SAN ANTONIO — One year after announcing the launch of Project Mercury, Kroger Co. finally has touchdown in its sights.
The Cincinnati-based retailer last week assembled a team of specialists at the GS1 US Connect 2013 conference here to prepare its suppliers for the project — a radical transformation in the way they will be delivering product information to Kroger, and the way Kroger will be managing the data.
“This is the largest project our corporation has ever taken on from a financial and HR standpoint,” said Dave Schmitt, director of Project Mercury.
He added that Kroger is pursuing the project in order to “give customers the information they want about products in this changing world,” such as nutritional and allergen information, as well as to improve speed to market, among other goals.
Under Project Mercury, suppliers will deliver data on new and existing items to Kroger via the preferred mechanism, the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), which links the product databases of suppliers and retailers in a standardized system overseen by GS1, Brussels; alternatively, suppliers will provide data via the retailer’s vendor item portal. Kroger will manage the data in a still-developing master data management repository.
“Project Mercury will be the way suppliers communicate item data to us in the future – and will be the only way,” said Schmitt.
Kroger is rolling out the program in phases over the next three years. The pilot phase kicked off in April as suppliers of nine categories – known in the program as “classes” — began testing the system. The classes include packaged cheese, salad dressing, breakfast sausage, baby HBC, coffee filters, bagged salad mix, air care, paper towels and packaged deli meat. Kroger plans to go live with those products in September.
Kroger, the nation’s largest conventional grocery operator with 2,435 supermarkets spread over multiple banners, introduced Project Mercury last year in Las Vegas at the GS1 Connect conference, sponsored by GS1 US, Lawrenceville, N.J. The plan then was to go live with the first nine classes in the first quarter of 2013. However, that schedule was delayed after the program proved to be “such a monstrous technical challenge, especially this first release because everything is new,” said Greg Menz, enterprise solutions architect for Kroger. “It’s also taken as much longer than we thought just to track down suppliers.”
Read more: Kroger Outlines Item-Data Management Plans
In the spring of 2014, Kroger will roll out the next 120 classes, which are listed on Kroger’s customer page at www.1sync.org; ultimately the company plans to convert 670 classes to the program.
Kroger is asking suppliers to supply about 150 “attributes” – features ranging from size and weight to nutritional components – for each item. About half of those attributes can be submitted via the GDSN, and another 25 are unique to Kroger and would be provided via the vendor portal, along with the remaining non-GDSN attributes; the full list is also available on Kroger’s customer page at www.1sync.org. Menz envisions suppliers eventually supplying several thousand attributes in the product data that will populate Kroger’s data repository.
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