November 3, 2006

IDEA producing the DNA of the eCommerce supply chain

Business information and communication data standards maximize supply chain efficiency. Data standards are the DNA of the supply chain and enable companies to better serve their customers, deliver products more efficiently, improve trading partner collaboration, reduce operational costs, and enhance internal business processes and external business relationships. Companies that adopt and use standards have a competitive advantage over those that do not adopt and apply this approach.

If the supply chain is the engine that drives the economy, then information is the fuel. But, it all begins with accurate, unambiguous, and timely information based on standards. Adopting industry standards reduces friction and gridlock within the supply chain and enables companies to focus more on their customers.

When the Industry Data Exchange (IDEA) was established by NEMA and the National Association of Electrical Distributors, the responsibility to manage, develop, and produce business information and communication standards became a key role for the IDEA Standards Committee (ISC).

"The ISC is responsible to choose, interpret, and shape industry specific versions of open, public, non-proprietary international and industry group standards," says IDEA President Mike Rioux. The groups that develop such standards include GS1 and its affiliate organizations such as the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ASC X12. The IDEA Standards Committee is made up of representatives from manufacturer, distributor, and software companies that are IDEA customers and affiliates.

Currently, the ISC meets face-to-face four times a year, with additional scheduled conference calls. These meetings are organized to review and approve recommendations of the subcommittees and assign new tasks to improve the value of the standards to the industry. The committee is led by Chairman Gerry Bignell, Data Integration Manager, WESCO Canada, and Vice-Chairwoman Ann Adams, Channel Operations Manager, Square D/Schneider Electric.

Since supply chain standards cover a wide variety of topics, the ISC has established subcommittees to concentrate on specific areas and develop and propose guidelines for EDI, EDIFACT, XML, Data Content, Flat File, Product Identification (Bar Code and RFID), and Product Code (UNSPSC), as they apply to North America.

"What I would like to see this year is one major project completed by each of the subcommittees," says WESCO’s Bignell. "For the Data Content subcommittee, this project would be the submission of an updated product data descriptor document to NEMA, so they, in turn, could send it to the ANSI Standards group. The Product Identification subcommittee is tracking the impact of RFID on our industry; it would be nice to have a preliminary report by year-end from this subcommittee."

The eight subcommittees are Data Content; EDI Content; Product Identification; XML; Product Code; Flat File; Standards Awareness & Communications; and EDIFACT.

The IDEA Standards Committee is open to all IDEA customers and affiliates. For more information regarding the IDEA Standards Committee, contact the IDEA Standards Manager David Frenkel at (703) 841-3257 or