Thursday 18th Apr 2019 - Logistics & Supply Chain

GDS grows up

Global data synchronisation (GDS), the continual alignment of manufacturers’ data with their retail customers’ item files has been growing up fast but not fast enough.

The business case for GDS is reasonably obvious. Despite widespread use of EDI, a stubbornly high percentage of electronic supply chain transactions are erroneous and expensive to correct. More painful is that many shipments are rejected when products/cases/pallets can’t be recognised on the retailer’s product database which often holds different values from the manufacturer’s due to re-keying errors and lost update records.

GDS lacks the clear business case associated with EDI. When retailers first implemented EDI, hundreds of clerical jobs became redundant, delivering this most tangible of cost reductions. Retailers have collectively issued much gentler requests to participate in GDS than they did for EDI.

Many causes of slow adoption stem from the collision between established and new voluntary practices. To make matters even more confusing, a plethora of global and local data pools emerged. WWRE and Transora stood in the global corner while many smaller local commercial ventures and each GS1 country association stood in the other.

The result has not been pretty. Given constant change and uncertainty, manufacturers have rightly been reluctant to invest in the complex systems implementations and business process reengineering projects that GDS demands to be successful. Today, the vast majority of manufacturers still use the fax approach to print and re-key product data that is wired to retailers. What a shame.

But cause for optimism exists. The data pool topology is settled, with GS1 local country data pools seen as stable vehicles. Retailers are once again requesting manufacturers to participate in GDS. Recently Tesco, Asda and Makro announced an initiative with GS1 UK to boost adoption. For manufacturers the business and technical requirements are clearer. They also have a range of more affordable IT tools like product information management systems available to help them do the job correctly and consign the fax to the skip.

David Hogg, retail/CPG solutions manager, EMEA for Sterling Commerce

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