For LANSA, 3-Way Product Data Synch is as Easy as ABI EC
by Alex Woodie
Following the lead of the consumer packaged goods industry's UCCnet initiative, the Alcohol Beverage Industry's Electronic Commerce Council (ABI EC) is now pushing for its members to adopt product data synchronization to drive greater efficiency in this supply chain. While this industry poses unique challenges for product data synchronization, progress is being made, particularly at Glazer's Wholesale Drug, a Texas distributor that implemented LANSA's Data Sync Direct product on an OS/400 server, and became one of the first companies to comply with ABI's request.
The rationale behind efforts to standardize and synchronize data about consumer packaged goods is well established. When supply chain partners have bad product data , it costs money to fix--estimates start at $40 billion per year for the U.S. While this little hitch may help employ people to manually check product catalogs, databases, and warehouses, it hurts corporate profits and drives up costs for consumers.
Data synchronization hit the mainstream a couple of years ago when Wal-Mart issued its mandate for companies in its consumer processed goods supply chain to start standardizing their data using a common data pool. The hardlines industry followed when major players like Lowe's, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot, made mandates of their own. Now the data synchronization bug is spreading to other supply chains, including school and office supplies and alcoholic beverages.
Data synchronization in the alcoholic beverage industry started in March, when the ABI EC solicited its members to start publishing data in the GS1 Global Registry (formerly UCCnet GlobalRegistry) maintained by 1SYNC (formerly UCCnet and Transora). ABI EC's request--it would be an overstatement to call it a mandate--asked players to start using the GSDN by the end of 2005.
According to the ABI-EC Web site, this effort has led to mixed success in the first few months following the request. "At mid year, the ABI pioneers are still struggling to find suitable partners for data synchronization," the ABI EC says on its Web site. "The largest retailers are in the vanguard, but there has been significant if uneven progress."
One of the difficulties companies are facing when implementing data synchronization in this heavily regulated industry is adhering to a three-tiered supply chain. This three-tier system has the brand owner (the brewer, winery, or distiller) publishing product data to the distributor, who in turns publishes product data to the retailer.
To help jump start data synchronization in the alcoholic beverage industry, Glazer's Wholesale Drug Company--a privately owned, century-old distributor of wines, spirits, and beer headquartered in Dallas--volunteered to participate in a pilot project to prove its capability. Perhaps the fact that Glazer's chief financial officer, Cary Rossel, is chairman of the ABI-EC, had something to do with Glazer's participation.
It didn't take long for Glazer's chief information officer, Mike Adams, to settle on LANSA's data synchronization offering. "We set about our GDS [global data synchronization] project with two business partners--a supplier and another wholesaler--which meant that any solution we chose would have to scale to three different systems," Adams says. "We discovered that LANSA Data Sync Direct had that scalability at a competitive price. When we learned that LANSA had more customer references than other vendors and a high level of knowledge about GDS and the Global Registry, we were sold."
LANSA, which claims 300 Data Sync Direct customers, worked with Glazer's IT team to install and configure the software on Glazer's eServer i5 Model 550 and to train end users. The implementation was completed ahead of schedule when Glazer's successfully published its first data to the GS1 Global Registry in July 2005.
In addition to installing the software and providing training, LANSA also worked with Glazer's and its business partners to identify and include key specific data requirements for the Alcohol Beverage Industry, such as Alcohol By Volume. "At the same time, we also worked with 1SYNC to ensure that the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) and 1SYNC can handle the specific requirements of ABI so that all members of the ABI community can benefit from the first foray into GDS," says Jeff Holzman, a LANSA sales director.
1SYNC has taken notice of the Glazer's implementation and LANSA's product. "Glazer's project has proven that Global Data Synchronization is a viable business process for the three-tier distribution supply chain," says Raj Chopra, vice president of customer relations at 1SYNC. "The fact that Glazer's was able to implement both sender and recipient GDS functionality successfully and quickly is in a large part due the capabilities of the LANSA Data Sync Direct solution."
Data Sync Direct 2.5
LANSA claims companies will be able to implement data synchronization even faster with a new release of Data Sync Direct unveiled last week. One of the major enhancements in Data Sync Direct version 2.5 is a new Transaction Manager that provides users with a better way to mass-process global trade item number (GTIN) uploads, registry catalog items (RCIs), and notifications. This release also brings enhancements to the catalog item-confirmation support function, uses hyperlinks to enhance navigation, and adds support specifically for Lowe's (the home improvement company) attributes.
The goal of Data Sync Direct 2.5 is allowing customers to streamline the synchronization process, says Randy Mercer, manager of product solutions at LANSA. "We're automating the repetitive work and making the manual processes easier than ever," he says.
Data Sync Direct 2.5 became available in mid-September. One of the early adopters is Hunter Fan, a 100-year-old manufacturer of fans, purifiers, and humidifiers in Memphis, Tennessee. Ray Curry, the company's IT director, says the product's new features have "made it more straightforward for our staff to manage GTINs and transactions. The hyperlinks and the explanation support provide us with more access to information that makes the entire data synchronization process easier to handle."
Data Sync Direct runs on OS/400 and Windows operating systems. For more information, visit www.lansa.com.