As retailers and manufacturers gradually adopt 14-digit Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) as data structures for identifying products, some retailers are asking their suppliers to start using the GTINs in identifying product shipments.
At the Uniform Code Council's U Connect conference in Salt Lake City, representatives of at least two major food distributors, Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., and Supervalu, Minneapolis, said they wanted their suppliers to start using GTINs to identify inner packs and pallets so that food distributors could get away from the time and cost of using internal stockkeeping unit numbers, also called commodity codes.
"Retailers would love to get away from [internal SKU numbers]," said Michael Merulla, e-commerce manager, Wegmans, at U Connect last month. "But in order for us to do that, all manufacturers would have to comply with the same standard. They would all have to identify every potential level of hierarchy, including the inner-pack level, with the GTIN.
"As you're setting up your data in catalogs and setting up GTINs, the guidelines committee at UCCnet strongly recommends that you assign a GTIN so you can give us data attributes like height, width and length and we can push that out."
Bekki Windsperger, e-commerce project manager, Supervalu, speaking at the same U Connect session, said she wanted GTINs not only for inner packs but also for pallets. That would help Supervalu in cross docking pallets of products like bottled water, detergent or soup to its retailers, she said.
Merulla noted that companies like Wegmans and Supervalu often break down cases containing inner packs and ship the inner pack as a logistical unit to the stores. Those packs must then be identified for order tracking.