HANNAFORD, FOOD LION WORK ON DATA QUALITY

SALISBURY, N.C. -- Sister companies Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion are working on improving their internal data quality and workflow processes to better position themselves for data-based initiatives.The projects, being conducted with Infosys Technologies, Fremont, Calif., are ongoing at the chains, which are divisions of Delhaize USA here.By upgrading data integrity and automating workflow processes,

SALISBURY, N.C. -- Sister companies Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion are working on improving their internal data quality and workflow processes to better position themselves for data-based initiatives.

The projects, being conducted with Infosys Technologies, Fremont, Calif., are ongoing at the chains, which are divisions of Delhaize USA here.

By upgrading data integrity and automating workflow processes, the chains are positioning themselves for participation in new industry initiatives, such as global data synchronization and RFID (radio frequency identification). The importance of data quality was underscored by chains like Wal-Mart and Royal Ahold at the U Connect conference held by the Uniform Code Council, Lawrenceville, N.J., in late May.

Each chain is creating comprehensive master item databases to provide all interfacing systems with "a single version of the truth," according to Infosys.

It has been estimated that 30% of food retailers' item data contains errors. Error rates in invoicing are considered as high as 60% to 80%, the result of manual keyboarding errors and manufacturers modifying retailers' purchase orders.

"One of the driving forces for data integrity reform is getting a clean invoice," stated William Homa, chief information officer and senior vice president of IT, Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine. "It is the biggest issue in data quality that retailers have."

When Hannaford sets up purchase orders correctly with accurate costs and specifications, "that will go a long way to ensuring clean invoices, which is a huge advantage to everyone," he added.

"The [Infosys] solution has created a strong foundation to drive our growth initiatives," said Homa, noting that clean data mirroring vendors' item data are necessary for an RFID pilot Hannaford is planning for next year, as well as data synchronization.

Currently, Hannaford provides a vendor portal on its Web site, where a supplier is walked through the process of entering the 200 pieces of information needed to set up a new product -- a useful option for small vendors lacking the resources to use UCCnet. "A local farmer who wants to sell us corn can set up his information. All he needs is access to the Internet," said Homa.

Meanwhile, Food Lion is trying to correct data issues resulting from the implementation over the years of supply chain system enhancements and packages. "This created an environment where redundant databases existed," said Janice Challis, director of technology architecture and services for Food Lion here. "Integrity issues arose because these databases were never engineered to work together."

The chains, with Infosys, are also streamlining workflow processes based on requirements of the departments that handle data. Hannaford has spent three years rationalizing its workflow, and is presently completing workflow definitions.

"When you bring in a new item, it touches every department in the company, involving dozens of automated and manual systems," said Homa, adding that Hannaford has tried to "make sure every merchandise group will handle items the same way."

A Web-based tool at Hannaford speeds up workflow by making issues easily visible and prompting actions, noted Homa. Users are alerted to tasks they need to address, approve, add information to, and pass on to the next department. Exception reporting flags critical issues; a planogram manager, for example, might be alerted to the introduction of a new outsized package. An escalation function bumps incomplete or unresolved tasks along the workflow chain.

"Having a workflow solution that aligns with the business process and facilitates the item lifecycle process is very powerful," said Challis. "It has great potential to streamline and speed item data maintenance, and speed new item introductions to the shelf."