A Whole New Deal
During the second phase of AIPCs project, the company installed Extols UCCnet software, a process that took approximately three weeks. Once it published that first set of attributes to a customer, it was able to clean the data even further and, finally, get to one version of product data. The third phase of the project is under way now. It includes trying to produce system-generated processesan effort that requires enforced discipline across the company and includes adding new attributes for a new item, making changes to an existing item, or publishing and confirming notifications from customers, according to Hunter.Extol, which is based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., has been following supply chain mandates for a number of years and often bases new software development on the issues those mandates create. "About two years ago, 37 retailers announced they would be selling through UCCnet. [As a supplier], when [those retailers] get together, youve got to do it, too," said Steven Rosen, vice president of marketing at Extol. "We investigated and found two ways to address the issues that we know need to be addressed in terms of internal synchronization. We chose [one] and built our product so that a company could not merely rapidly and quickly communicate the wrong data, but get one version of the truth and send that on to your customer." The Business Integrator software connects to UCCs GDSN data pool. It essentially feeds synchronized data from AIPC, for example, into the registry and then communicates back to the supplier when the customer has accepted the data or when there is an issue with it. The advantage to retailers is that they have to connect only to the GDSN to see product-related data and not to dozens or hundreds of suppliers. The registry forces suppliers to adhere to a standard product data format; it also means that suppliers such as AIPC have to take on new technology initiatives, but such initiatives give AIPC a competitive advantage as well. "Besides being pushed by a customer or two to get into the process, we have to think about our competition, too," Hunter said. "Theyre going to be on board with data synchronization efforts. And we want our customers to have access to our catalog; we want our items out there and visible to everyone. It will just get better. At first, it was pretty confusing. Its a whole new deal." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.
"Right now, were on hold with that and trying to get everything completed this year," said Hunter, who has been focusing on getting all branded items registered and out to AIPCs catalog on UCCnet. Hunter said her goal is that when AIPCs customers say theyre ready to go with UCCnet, all shell have to do is publish to the registry.