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Working with our members to set new standards

Date: December 08, 2016

Category: Industry news


At our recent AGM and annual review, we celebrated our 40th year of serving the UK retail sector. After looking back at how barcodes became ubiquitous in the UK, we also looked forward, to how we’re working with the industry to meet the new challenges posed by omnichannel retail.

Paul Reid, Head of Standards and Consulting, began by comparing our standards to a toolbox. “Tools perform specific tasks. And if the tool you have doesn’t do the job you require, it’s really not much use to you. It’s the same with GS1 standards. As time goes on businesses develop, and if our standards don’t keep pace they’re not going to solve the business problems that are important for our members. Which is why we invest so much time working with our members to ensure that our standards are kept up to date and relevant – so they continue to solve the challenges our members face.”

Working with our members to set new standards

Paul was joined on stage by Leanne Gorin, Head of Customer Operations at Unilever to discuss how we’ve been working with our members to simplify our most fundamental standard – product identification. Leanne is a key part of the GS1 UniqueID project team. This two part project was tasked with making it simpler and easier to manage the identification of products in retail. The first phase looked at how brand owners manage product changes and when they must assign a new GTIN. The recently published GTIN Management Standard simplifies this process. The second stage is looking at how minor product variants are managed.

Paul: First of all, Leanne, can you explain what you do and how you got involved in this project?

Leanne: One of the teams I’m responsible for at Unilever is the product data specialists. They create the new line forms for our customers and are almost the last step in checking our compliance to the GTIN standard.

Being responsible for this team, it’s common for questions to crop up around whether a change means we should be applying a new GTIN to one of our products. In the past this meant looking at the old GTIN allocation rules – all 46 of them – which would often lead to more questions being asked. Being part of the UniqueID team was a chance to look at how the standards work and help to simplify them – making it easier for our teams to use.

Paul: How did you find it, working through the standards process?

Leanne: The project team was a global one, with a mixture of retailers, suppliers and online businesses, such as eBay. Having such a diverse group was really important to the success of the project, as right from very first workshop there were contributions from many different perspectives.

It was crucial to have a UK voice in the group, as markets around the world really differ. Unilever is a global organisation but we always hear internally how in some aspects the UK is different from everyone else – in the same way the US can be.

The fundamental question the project had to answer was simply: how do we give accurate product data to an increasingly diverse and data hungry audience?

Paul: And how do you think the group managed to answer that?

Leanne: By simplifying the existing 46 GTIN rules down to just 10 I can now certainly have a much better discussion with our product teams.

It’s pretty clear when there’s a supply chain or a legal requirement to change a product’s identifier. The more challenging scenario is when it affects the shopper. Before online, shoppers could see and touch a product. They didn’t look at a barcode to know what they were buying. But now, with online shopping, we must make sure a product’s information is absolutely correct – otherwise we’re going to disappoint our customers.

The new GTIN Management Rules now have three guiding principles. One, how a change affects moving the items through the supply chain., two, the legal requirements and three, whether it will affect the shopper – making the rules much more user friendly.

GTIN Management Key Principles

Want to know more?

Read more about the new GTIN Management Standard