VICS PROGRAMS SHOWING GROCERY ORIENTATION

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- Considering that its current managing director and his predecessor both hailed from the food industry, it's a little surprising that VICS (Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Association) here has historically drawn more retail participation from outside the food industry.However, that's changing, said Joe Andraski, VICS' managing director, who spent 25 years as an executive

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- Considering that its current managing director and his predecessor both hailed from the food industry, it's a little surprising that VICS (Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Association) here has historically drawn more retail participation from outside the food industry.

However, that's changing, said Joe Andraski, VICS' managing director, who spent 25 years as an executive at Nabsico, mostly in the supply chain area. (His predecessor was Ron Griffin, former chief information officer, Fleming.) There is much in VICS, which is devoted to developing recommended business processes around in-store, logistics and e-commerce activities, that applies to the food business, said Andraski.

Not that food retailers are entirely outside of VICS. Its sponsoring members include H.E. Butt Grocery, Meijer, Wal-Mart Stores and Target, as well as many consumer packaged goods companies.

"If you ask food industry retailers who is VICS, they wouldn't recognize it," Andraski said. "But if you talk about our initiatives, such as CPFR [collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment], they'd say, 'Yes, we've done that."'

Part of the problem is VICS' lack of outreach, which Andraski is correcting with updates to its Web site and a new newsletter.

Current VICS projects related to food retailers include a new Retail Out-of-Stock Committee, headed by Jim Flannery of Procter & Gamble, as well as work on RFID/EPC and data synchronization. VICS also just published a new business model for CPFR.

VICS has started a group looking at collaborative transportation management. "There can't be a bigger issue that that," considering concerns about fuel costs, equipment, wages and hours of service, said Andraski. VICS also has a Logistics Committee that deals with dynamic routing, which carrier to use, and other issues.

In addition, VICS has been trying to align itself more with the academic community to create joint educational programs for the retail industry, Andraski said. "If there is a major challenge, it's around education. Operational people may not understand Sunrise 2005 or GTINs."

VICS' Academic Alliance Program just completed its first program with Brooklyn Polytechnic, Brooklyn, N.Y., where VICS members and Uniform Code Council executives made presentations on bar coding and other topics. UCC is a secretariat for VICS.