Tesco’s suppliers will be expected to start cleaning up their master product data and publishing it in a standards-compliant data pool in the first half of next year.
John Mooney, senior business analyst at Tesco, which called 500 suppliers to its head office in October to explain its data synchronisation strategy, said bad data was a primary cause of stock shortages, invoice disputes and supply chain glitches, causing “service failure and re-work throughout the supply chain”.One supplier at the meeting said no mandates were issued, but that it was “clear that getting to grips with Global Data Synchronisation (GDS) would become a condition of doing business with Tesco at some point”.
He added: “As supply chains become more automated and we start using radio frequency identification (RFID), retailers are going to be increasingly intolerant of shoddy data.”
Last month, a clutch of leading manufacturers and retailers, including Kraft, Masterfoods, Nestlé, Cadbury Trebor Bassett, Unilever, Tesco and Asda pledged to support the GDS initiative. This should enable a seamless exchange of standardised product information across the globe via a network of giant electronic product catalogues.
This means manufacturers would only have to publish data about new or updated products once, using agreed EAN.UCC global standards. Companies subscribing to these pools could automatically update corresponding data in their own systems at the click of a button.
However, suppliers would not reap the benefits until their internal systems were aligned, said Spencer Marlow, a manager at the business integration firm Sterling Commerce who has been working with Cadbury.
He said: “It’s no good spending hours sending standardised data to Tesco or Asda if your own systems aren’t aligned. Suppliers need to locate all files, databases, spreadsheets and catalogues that store data, identify the applications that access and process this data, and align them so that every time a change is made in one system it will automatically update the others.”
He added: “Larger suppliers see the value of GDS, but I think smaller suppliers see it in the same way as they see RFID - as a retail tax.”
Kraft’s director of international B2B strategy Peter Jordan said: “We see this as a basic building block for collaborative processes, this being key to achieving higher levels of consumer satisfaction.”
l Food Manufacture’ publisher William Reed is hosting a conference on data synchronisation in London on March 31. For details, log on to www.william-reed.co.uk/datasynchronisation or call 01293 867612.