Data pools – the efficiency and accuracy of exchanges

For many years I have supported the initiative for exchanging product related data, based around standards, electronically between trading partners. Today this initiative has gone to another level in the ways your business can improve its connection with its suppliers and customers.

The problem

Complex supply chains with manufactures’ products reaching the ultimate consumer through a range of alternative sales channels.

Each trader collects product data from its suppliers for the products that it chooses to sell.

This information will include data such as:

  • Product codes
  • Barcodes
  • Pack quantities
  • Dimensions and weights
  • Minimum order quantities

It will also typically include marketing information such as:

  • Product descriptions
  • Web copy
  • Images
  • Allergens
  • Legislation compliance

In most cases, the demand side requests for product data are essentially the same. However, the absence of any kind of standard for the provision of this data has led to individual traders each creating their own version of new product forms. In turn this means that each supplier has to format the data over and over again.

The lack of any standardised process also leads to data sets being incomplete or inadequate for the traders’ needs. Prompt and thorough notification of product changes is another problem area.

The Solution

The solution to this challenge started with OPDEX and office products specific solution using UDEX technology, around 15 years ago.  GXS took over from UDEX and ultimately merged their technology services with GS1’s offerings.

GS1 still provide this service today along with several other provides, here I mention two I have worked with.

The GS1 standard Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) is its method of exchanging product information.  GDSN is beneficial to major companies because it allows all aspects of their supply chain to improve the quality of their master data. This enables each area of the business and its trading partners to have access to the same information, leading to a greater level of consistency.

Virtual Stock, their cloud-based solution, is able to consume data from any system, in any format and output that data to any other system, in any format, in accordance with data owners unique set of business rules.

The Challenge

The biggest challenge in moving to a technology solution to exchange data as opposed to a typical spreadsheet solution is not an easy sell in a business case, however there are many benefits.  I have previously had my business case approved at board level and successfully uploaded data into a data pool for a small group of suppliers.

The benefits;

  • Cost & Time Saving – No longer a need to complete customer “New line forms” for new products each season
  • Improved Error Reconciliation – data we supplied to customers is more up-to-date, they then use the correct GTIN’s (barcodes) therefore fewer errors and exceptions occur on EDI orders
  • Consistency & Global Standards – addresses consistency in content & attribute values
  • Accuracy – ensures logistical information is correct, leading to improved efficiency in supplier & customer warehouses
  • Data Completeness – addresses breadth of attributes required by the trading partner community, including mandatory attributes, valid values and attribute syntax
  • Up-To-Date Data & Reduced Fines – When product data is changed our customers will be advised of the change, we currently do not do this & face fines for incorrect data. – add here any fines you have had levied due to incorrect data being provided
  • Value statement – state the current time spent in hours and cost on completing customer data forms vs the time using a data pool solution

I fully support using a data pool to exchange data, however it needs careful consideration on how your organisation can benefit from this as acceptance will be as tough as any data quality or governance initiative.  It just needs the passion and drive from a few to reap the success.

Good luck

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