Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc. tries to stay ahead of its competition by providing its customers with a wider selection. It also likes to get new products on its shelves first. In order to achieve this goal, Longo’s recently began using GS1 Canada’s ECCnet Registry to help it get updated information on products as soon as possible.
ECCnet is a community project designed to help suppliers and retailers develop global standards for the identification of goods and services.
In the case of grocery stores, ECCnet provides grocers with “why buy” information such as nutritional data, said Mike Sadiwnyk, the senior vice-president of industry relations at GS1 Canada in Toronto.
Longo’s lets its suppliers know that it is using ECCnet, and they must then upload information on products to Longo’s. The information on products it subscribes to can be accessed online by category managers at Longo’s who can find out about price changes, package size and weight and new promotions before deciding whether they want to carry a product.
The new system represents a significant improvement over the old one, says John Charleson, director of IT at Longo’s in Mississauga, Ont.
Under the old system, product changes would be faxed to Longo’s. Product managers would then fill in an item management sheet and the procurement group would enter it into its systems. There were three touch points, and multiple chances for errors to enter the system, Charleson says.
Now new products are logged into ECCnet and e-mail messages are sent out.
Longo’s is taking advantage of the information by connecting it into its other systems as well, Charleson says.
The company is currently implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Once the implementation is complete, it will download any product changes gathered from ECCnet directly into it.
“So on the day we go live with our ERP, we’ll be downloading electronically into our ERP via a spreadsheet,” Charleson says.
Managers will get an alert on all changes to any of the categories they manage. They can decide whether to accept and apply the changes to production.
“Once the data is in our ERP (system), we will use it for our POS system, data warehouse management system and online grocery,” he says.
Longo’s will also feed the information it gathers from ECCnet directly into its online product listings for Grocery Gateway.
Currently, Longo’s managers have to go to a portal to download the information, but it’s in the process of building an interface between it and its new ERP system so that there’s no manual intervention required.
Longo’s and other retailers can get the information for free. Suppliers pay GS1 listings and annual membership fees. And by pooling retailers together into using the same system, they achieve the critical mass they need to make the registry successful, GS1’s Sadiwnyk says. Currently, the ECCnet Registry supports more than 2,200 vendors and more than 40 major retailers and distributors in the grocery, pharmacy and food services industries. GS1 also makes resources available for smaller suppliers so they, too, can take advantage of ECCnet.
This is a great help to Longo’s, which likes to use smaller suppliers to get unique products in its stores, Charleson says. The small suppliers can enter information on their products into Longo’s portal.
Cost to suppliers is tiered based on their size.
“ECCnet was a community response to a problem perceived by everyone,” Sadiwnyk says. The EDI systems first used to exchange information weren’t very successful, he says. People said our data is garbage.”
Products are identified using Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) which replaces the old Universal Product Code (UPC) used on bar codes. By standardizing on the same system, the industries are paving the way for RFID implementation, Sadiwnyk says.
“The work that’s being done by these leading industries – they’re going to capture the benefits of RFID. They’re going to capture them ahead of others because they’re building the foundation right now,” he says.
The ECCnet uses global standards and Canada has been leading the way in terms of adoption, he says.
“Other countries are doing great, but Canada – increasingly, people are looking at it and saying, ‘How did you guys ever do it?’ It’s a journey,” he says.
It’s a long process to get the data uploaded and then cleaned or validated. It’s then used every day.