GS1-Making sense of the Supply Chain, by Stibo Systems
Written by Simon Walker (pictured, right), Director, Ecommerce Innovation, Stibo Systems
Customers now have very high expectations for their shopping experience, regardless of the channel they use. They want their journey to be smooth and seamless regardless of whether it starts in store, online or over the phone. At the same time, the complexity of the channels available to consumers is proving challenging for retailers to manage, and this particularly applies to information. Businesses now face the challenge of ensuring that they use the correct information, regardless of channel and source in order to meet customer expectations and deliver a satisfying experience. This comes at a time when the amount of data flowing through a business has reached new heights.
In turn, the supply chain faces a real obstacle if retailers and suppliers use their own data formats and conventions. Often this leads to inconsistent and incomplete information entering the supply chain, resulting in both errors and incorrect brand messaging. Customers then begin to complain at the lack of consistency in the overall omni-channel experience and grow frustrated when their expectations about new products appearing in-store or online are not met.
At the same time, with new EU regulations regarding food labelling set to come into force shortly, the information flowing through a business on food related products needs to be more accurate than ever. Other industries are also likely to be affected in the future by new regulation around data as the amount of information that businesses store grows exponentially.
Part of the answer to this challenge are the industry wide standards put forward by GS1, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that focuses on encouraging businesses to use these standards to increase efficiency in industries such as retail.
GS1 has become the most globally used standard for managing different data pools and in the UK alone has 24,000 member organisations, all of which conform to the same processes. It allows trading partners to understand one another regardless of where they are based, what language they use, or what products they are trading with.
Some of the country’s largest retailers use GS1 to pull down information from their respective food manufacturers, being more efficient and saving money as a result. It is an integral part of the supply chain, yet is something that the customer knows next to nothing about.
But, while GS1 delivers a number of benefits to organisations throughout the supply chain, there are gaps in its coverage where businesses have not adopted the standard, and it can be costly for smaller organisations to adopt in the first place.
For those businesses unable to take the step up to the GS1 standard there is an alternative process that can help bring efficiency to their company supply chain. More often than not, the product information held by a business is stored across a variety of spreadsheets by a range of individuals. This results in great difficulty when details about a product change, or if a business wants to market a new product. This data complexity is increased even further when you take into account that supply chain systems, warehouse management solutions and online platforms will also all have their own data sets. The key to resolving this data dilemma lies in Master Data Management (MDM) solutions which integrate into a manufacturer’s IT landscape. With such solutions, businesses are able to store their data in a central repository, allowing them to easily and accurately share this information across the organisation, and with partners and customers in real time, saving both time and money.
At the same time, in the age of the multichannel customer, MDM solutions allow businesses to share more than the bare product information, providing partners with enriched content such as images, product specifications and brand information.
GS1 gives manufacturers, retailers and organisations in the supply chain greater efficiency in the modern, globalised economic environment. However, with the changing way we are purchasing goods, on both a B2B and B2C basis, it needs to be supported by a system that allows for an increased level of product detail and sophistication. Tied to the demands being put in place by upcoming EU legislation there is a clear need for businesses to ensure that they have appropriate processes and technology in place to cope with the information in their business. The amount of data that businesses throughout the supply chain have to cope with is only set to increase – so standards and appropriate solutions need to be put in place in order for them to prosper in the long term.