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GS1 brings top-shelf standardization to the supply chain

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GS1 US is a not-for-profit organization centered around supply chain standards. Identifying products in the supply chain, so that data can be shared globally. It enables top shelf traceability. They’re involved across the board in a variety of industries, but they have the biggest focus in retail grocery, food service, health care, and apparel.

GS1 US recently presented at the Home Delivery Conference 2018 in Atlanta, an event solely focused on retail logistics, in a session on improving the quality of product data. GS1 US is the United States organization of the global standards organization GS1, which creates and manages supply chain standards so that consumers have a smooth shopping experience from website searches, all the way to when the product reaches their doorstep.

“One of the big things happening right now are smaller manufacturers trying to sell on Amazon and in your larger grocery stores find that they need GS1 identifiers to work with these retailers,” Ryan Richard, tells FreightWaves by phone. Richard is senior director of industry engagement leads the GS1 U.S. Retail Grocery Initiative.

“The key thing is that we’re founded by industry and work for industry in a non-competitive sort of way. Standardized information helps industry work with data pools that are much more efficient than each company sharing data between each other. They share this information on a one-to-many basis. When they all use GS1 standards, that’s interoperability.”

GS1 US engages key industry stakeholders from companies like Mondelez, P&G, Kroger, Macy’s, Belk, and PVH to develop guidelines that outline best practices for identifying products and exchanging digital information about them.

The retail grocery initiative works on supply chain inefficiencies, including data accuracy, operational efficiencies, and bringing standardization to the three types of supply chains.

“We have three supply chains in grocery right now. The first is direct to store. The second is the traditional is from the manufacturer to the grocer distribution center. The third is the e-commerce approach, which is click straight from consumer to distributor,” says Richard. “As the consumer becomes more educated, the need for information standards are going to increase. There’s more and more data that consumers are demanding around nutritionals, allergens, marketing, and other points of data.”

GS1 US helps the supply chain with digital innovations in the most efficient way possible. Proprietary, paper-based systems are manual, error-prone and are holding companies back from e-commerce expansion. They ask, “How can we help industries modernize their systems for the greater good of helping the consumer?”

The organization calls their standardization system “the common language of business.” This includes identification numbers like UPCs, GS1 barcodes, RFID tags, and also electronic systems used commonly in retail like EDI (electronic data interchange). These systems have been used for 40+ years, but standards are constantly evolving with new business needs.

For all that GS1 US is doing for the industry, there is still a long way to go. Retailers are focused on leveraging investments in standards in a more expansive sort of way and trying to come to a synergy with the demands of the consumer,” says Richard.

One of the biggest surprises Richard has discovered is “consumer demand for transparency, especially with the access consumers have with their smartphones. People want to know their products. Before, consumers shopped on price and brand, and now they want to compare ingredients. And they leverage that information.”

GS1 US improves the supply chain for retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and ultimately, consumers. They bring increasing efficiency to the system, and the industry itself supports the standardization. With consumers wanting to know more about the sourcing of their products from ingredients to where things where manufactured, the standardization system helps make it happen from top to bottom.

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