When two or more trading partners (e.g., buyer and seller) have synchronized their databases (master item files), any information pulled from those databases into business transactions (e.g., purchase orders or invoices) will be the same, thereby eliminating errors.
Beyond simply trading information via paper documents, which requires manual labor and is not subject to the safety of checks and balances of an electronic transfer, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) exists and provides global standards for electronic business messaging. This allows automation of business transactions commonly occurring across the entire supply chain.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI enables the computer-to-computer exchange of transactional business documents, such as purchase orders, advance ship notices and invoices, between companies using a standard format, regardless of the kind of computer or software each company is using. EDI uses standardized business messages to enable trading partners to communicate in a common language. It helps companies conduct electronic commerce efficiently and accurately.
Each business document is called a transaction. Numerous transactions such as information on price, item specifications, catalog data, promotions, contracts, shipping information, etc. can be sent via EDI.
The biggest hurdle the produce and floral industries face in using electronic commerce is the lack of standard product identification. To effectively use electronic commerce, each supplier and buyer must use the same item number when referring to a product. The standard product identification protocol is the GTIN. The GTIN allows companies to reference the same item in all of the various business transactions today without having to cross-reference these numbers.
In order to make it easier to implement data synchronization, best practices for the use of standards for the produce industry to assist in business to business electronic transactions were established. The purpose was to be able to identify the attributes and describe the attributes in the same manner for all businesses so there will be no room for error. The Fruit and Vegetable Master Data Attribute Implementation Guide is recommended for use by the industry but is not mandatory.
EDI has helped thousands of companies achieve significant operational savings through process improvements to normal business operations such as order, delivery, invoice, payment, warehouse and inventory processes.
Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN)
The Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) allows companies to synchronize their standardized static product information using third party data pools, which are companies that manage the exchange of product data between trading partners. GDSN enables continuous data synchronization of product information over time. It ensures all partners have access to the same, accurate information. It’s all regarding product master data, which includes product attributes such as weights, dimensions, descriptions, brand name, GTIN and other product information.
The data synchronization process works off of a ‘subscription-publication’ model and basically works as follows:
- Supplier contracts with a certified GDSN data pool.
- Supplier sends item information to data pool.
- Data pool performs “checks and balances” on data received.
- Data pool makes information available to buying community based on suppliers’ wishes. This part is known as “publication” as the data pool publishes information to the buying community of choice.
- Buyer contracts with a certified GDSN data pool.
- Buyer “subscribes” to certain information of interest. This “subscription” could be by product, by category or by vendor.
- When information is “published” that the buyer subscribes to, an email is sent to the buyer informing them that an item of interest is available for review. If after review, the buyer wants the information in their system, they press a button and it automatically gets updated in their systems.
Regardless of the method used to synchronize data, this should occur prior to using any of the other supply chain technologies such as EDI. This is important because if you do not synchronize your data first, then you will only automate the transmission of bad data.