Barcodes, Standards Are Key To Efficiency

With Pam Tann of Sysco Corp. Houston

Barcodes, Standards Are Key To Efficiency

In our November/December 2005 issue, we uncovered deficiencies in the use of barcodes in foodservice distribution. Where is SYSCO at with regard to barcoding at its facilities?

Tann: SYSCO has been using barcoding and scanning in our operations for more than 10 years. Every SYSCO facility has scanning capability and takes advantage of moving accurately barcoded product efficiently from order point to delivery. We aggressively pursue standards compliance and see annual improvement in the number of suppliers and cases bearing scannable symbols.

What kind of barcodes does SYSCO use, and how does it ensure that barcodes are consistent at all facilities and operating companies?

Tann: SYSCO accepts barcodes meeting global standards set by GS1 US. We require UCC-14 global trade identification numbers (GTINs) on each shipping case/container and UPC-12 GTIN product code on individually packaged sellable units within the case. We recommend and prefer UCC/EAN-128 symbology on cases and pallets, however, we will accept ITF-14 if product appropriate. Our trading partners selected for inclusion in our redistribution centers are required to use UCC/EAN-128 for variable weight cases and all pallet labels.

Ensuring barcode consistencies is a challenge and our tracking processes are rapidly evolving. Today, as products are received into SYSCO facilities, if the scan fails or does not match the data record, it is reported to a centralized system. On the dock, the receiver may choose to refuse the product based on the scanning error. SYSCO has long maintained a shared item master across its enterprise and we require a valid GTIN UCC-14 from the supplier prior to adding new items or trading electronic transactions.

How do products come labeled into SYSCO facilities, and does SYSCO then re-code them for its own purposes?

Tann: More than 85 percent of products, excluding produce, come into our facilities from suppliers with barcoding at the case level. At this time, we are not re-coding cases. We do create internal-use pallet identifiers as cases or layers are removed from full pallet configurations for inventory and warehouse management. The volume of Pallet LPN GTIN application is unsatisfactory and negatively impacts advance shipping notice, logistics, receiving, inventory management and transaction accuracy. This is counterproductive to efficiencies anticipated in the foodservice supply chain.

Does SYSCO use any of the data synchronization companies/data poolers out there? If so, why, which one(s), and how does the company send information? What information goes in and what comes out?

Tann: SYSCO works with both suppliers and ITN to assist us with key data element synchronizations to ensure successful EDI transactions. By year’s end we will finalize a close-to real-time SYSCO product catalog synchronization routine with ITN.

Critical information starts with standard product identification using UCC-14 GTIN and UPC-12 product codes at the point of manufacture.

hen we start with accurate GTIN’s, the rest of data synchronization is a piece of cake and any discrepancies between our records and the manufacturer’s can be quickly and efficiently identified pro-actively, saving time and improving order accuracy.

SYSCO shares all GTIN’s, our internal SYSCO Product Code, the supplier’s product code, pack/size, brand and description on all orders and transactions with our trading partners. Some choose to receive all our data elements; some choose to edit our send to meet their needs.
What is SYSCO doing with suppliers and customers to make sure that data is consistent from start to finish?

Tann: We actively participate in setting global industry standards to support all six Efficient Foodservice Response (EFR) strategies: e-commerce, equitable alliances, logistics optimization, standard product identification, supply chain demand forecasting and category management. More importantly, we engage in the implementation of each initiative. SYSCO constantly pushes the envelope, searching out new technology for systems, product handling and transportation in balance with our commitment to meet every customer’s needs today and their future desires.

DM (master data management), touted as the new best route, had a head start at SYSCO. More than 10 years ago our management committed to investing in and implementing a shared uniform system and had the foresight to start that implementation with a centralized shared product and supplier data master. With industry-wide commitment to global standards compliance we can leap to MDM to close the circle of data consistency from field to plate—so fundamental, yet so critical to driving costs and inefficiencies out of the foodservice supply chain.

Is an industry-wide standard possible?

Tann: Not only is an industry-wide standard possible, it is feasible. When RFID becomes cost-effective, we can share volumes of information. Alone, this fact makes global standards adoption imperative. How much inconsistent and unimportant information do we all want to store, sift and search? We don’t need more information, we need accurate information that each trading partner can use. Foodservice industry standards can become a reality right now. We have the tools. Consider this: What if each of us focused on GTIN and GLN barcode and data compliance for the next six months? Couldn’t we be there?