Analyst opinion: Following the announcement of GS1’s Digital DNA programme charter, Chris considers how data management has changed, and what opportunities can be created from sharing data.
Not so long ago, common supply chain tasks, like placing an order with a supplier, involved a pen, a piece of paper and a fax machine. How times have changed! Our transition into the digital age, supported by advances in software, hardware and access to the internet, means we increasingly rely on the generation and exchange of data to function normally in both our personal and working lives.
There are many statistics bandied about that describe just how much data we now generate. I won’t quote any one in particular, but suffice to say, it’s a huge amount and it’s growing all the time. But using this mountain of data is a challenge, which is made more difficult by the lack of a consistent approach to terminology and formatting. This is particularly true within the grocery industry in the UK, which lags behind other regions of the world in this area.
While the industry has embraced data to inform and improve processes, the ways in which it’s generated, organised and stored are far from uniform. As a result, data quality differs vastly from business to business, making the sharing and use of data to add value a real challenge. While the UK has a well-developed grocery sector, many businesses operating within this market still rely on legacy systems. Investing in, and implementing replacements in what is a hyper competitive environment has not been top of the priority list for many. However, things may be about to change…
This week, GS1, the global supply chain standards organisation, issued its Digital DNA programme charter, signed by some of the industry’s leading retailers and manufacturers. In signing the charter, these businesses have announced their commitment to moving to a single industry standard for data management and exchange. GS1 has stated that “the 12 companies – Co-op, Itsu, L’Oréal, Mondelez, Nestlé, Ocado, PepsiCo, P&G, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Waitrose – recognise that the UK grocery industry could save over £200m in costs and lost sales through the development of an industry-wide solution that delivers improved data quality.”
The size of the prize is clearly significant, but beyond the everyday operational benefits, the impact of a commitment like this could be much greater. Using the same terminology and working from common datasets can only improve transparency and efficiency between trading partners. Sharing data seamlessly in a standard format will make uncovering opportunities far easier and this should encourage greater levels of collaboration. There’s clearly work to be done, but the potential is huge and I’m very interested to see how things develop. The digital DNA programme will enter operational use later in 2017 with the full industry launch in 2018.