Sunday 28th May 2017 - Logistics & Supply Chain

Know it all

Next month will see the opening of Europe’s first centre for collecting and disseminating product information between supply chain partners. The
GS1 UK Data Pool is projected to have over 3,000 suppliers and 300,000 items within the system before the end of the year, making it the largest global data synchronisation compliant data pool in the world.

The pool, which involves a number of major retailers including Tesco and Makro (part of the Metro Group in Germany), gives suppliers the ability
to create accurate data and share it with others – initially in the UK. It has been developed to support Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) standards.

GDSN, run by GS1, involves creating a single registry of product data backed up by a series of local data pools around the world. Manufacturers
post detailed information to these pools. Retailers query the central registry and are directed to the appropriate pool to download the information
via the internet to their back office systems.

Party synchronisation
The data pools contain information about each product (identified through a bar code number or global trade number) and its location, defined by a second global location number. At the moment price information is not included in GDSN; that’s planned for later in the year. Pricing information is tricky as it involves giving companies the option of deciding who will see which prices. Facilities will also be introduced to allow data synchronisation between partners – what’s called party synchronisation.

GS1 UK, formerly known as the ecentre, has developed the pool in partnership with Udex, a data quality services provider and GXS, a B2B ecommerce solutions company. The UK pool will provide a one-stop-shop for all subscribers that wish to transact with partners worldwide. Subscribers apply to GS1 UK to join the organisation. Udex handles the process of cleaning and checking data, while GSX actually holds the
information.

The cleaning process will be important as it is vital to ensure only accurate data is held in the pools. Udex says it has already reduced mis-scans at Iceland grocery stores by 75 per cent and increased master file accuracy by 30 per cent.

There are now five data pools around the world containing details of 180,000 products. So far, the data pools have handled some 180,000 requests. Although joining a pool is cheap, at between €150 and €9,750 per year, the cost of implementing technology changes can be between
€1.5m and €3m.

Research company AT Kearney, estimates that €30bn or 3.5 per cent of total sales are lost each year due to supply chain inefficiencies, with errors in nearly one third of all the data in retail catalogues. These mistakes cost €60 to €90 to put right and take 25 minutes of clerical time per stock keeping unit.

Supply chain partners can expect to reduce their item set up and maintenance costs by 40 per cent at least by synchronising their product information via a centralised database, according to The Efficient Consumer Response Europe organisation.

‘Until recently, the biggest obstacle to data synchronisation we saw was simply the amount of inaccurate data,’ says Colin Cobain, chief information officer at Tesco.

‘Larger organisations are now seeing the light and taking steps to put this right but getting smaller enterprises involved in global data synchronisation has been a problem. They’ve not yet seen data synchronisation as a priority. They don’t realise what’s involved and few have taken steps to address data quality.’

Suppliers have been slow to join GDSN. One of the reasons is that getting accurate data posted in the pools involves a lot of hard work.

Information has to be collected from different parts of a manufacturing organisation; individual products must be weighed and measured. Details of a minimum of 52 attributes must be entered into the system and checked for accuracy, though some firms may have to cope with as many as 153.

GS1 is aiming to create 10 data pools around the world which will eventually be linked with a separate network carrying RFID information. GDSN will cope with slow-changing product information while the RFID network will deal with the actual movement of goods.

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