Over the last decade, Global Data Synchronization (GDS) has been evolving as a standard practice for businesses to share product data. This practice is greatly improving the accuracy of product data, increasing the speed to market for new products and reducing the costs in the supply chain. Within the last year, we’ve seen Global Data Synchronization move into new phases:
- The early adopters have integrated GS1 Item Alignment into their everyday business processes.
- More industry verticals are selecting GS1 Item Alignment as their standard method for exchanging product data.
- An expansion to new regions and product synchronization across regions is becoming more common.
As testimony to the widespread adoption, the use of GTINs (Global Trade Item Number) continues to expand and the Global Registry has now reached 7 million strong. In the Consumer Product Goods space, GS1 Item alignment is mature and this is influencing the later adopters. A lot of lessons have been learned and the keys to success center around GS1 Item alignment integrated into core business practices.
What has been happening over the last year?
UConnect Live 2011
At the annual UConnect conference held by GS1 US, the increased adoption and implementation of GDS standards was evident. GS1 Item alignment has become more mature — with not just the larger organizations participating, but small- to medium-sized companies imbedding standards into their internal systems and business processes.
LANSA Data Sync Direct User Group
We held our first LANSA Data Sync Direct User Group meeting at the 2011 UConnect conference, which was well attended by our customers. The biggest challenges they face are keeping up with the standards and gathering, sending, or receiving their item data faster and with increased accuracy. We’re focusing our new development efforts mainly in the area of increasing speed, accuracy and usability of our applications to meet these demands.
LANSA has recently become the first certified solution partner providing an automated end-to-end Global Data Synchronization solution for GS1 UK, where activity with GS1 Item alignment is increasing. Businesses in the UK are seeing the benefits that are being realized in other regions and are moving towards adoption of the GS1 standards.
The foodservice industry has moved away from proprietary Item alignment and has adopted GS1 standards. A GS1 Foodservice Initiative was formed about three years ago to respond to their specific needs, resulting in guidance for those companies in this sector. A set of Phase 1 and Phase 2 attributes was identified and has since been implemented in the standards in 2011.
The healthcare industry is focusing their efforts on adopting GS1 standards to keep up with requirements to have better, more accurate product definition and identification. We’re seeing a lot activity in the GS1 healthcare workgroups as companies work towards addressing any shortcomings in the standards to ensure that GS1 Item Alignment will be successful in their line of business.
Global Integrated Solutions
We’re also seeing more and more global solutions being put in place. As many of our customers move towards global ERP and/or Master Data Management solutions, they’re using LANSA to connect to these systems to leverage this product data. Many of the greatest successes with GS1 Item alignment are when there is a single point of truth for the management of product data.
How do you take advantage of Data Synchronization to benefit your organization?
STEP 1 – Create a Global Data Synchronization Plan
- Align with one data pool.
- A certified GS1 Data Pool should be able to provide you one entry point into the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). If you’re being asked to join more than one data pool, ask a lot of questions and encourage your trading partners to only use GS1 standards. If they use standards, you should be able to select any data pool of your choice.
- Understand GS1 item alignment standards and rules.
- Use your data pool to train you on GTIN and GLN (Global Location Number) standards and allocation rules.
- Identify if any packaging or labeling changes are required for your products to meet these standards.
- Identify who owns GDS in your organization.
- Identify your key trading partners that will provide you the greatest benefit with which to align your product data .
STEP 2 – Understand Your Product Data
Having one single point of truth for information about your products is the key to Global Data Synchronization. Identifying that one point of truth and building systems and business processes around that will create the ultimate benefits for your organization and your business partners.
- If you are the Supplier of product data:
- Identify the one place where a product attribute will be maintained and who the owner is of that data. Product attributes may reside in many systems within your organization. It’s important to select a solution partner that can aggregate these product attributes and provide the ability to fill in the gaps for product data that you don’t currently have.
- Verify the data for accuracy and put processes in place to keep this data accurate.
- Identify who is responsible for the data and the processes to approve any new items, changes to items and the discontinuation of items.
- If you are the Recipient of product data:
- Identify the product data you will receive via GDS and how you will leverage that data inside your organization.
- Identify the product data you do not receive via GDS and how that data will be assigned and maintained.
- Select a solution partner that can aggregate the GDS- and non-GDS data and integrate with your internal systems.
STEP 3 – Execute Your Plan
- Implement your integrated solution enabling product data to smoothly flow through the supply chain.
- Implement your business workflow for verification and approval of new products, changes to products and discontinuation of products.
- Align your product data with your trading partners via publication and confirmation processes. The more partners you align with, the greater the return on the investment you have made in GS1 Item alignment.
- Stay in tune with developments and changes within GDSN. If your industry sector has workgroups or user groups, it’s helpful to participate. Keep in regular communication with your data pool and with any community activities they offer.
If you’re new to Global Data Synchronization or you’re looking for a better way to align product data with your trading partners, now is the time to get started. The standards, tools and adoption levels are mainstream and you just need to develop the plan that’s best for your organization to maximize your benefits.