Product Master Data and Product Recalls – US Standards Body (GS1 US): Rapid Recall Exchange – one step forward, two back
On September 21 2009, GS1 US announced (along with Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA) a new offering called, Rapid Recall Exchange. This service, offered to retailers and their suppliers, provides for a centralized mechanism that helps automate the distribution of information related to product recalls. The initial focus is grocery products in the United States. The value proposition of Rapid Recall Exchange is obvious; all consumers would want faster, cleaner, more effective mechanisms used by retailers (and by inference, their partners) in order to make recalls more effective. So on paper this looks like a great idea.
When a supplier realizes that a product or products need to be recalled, they log into the server and posts information relating to which suppliers and which products need to be recalled. The service then advises the retailers of the recall – which is then acknowledged in some way by the retailer. The assumption is that from here on the retailer executes some agreed process with the supplier for physical disposition of the product and/or financial considerations.
All this sounds good – and it is. But where does all this data come from? The same standards body, GS1 US, has been part of a wider, deeper initiative, called Global Data Synchronization (GDS), GDS is a technology solution (using the Global Data Synchronization Network – GDSN) that synchronizes product data between suppliers and retailers. GDS has been an active initiative for over 10 years; it is global. Several large global suppliers and retailers have worked to make local data pools (regional stores of product data for groups of buyers and/or sellers) to be “interoperable” – which means that product data is exchanged between data pools. The concept is that a supplier registers once a new product; and can from here share any and all necessary product data with any and all customers around the globe. The concept is pretty simple – the practice is much more complex. But GDS is established; it does work; it just does not work as well as expected but each year it makes some progress in terms of scope, adoption, and use.
The service – how to communicate product (and related) data quickly, easily, and in a more automated fashion – should be another reason why GDS should be more widely adopted! The same standards body will lament, every year, “why cant’ we get GDS adopted more broadly?” yet, with this potential home run, they have grounded out. Or, if you prefer, instead of hitting a “six”, GS1 US has hit its own wicket.
OK, so the launch is only grocery products – and GDSN was never strong (early on) with perishable and grocery type products due to the fact that product specifications are not uniform (think catch weight). However, with the use of UPC and more recently, GTIN, this should not have been an issue.
Such a product recall process is reliant on accurate, available, product data. And it is strange that it is not tied to GDSN. By launching this service independent of GDSN the standards body is creating the potential for creating more, duplicate industry data, and harming the overall data quality that spans the supply chain they service.
Am I a perfectionist? Am I silly for asking the question? Is “practical reality” really that practical?
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