December 5, 2007

The Dominos Effect of Data Errors

IDEA would like to share a message and personal objective with the key product people at each manufacturer operation.


When solving a problem, it is always better to start at the source of the problem, get the whole story and try to deliver the right product or product information on the first trial.


Manufacturers who are creating new products to satisfy customer requirements and improve efficiencies have to wear many hats and feed information throughout the organization.


What you may not realize


As you document attributes for the new products, this information will be distributed throughout the entire supply network. There are industry standards for those product attributes and it is helpful to your organization and your trading partners if they are applied.


For instance, the unique identifier, usually a GTIN number, is meant to represent not only the product but the packaging level associated with that GTIN. This number must not only be unique when compared to other GTIN’s at your company but also unique within the entire supply network.


Another important fact


The Catalog Number is also a unique number for all items sold by your company. We want you to be aware because there are popular distributor business software products that use the Catalog Number as the unique key.


The IDEA Standards Committee established a requirement in late 2006 which states that each Catalog Number must be unique and the associated GTIN must also be unique; then they are matched together for the product lifecycle. This rule has been in effect for over 15 years at GS 1 (formerly the Uniform Code Council). Even so, there are times when the manufacturer chooses to re-use the UPC number. They do this by either:


  • Changing it to the Catalog Number while tying it to the same UPC code or,
  • By choosing to assign an entirely different catalog number against this particular GTIN.


Everything is seemingly connected with all the technology changes. It is nearly impossible to perform changes that don’t impact others at some point. That is where we are at today.


An item’s GTIN identifier is to the actual item much like a person’s social security number is to the person. Without it, that person could be considered someone else without distinction.


When GTIN’s are changed incorrectly, it makes it difficult to maintain the integrity of the original component’s attributed information. Then the catalog number and description, or even price, could be confused between the old and the new item.


For example, the accuracy of GTIN’s and attributed information prevents warehouse managers from dealing with wrongfully shipped items due to inaccurate UPC’s. When that box is opened, there have already been many resources exhumed into getting that product to a certain location. Then the receiver is left with intensive steps to return this item including:


  • Request credit
  • Ship it back
  • Inspect it upon receipt
  • Begin a returns process


All of this work is created just because the Catalog Number has changed from the UPC number in which it was originally charged.


Note: The IDEA Standards Committee handles all of the EDI and Flat File standards, as well as researching suggestions or issues and making recommendations for the industry. Please make sure that you company has representation on this important committee. You may contact Mary Shaw, IDEA Standards Director, at (647) 722-3406 or  to become a participant of the committee.