LAS VEGAS — A 126-page guide enabling retailers and produce suppliers to voluntarily share and synchronize standard product information in electronic communications — thereby reducing errors in billing, purchase orders and shipping notices — has been made available for free on the Produce Marketing Association’s website.
The “Implementation Guide for Fresh Produce Data Standards and Synchronization,” published in March, is the result of a year-long effort by the PMA’s Supply Chain Efficiencies Committee, which includes such major retailers as Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger, Safeway, Food Lion, Raley’s, Loblaw and Sobeys. Suppliers on the committee include Tanimura & Antle, The Oppenheimer Group and Ready Pac Produce.
The intent of the guide is to put produce, generally sold at the commodity level unconnected to specific brands, on the same footing as branded CPG products when it comes to the electronic communication of GS1-standard product data — or attributes — between suppliers and retailers.
The guide is geared toward applying 58 of these product attributes — ranging from name and size to growing method and organic status — in 11 electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions, including invoice, purchase order, item maintenance and ship notice.
Twenty-one of the attributes are also recommended for complying with the Produce Traceability Initiative, an industry program aimed at tracing produce cases through the supply chain.
The use of standard attributes in EDI transactions can help trading partners “share and understand the same information about the same products and locations,” said Christina D’Allacco, the manager of science and technology, PMA, Newark, Del., during a session last month at the GS1 Connect conference here. The benefits of doing this include reduction in paper processing, manual data entry and associated errors.
The implementation guide provides a detailed description of each of the 58 attributes. Each term has a definition, such as “plants grown using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil” for hydroponic.
The guide is not designed to help synchronize produce data via the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) — used by CPG firms and retailers — but could be a stepping stone toward that end.
“There are a lot of small mom-and-pops in the produce industry providing information mostly by paper today,” said Scott Brown, director of global standards, GS1 US, Lawrenceville, N.J., who spoke with D’Allacco at the session. “To ask them to jump to GDSN is kind of a stretch. EDI is an interim step to get them to understand the transactions they can use and ways to get engaged like the big guys.”
D’Allacco encouraged utilization of the guide by retailers and suppliers. Retailers could “make commitments with a core group of vendors and set up live pilots,” she said.
PMA is developing list of large produce vendors “that could be leaders in implementing the guidelines,” she added.