations using a "one-tag" system need to continue to provide warehouse code and warehouse bale number on a coupon in the sample that goes to the buyer. Warehouses observe that PBI tags arrive on bales and ensure they remain on the bale when it moves out of the warehouse. Mills ensure the PBI tags remain on rejected bales.
The PBI system focuses on two major areas — the number and the tag format. The number is 12-digits — a combination of the 5-digit gin code and the 7-digit gin bale number. This combination ensures that each bale has its own unique identifier that will not be found on any other bale. The PBI tag format focuses on the components that are common throughout the industry and provides gins the flexibility to include other components — such as additional coupons — that are needed for their own business purposes. The format includes a stub — which will remain on the bale at all times — and coupons or "tear-offs" that will be needed by Mills and USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.
Each tag has a USA identification. The USA designation to clearly distinguish the bale as a bale produced in the USA. The "Permanent Bale Id" wording and also printing "Do Not Remove" will serve to indicate this is the PBI tag and should remain on the bale at all times. The number is printed in the traditional components — gin code and gin bale number in small eye-readable number but for automation purposes is also represented in a large code-128 barcode as a single 12-digit number. Also, for internal handling purposes, the 7-digit bale number is provided in a large eye-readable format. The format also provides for "blank" space for general use.
The PBI system is voluntary. However, it is important to recognize that the U.S. cotton industry has worked together to develop the PBI system and textile manufacturers will begin requesting it in their contracts each crop year. It is just another example of the continual innovation of the U.S. cotton industry. The entire industry is dedicated to using all resources to provide the best product at the lowest cost in the most efficient way. You can be assured that yarns and fabrics containing a majority of U.S. cotton benefit from these advances.