Global Data Synchronization Network Grows, but Needs Retailers

THE GLOBAL DATA SYNCHRONIZATION NETWORK (GDSN), the Web-based system through which suppliers are able to send standard data about products to retailers, has expanded substantially since its inception in 2004, particularly among manufacturers. The number of organizations represented by global location numbers (GLNs) that have registered in GDSN's registry largely from the CPG/retail, hardlines/consumer

THE GLOBAL DATA SYNCHRONIZATION NETWORK (GDSN), the Web-based system through which suppliers are able to send standard data about products to retailers, has expanded substantially since its inception in 2004, particularly among manufacturers.

The number of organizations represented by global location numbers (GLNs) that have registered in GDSN's registry — largely from the CPG/retail, hardlines/consumer electronics and health care sectors — has grown from 233 in 2005 to 23,574 in 2010. The number of items (GTINs) registered by those companies has jumped from 291,170 in 2005 to 5,171,170 in 2010. “The year-to-year growth of the GDSN for the past two years has been the strongest since the network's inception,” said Lisa Sandberg, a spokeswoman for GS1 US, Lawrenceville, N.J. “This growth does not seem to be slowing.”

1SYNC, a division of GS1 US and one of 22 GDSN-certified data pools that act as the go-between for retailers and manufacturers in the network, surpassed 6,000 members in 2010, growing 36% from 2009, with most of that coming from the food and beverage manufacturers and general retail, said Sandberg.

Still, while the overall growth of the GDSN has been robust, the growth of its retail segment has been less so. For example, among the 23,574 GLNs, just 360 are retailers (data recipients). And although major food retailers like Supervalu, Wal-Mart, Wegmans and others leverage the GDSN, there is evidence that a number of food retailers have yet to do so. According to Karen Spooner, Kraft Foods' associate director of global data sync, Kraft has not been able to get some major food retailers to participate in the GDSN.

A number of barriers have been cited for the slow adoption of GDSN by retailers. One of the largest barriers has been the quality of the data in the GDSN — in particular inaccurate dimensional and weight data for cases and items. GS1 US, 1SYNC and Gladson offer programs to help manufacturers improve the accuracy of their data.

Another barrier has been that not all data — such as that associated with new items — is available through the GDSN. 1SYNC has addressed that barrier with a new system called Product Introduction that allows retailers “to replace their portal with one that is based on GDSN data but customizable to meet the needs of sales information specific to them,” said Sandberg.

In regard to new items, GDSN is developing a standard way for manufacturers to identify when information for a new item is still “preliminary” because product development has not been completed, said Alan Hyler, director, program management for GDSN, during a session at U Connect 2010. This would help retailers understand the status of the new-item data they are receiving. “Retailers would know that this is not final data and can change at any time.”

GDSN is also in the process of creating “modular items” based on “context” and geared to specific markets such as CPG/retail or health care. “[Retailers] would get just the information [they] need for a specific line of business,” said Hyler. Food retailers, for example, would deal with a smaller set of product attributes.