Study: GS1 Numbers on Cases Improve Accuracy and Efficiency

"The PMA GTIN pilot turned out to be a valuable learning experience for us. We (Wal-Mart) consider ourselves to be fairly technologically advanced with our buying systems; however, as a result of the pilot program, areas were brought to our attention that needed additional work within our systems," said Mike Agostini, Wal-Mart merchandise manager. "Every retailer should be seeing the benefits GTIN case coding provides; thus, every retailer should be actively working on where they are and what they need to do to make this a reality within their organization."

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), and GS1 US organized the pilot program designed to measure the impact within the produce industry of using GS1 standard numbers to identify cases and the resulting benefits on traceability, food safety, supply chain efficiency and profitability.

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is a 14-digit number that can be used on cases, pallets, and items and is required for electronic commerce, barcoding, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and Reduced Space Symbology (RSS). The ubiquitous UPC (Universal Product Code) found on virtually every packaged item in retail stores throughout North America is the most well known representation of a GTIN.

Participants included Wal-Mart; FreshPoint, a subsidiary of Sysco, Inc.; BJ's Wholesale; Tanimura & Antle; Duda Farm Fresh Foods; The Oppenheimer Group; The Giumarra Companies; and L&M Companies.

"Because Freshpoint takes food safety very seriously, we were very interested in participating in the pilot program. From this experience, we believe GTINs are an excellent traceability tool that will benefit the entire foodservice industry," said Brian Sturgeon, FreshPoint president and coo. "Utilizing GTINs provided FreshPoint with evidence that using data standards along with barcode technology in shipping and receiving will help drive costs out of the supply chain."

The documented outcomes of the program include information about integrating produce into existing and future systems using GS1 standards, challenges encountered and their possible solutions, an assessment of required education and training, and strategies for effective implementation. The study, titled "GTIN: A Case for Streamlining the Supply Chain," is available for purchase from the four pilot program partners, Produce Marketing Association, GS1 US, Food Marketing Institute, and the IFDA.

"Adoption of standard GTINs is the single most important initiative the fresh produce industry can undertake. It is essential to the foundation of many other technology initiatives including enhanced e-commerce, RFID, RSS, Category Management and Traceability," said Doug Grant, vice president and coo of The Oppenheimer Group. "The PMA pilot project has shown that GTIN implementation is viable for all companies no matter the size and can result in a dramatic improvement in both supply chain and internal operational efficiencies."

According to a study conducted by PMA in September 2005, only 30% of the 100 produce suppliers and 43 buyers surveyed were using GS1 standards at the item level, 6% at the case level and 4% at the pallet level.


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