Mastering the complexities of supply chain data accuracy

The complexity of managing data integrity and alignment between trading partners often results in inefficiencies for both retailers and suppliers across operational and cost considerations. This issue is likely to grow in importance as supply chains become more complex through advanced automated distribution centres and new routes to market in an omni-channel environment.

Shoppers, consumers and regulators are demanding ever-more transparent product and value chain information in a digital format, underpinned by data in real-time context, at more granular levels than previously considered. The information must be correct and consistent at all times, and throughout the many sources of access available to these stakeholders.

Recognising, considering and discussing the challenges faced by trading partners is a first step towards retailers and suppliers raising awareness and levels of collaboration required to bring new products or product changes through the supply chain effectively, and to mitigate risks during this process.

Suppliers and retailers face a variety of challenges to achieve required levels of supply chain data integrity and alignment. Key challenges to suppliers include those driven by lack of certainty around final data points where products are still under final development through the pre-launch period. This could be through human error in interpretation, capturing and applying data. Or it could be through lack of visibility into the current specific data in retailer or other stakeholders’ systems to check if it is indeed correct and aligned with the supplier.

Retailers face further challenges as they rely on suppliers to keep them updated on the status of the data points, and their own internal functions to maintain alignment across a variety of data repositories, which can be amended by various parties. There is an increased risk that interpretation and re-measuring by various distribution centre functions could lead to even further misalignment. This is particularly relevant in an automated environment where measurement of dimensions is critical to operational effectiveness.

To further complicate tasks associated with supply chain data management, shipper/carton dimensions can be impacted by issues such as crushability of packaging in transit, variability in specifications and dimensions supplied by upstream contractor (including internationally) and the weather and air moisture content. It is therefore necessary to introduce tolerances to avoid bringing processes to a halt every time a slight variation to a dimension occurs on any given package.

The Australian Food & Grocery Council’s Trading Partner Forum is a combined FMCG supplier and supermarket retailer body focussed on delivering end-to-end supply chain efficiency. It has released the first in a series of modular guidance documents to support improved accuracy and alignment for supply chain product master data in the industry.

The Supply Chain Master Data Integrity and Alignment Guide describes the complexities of managing foundational data points such as shipper and pallet dimensions and weights, and coordinating data management between trading partners. It is useful in the lead up to new product launches or product changes. The guide provides advice and support information to help FMCG suppliers and their supermarket retailer trading partners achieve better levels of data accuracy and alignment using easy-to-understand language and promoting best practice collaboration.

The Guide is freely available at https://bit.ly/2KAicxx