Canadian suppliers sweep out dirty data

Canadian manufacturers and retailers are doing some major data scrubbing in a bid to make their supply chain process spick-and-span.

Purging the database system of so-called dirty data across lines of business will pave the way for implementing standardized, electronic and efficient collaboration with supply chain partners, executives from major Canadian retailers and manufacturers said at a GS1 Canada forum held Tuesday in Mississauga, Ont. Dirty data refers to redundant, inconsistent, inaccurate data that resides in an enterprise database.

“Dirty data is a large momentum-killer in every manufacturing, retail and distribution [environment],” said Kathy Collier, vice-president of national data integrity, at retail chain Sobeys Inc.

Collier was part of the panel at the GS1 Canada event talking about the importance of data accuracy and synchronization as the foundation for e-commerce.

Sobeys has embarked on an enterprise-wide data clean-up project, which Collier said was initiated to allow the organization to leverage collaboration standards and offer data synchronization efforts with its external business partners. The Stellarton, N.S.-based retail chain operates over 1,300 corporate and franchised stores in 10 provinces, and has about 23,000 suppliers.

The first order of business for implementing data accuracy and data synchronization is standardization, said Collier.

“We had to take all the lines of business and come up with a standard process for our product lifecycle,” she said. Like in any major transformation project, the company dealt with certain issues coming out of the different business units, added Collier, and GS1 Canada helped facilitate mediation among those lines of business.

Communication, she said, is always the key. Sobeys also instituted a project management office that serves as integrators between business and IT, Collier said.

As part of the data scrubbing initiative, Sobeys deployed an ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution from SAP. The challenge with that deployment was integrating it with the company’s legacy systems, Collier said.

Sobeys’ IT department worked tightly with Collier’s team to facilitate the transition from the legacy systems to the SAP platform.

“The biggest lesson for us was in putting together a cross-functional team from (various business units like) merchandising, logistics, store operations, finance and data integrity,” Collier said.

Although it’s data accuracy and synchronization efforts are still underway, Sobeys is already reaping the benefits through its supply chain process, Collier said. For instance, the system enables the company to conduct benchmarking on the value of accurate and synchronized data to the business process.

Data synchronization coupled with implementing standards-based product lifecycle processes throughout the supply chain, enabled Sobeys to collaborate in real-time with its supply chain partners and be assured that both parties are always on the same page, said Collier.

Achieving data quality benefits all entities in the supply chain as they go through the product lifecycle process, explained Gina Precourt, corporate planning manager at Kraft Canada.

For organizations contemplating on embarking on a data quality initiative, Precourt recommends taking a look at their existing process and data, “and ask questions that will drive out redundant and duplicate work.”

“Communication and understanding of data accuracy is no longer a procurement or manufacturing (issue), it has become part of the full product lifecycle as distribution, marketing and sales have to become users of the data,” said Precourt.

Data consistency and accuracy across all business units and business partners throughout the supply chain will enable organizations to take advantage of the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), said Kraig Adams, collaborative industry development manager for Coca-Cola Company.

GDSN is an automated, standards-based global environment that connects retailers and suppliers, through their data pools, to the GS1 Global Registry. This direct connection enables retailers and suppliers to update their data and keep them in sync in real-time.

“It provides real-time information on products through the synchronization process. Without data accuracy it can impact numerous touch points (such as) warehouse management systems and finance,” Adams said.

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