Wouldn't it be efficient if product manufacturers routinely synchronized data with trading partners to improve warehouse productivity and freight efficiencies, as well as increase speed to market for new item launches?
Well, there is real progress toward those goals by makers and distributors of fast-moving consumer goods. Wegmans Food Markets and The Coca-Cola Co. are among a handful of national leaders leading the way to data synchronization. Supervalu Inc. is synchronizing supply chain data with hundreds of suppliers using the 1SYNC data pool via the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).
Global Data Synchronization (GDS) is the foundational framework to share data between manufacturers and retailers. It is an automated process that allows trading partners to agree on product characteristics such as description, quantity and size, to name a few. This technology allows the manual processes of ordering, shipping, invoicing and maintenance to be reduced or eliminated. Thus, inefficiencies and costs are driven down considerably. Most importantly, GDS is about people and processes collaborating to form an integrated value chain.
GDSN handles the synchronization of product data for more than 5,000 trading partners with the vast majority being product manufacturers. 1SYNC, Lawrenceville, NJ, a subsidiary of GS1 US, was formed by the merger of Transora and UCCnet. It offers several solutions designed to eliminate costly data errors, increase supply chain efficiencies, and provide a foundation for the implementation of next-generation technologies, such as the Electronic Product Code/Radio Frequency Identification (EPC/RFID).
What is the current state of affairs for GDS and supply chain management throughout the grocery industry?
"The best news is that the validation and support for this effort has been well documented and the list of companies seeing success continues to grow," says Tom Duffy of TDLinx, a Nielsen division based in Wilton, CT. "In addition, the market has seen the value of leveraging the investments in a blend of both industry standards for trading partner-to-trading partner collaboration and existing proprietary solutions behind firewalls to drive the progress."
Duffy believes that those lines may have been blurred in the past. But from a content perspective, new clarity has evolved over the last few years to drive a model that leverages the use of clean, accurate "master data" with methodologies that deliver maintenance and scale.
"As actual demand is communicated out to vendors, forecasting accuracy improves and stock-outs are more quickly identified and dealt with," explains Chad Symens, president and CEO of Ohio-based Rainmaker Data Warehousing. "The bottom line is increased sales for both the retailer and vendor as fewer and fewer out-of-stock situations are encountered."
Vendors that are provided with more detailed activity data, he adds, are better able to understand customer's preferences and then incorporate that knowledge into future product decisions.
Data Accuracy Is Key
North American manufacturers have loaded product master data accounting for over 71 percent of sales in certified data pools with an average of over 32 percent of sales being synchronized with trading partners. Although that number is nowhere near ideal, there is a significant movement of trading partners understanding the value of data synchronization in their collaboration efforts.
For example, improved accuracy of weights and measure can increase the speed and efficiency of moving products in a distribution center. Instead of transactions slowing down for necessary data corrections at various points, products can flow faster, thus reducing inbound and outbound transportation costs.