New Technology Boosts Automated Product Tracking

One of the issues that creates problems for suppliers is making certain all parties along the supply chain have the same information about the same products. The issue may seem trivial, but considering that a manufacturer may have multiple systems tracking its products through its manufacturing process, synchronizing information about what the supplier is selling and what the buyer is buying can easily become confusing.

The emerging technology known as GDSN, or the global data synchronization network, is quickly becoming the preferred way to keep all trading partners on the same page when it's time to place orders.

It's a simple idea: Store product information in a centralized online database, so retailers can access information about the product they want to order, including packing quantities, retail prices, and anything else they need. But delivering what's often called a “single version of the truth” to that database is often a problem for suppliers.

The simple act of producing a wholesale price list frequently raises questions like “Which spreadsheet has the real pricing information?” This happens when the supplier looks at its own sources for product costs and pricing. Most companies maintain more than one system where they record cost, pricing, and marketing information.

For example, the purchasing department uses the company ERP system to generate purchase orders and pay invoices for raw materials. Product management keeps spreadsheets when it conceives of a product that eventually migrates to finished goods. The marketing folks keep multiple iterations of product descriptions and images in documents and files. When it comes time to produce a product pricing sheet, all those components are gathered and combined (usually manually) to create the information that will be presented to the retailer.

But as products change over their lifecycle and the different departments modify their information in their various media, those changes rarely make it to the external presentation the customer is using to make purchase decisions.

Ed Howe of Aligntrac, which provides systems that synchronize internal data and keep the central GDSN updated, explains the technology this way: “We find that the process is ongoing. Once we get the consolidated data from the manufacturer, we then feed the corrected data back to the company's various data systems and help them keep their data up to date.”

Catalogue and online retailers are demanding much more than just the price and shipping quantities. The GDSN includes attributes such as product images, text descriptions, and even video clips that retailers can use directly in their catalogues. Manufacturers and suppliers are using the GDSN as a central repository for product data, and they are updating the contents as changes are made or the market demands more and different information.

“GDSN has grown to the point where distributors are using the data provided by manufacturers and adding their own attributes to the product information, which they then share with their customers,” said Howe. This makes the system a multi-tier tool where data is not duplicated, but enhanced where necessary, maintaining the continuity of data from the beginning of the production to the ultimate end use. An example of something that might change is the minimum order quantity — the manufacturer might have a minimum of a crate, but the distributor might sell that product by the carton.

Another reason for the GDSN's growing popularity is that it provides a systematic method of maintaining consistency in naming attributes across products from multiple manufacturers. This benefits retailers, which can call the same part by the same name across multiple suppliers.

For manufacturers, the GDSN is making the task of maintaining their internal data an automated process. This keeps their multiple systems constantly updated and avoids problems.

12 comments on “New Technology Boosts Automated Product Tracking

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    August 27, 2011

    Yes! this is indeed a great tool to keep the vital product pricing information and specifications, revisions up to date so that there is no confusion between what you order and what you get . This will also increase the transperancy among the various parties – the purchase , the sales and the customers. In absense of sucha synchronised system there is always a chance that a salesperson commits some different pricing to a favoured party in order to complete his order quota sometimes at a cost of some loss to the company.


    Such system is very useful especially for spare parts ordering as this is where a lot of communication gap exists today. The dealers many times order parts which are not available or have been replaced by substitute parts. 

  2. t.alex
    August 27, 2011

    This tool is a great initiative. I believe it still requires great cooperation from companies to update their data frequently so that they can be kept in sync all the time.

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    August 27, 2011

    Great post, Scott. I think the underlying technology behind GDSN is cloud-based where the data is stored in central online locations and not scattered across multiple locations. We have already seen how cloud computing and storage is going to revolutionize electronic manufacturing and supply chain. The case of GDSN is one great example of that.

  4. Scott Koegler
    August 27, 2011

    GDSN has been in the 'almost ready' stage for many years. i've talked with lots of folks over that time who were not convinced it was worth the effort. But this last year seems to be a watershed in that more companies have cleaned up their internal data –  a prerequisite to publishing externally to the GDSN Pool. For many companies this was a difficult and time consuming job. 

    The fact that there are tools available to keep the internal systems in sync and automate the synchronization between internal and external systems means the work the companies devoted to the first round of cleanup will not be lost as changes are made.

  5. Wale Bakare
    August 28, 2011

    Another reason for the GDSN's growing popularity is that it provides a systematic method of maintaining consistency in naming attributes across products from multiple manufacturers.

    With cloud based computing models on the surge and marketability gaining much publicity. What i think would keep individual cloud computing service provider moving in the market may still boil down to unique services they intend to offer and reliability of their security components.

  6. JADEN
    August 29, 2011

    This indeed a good tool that has emerged as the industry answer to facilitating a seamless, highly responsive supply chain, improving internal operations and providing a better buying experince for consumers.

  7. Mr. Roques
    August 30, 2011

    How do they handle pricing? I'm assuming the prices differ from city to city and from customer to customer (?)…

  8. electronics862
    August 30, 2011

    This will reduce supply chain run time. Useful for both the customers and industy people. Users can easily estimate the product price, this will give a transperancy between the sellers and buyers.

  9. Ms. Daisy
    August 30, 2011

    Very exciting news. GDSN seems to not only improve how product information is shared, it also seems to bring in more efficiencies into the supply chain. The reduction in data duplication from the production to the end user should also help reduce unnecessary waste and improve pricing.

    The consistency in naming attributes across products from multiple manufacturers is definitely a great benefit to not only retailers,  but the coonsumers who will not have to wait too long for the products. A win win for all I hope, if the savings in the supply chain is passed along to the consumers.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    August 31, 2011

    This sounds really interesting but who will pay for this service. Is it the OEM's, component suppliers or distributors? Also does it still require OEM's to maintain internal systems to get linked with GDSN.

  11. mfbertozzi
    September 2, 2011

    I agree and in addition from my point of view it is important to consider customer relationship management is evolving towards social networks platforms or their APIs' utilization, at least. As result, product tracking and CRM-social mix, could represent a good shadow for producers, for making more business and improving in services/products' quality, as per end users' feeling.

  12. itguyphil
    September 3, 2011

    This is true. Salesforce has opened their API for developers to provide more value-added services. This can be integrated into existing systems to make the process more seamless.

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