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Data Sync Pilot Tests New Publication Workflow: IPC/Subway, Reinhart Foodservice, and FSEnet Share Results


Results of a groundbreaking pilot that features a new publication workflow were shared during a workshop at 2013 DSC that included pilot participants Lucelena Angarita (at podium) of IPC/Subway, Sharon Karlman of Reinhart Foodservice, and Keitt Moore of FSEnet.

A data synchronization pilot was launched in the first quarter of 2013 that included three manufacturer and two distributor trading partners of IPC/Subway®, and results were shared during a workshop held at the 2013 Distribution Solutions Conference.

“This pilot featured an entirely new publication workflow where, for the first time, the operator engaged in publishing as well as receiving and was taking responsibility for the accuracy of the information,” said Keitt Moore, vice president at data pool provider FSEnet.

Manufacturers in the pilot published information to their data pool and IPC then compared that information to agreed-upon specifications, said Moore. Once the information was validated from IPC’s perspective, they published data to their distributor community. Distributors then physically validated case dimensions and weight with a cubiscan.

In reviewing the first publication of items, IPC found that 74 percent of the items had one or more core attributes that were different from their internal system. After feedback to suppliers as needed, attributes were updated, re-inspected by IPC, and were then published to distributors. Following physical inspection by distributors, US Foods identified only one validated item with discrepancies. Reinhart Foodservice, which inspected 17 items, found only two items with discrepancies.

“There were fewer discrepancies than we expected between the GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) data and the physical attributes in light of previous studies that have been published,” said Sharon Karlman, vice president of QA and nutrition services at Reinhart Foodservice.

Lucy Angarita, quality project manager of Independent Purchasing Cooperative, said IPC’s goal is to synchronize 75 percent of the Subway® product catalog with manufacturers and distributors by August of 2014. The good news is that in a recent IPC survey of their suppliers, more than 70 percent are publishing Phase 1 attribute data on some of their products at a certified GS1 US data pool, though that does not mean that all those items are Subway items. In another distributor survey conducted in June 2013, 87 percent of IPC’s distributors reported they are receiving Phase 1 data through the GDSN.

For Angarita, the case for change is clear. “Margins are getting thinner, competition is very fierce, and we have to look for ways to minimize cost throughout the supply chain.”

“Without standards,” said Angarita, “resources have to be allocated to deal with distributors having one product ID, operators another, and suppliers another.” For IPC, “the amount of effort that goes into mapping to make sure that we are talking about the same product is huge.”

Other benefits cited by Angarita include:
• Reducing logistics costs cause by outdated or inaccurate information,
• Efficiencies in managing order and invoice discrepancies,
• Information critical to the sale is captured such as images, nutritional information, and marketing information, and
• Added speed and accuracy in traceability, with the ability to identify product down to the store level.

By engaging in the pilot, Angarita said IPC wanted to measure the impact of the initiative on their company, see if they could quantify ROI at a small scale, and determine internal capacity to integrate the data into their systems.

“We also wanted to understand what effect it would have internally because it’s a whole cultural change,” said Angarita. “People who were typing in information won’t be typing anymore. Who is going to be reviewing this information? What is purchasing going to do? All of that is change we wanted to understand.”

Angarita said that clarification on product discrepancies found, which arrive by email or paper, take up to 30 days to be communicated and updated in IPC’s systems. During the pilot, with the manufacturer making changes in the GDSN, that process was cut to a half a day.

As to broader standards implementation efforts, Karlman said that Reinhart has reached out to more than 2,000 suppliers asking for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 information, including product images. To date, she said they had received publications from more than 400 suppliers with 35,000 items that are at some stage of completeness. Synchronization has taken place on more than 21,000 items.

“We’re about a 50/50 split between multi-unit accounts and street customers,” said Karlman, “and we really need the marketing and nutritional information that’s found in Phase 2 of the GS1 initiative in addition to those core attributes. Having the additional product information helps our sales consultants when they are going out to customers and talking to them about new products.” In addition, by integrating this product information through the GDSN, Karlman said Reinhart has been able to gain real operational efficiencies.

“Right now we feel that the initiative is continuing to evolve. We find suppliers are placing more focus on data quality, and as more eyes are involved in that process, we’re getting better and more accurate information,” said Karlman.