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“To do business with Wakefern, you must follow GS1 standards."
— Michael Durning, manager of data integrity, Wakefern
Among the standards manufacturers are expected to follow, Durning focused on three: GTIN allocation rules, the GDSN Package Measurement Rules and the Data Quality Framework.
The GTIN allocation rules govern the assignment of GTINs — the unique product identifier encoded in a bar code. The GS1 rules (available at www.gs1.org/1/gtinrules/) stipulate that a new GTIN should — Durning prefers the word “must” — be assigned to an item if the consumer is expected to distinguish a new item from an old item and purchase accordingly.
Durning emphasized two of the GTIN allocation rules that impact the consumer; they call for a new GTIN when there is a change in the net content of an item or the introduction of a similar item like one with a new flavor.
In the case of a size change, if a manufacturer doesn’t alter the GTIN, “our consumer is not getting the size promised on the shelf label or online at ShopRite From Home,” said Durning. This can also result in an incorrect unit cost, which can be a violation of state consumer protection laws as well as a “trust issue” for consumers.
Manufacturers’ continued lack of adherence to the GTIN Allocation rules prompted GS1 US to write a letter to the industry in March urging greater compliance. (See related story.)
Durning also cited a need for suppliers to comply with the GDSN package measurement rules governing the measurement of packaging, from the consumer unit to the case level. He urged suppliers to make sure they apply the rules to products after they are produced, not just to preliminary pre-production models, which is a common practice that leads to inaccurate data on case dimensions.
Wakefern is a member of the Data Quality Framework Initiative pilot program, a GS1 US group formed to develop best practices for dealing with data inaccuracies, particularly weights and dimensions of product cases. The group is asking manufacturers to adopt a five-point best-practice process for data quality.
In the absence of universal rules compliance by manufacturers, Wakefern, like many other food distributors, has taken it upon itself to vet the quality of suppliers’ product data, and make corrections. Wakefern’s efforts include a data integrity department managed by Durning as well as oversight for the warehouse and e-commerce. This is necessary to prevent “breakdowns in the supply chain and any negative impact to the consumer,” said Durning.
Among its responsibilities, Wakefern’s data integrity group audits a range of key data attributes when processing new items, including product descriptions, net content, unit pricing, kosher certification, SNAP and WIC eligibility, and GTIN assignments.
At its warehouses, Wakefern employs CubiScan devices to measure case and inner-pack dimensions and weights for new items. “We wish we didn’t have to,” said Durning. In its general merchandise facility, the company audits store display shippers and “mixed mods” before they are delivered to stores, checking that items and quantities are correct.
Wakefern’s e-commerce team looks at consumer-focused information — on nutritional content, food allergens, ingredients and descriptions — and images for products marketed via its website and ShopRite From Home service.