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Digital DNA - an industry game changer

Date: August 22, 2017

Category: Opinion piece

Author: Digital DNA - an industry game changer

After recently releasing our Digital DNA Industry Charter, Jim Dickson, Head of Grocery at GS1 UK explains how the Digital DNA programme will be an industry game changer

Having worked for one of the world’s biggest retailers for many years, I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the processes and pressures the industry faces. But since joining GS1 UK over a year ago, I’ve gained a different perspective.

We all know technology has driven change. We’ve seen shoppers’ habits change, and their expectations. The demand to have accurate information about the products they buy in-store and online continues to increase. And this has put even more pressure on the retail industry to solve the problem of product data.

Before I joined GS1 UK, I participated in several industry groups. I recognised that in the right circumstances, getting competing retailers and suppliers together in the same room to solve industry-wide problems was a powerful approach. And using the common language of GS1 standards helps these retailers and suppliers find a common solution.

The grocery sector is, of course, at the heart of everything GS1 does. It’s where we began, over 40 years ago, with the introduction of the GS1 barcode. But it’s an industry that can show us the way forward now. The impact GS1 standards have had in healthcare in recent years, specifically the NHS, is enormous. Adopting GS1 standards has meant that patients’ lives are being saved and the NHS is saving millions of pounds – just by getting everyone working in a consistent and standardised way. And I can assure you that getting an organisation as complex as the NHS to do this is no mean feat!

But healthcare shares one very important thing in common with the grocery sector: Data – and tonnes of it! In grocery, this can mean nutritional and allergen data, and the importance of getting it right is crucial.

For any organisation to work efficiently, there has got to be a smooth flow of data, and this is where GS1 standards are a vital enabler. Again, technology has driven change in recent years across both the retail and healthcare sectors. Who would have thought that by putting an RFID tag on patient notes – which they have done in Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust – the Trust’s patient clinics would run so much better? Why? Because the hospitals now know where each patient record is and are able to make sure the notes meet up with the patient and consultant at the right place, at the right time.

Hearing about instances like this in healthcare only reinforces the view that by working together we can really transform the way the grocery sector manages product data. The Digital DNA programme we are facilitating really will be a game changer. In our 40-year history, this programme is our biggest challenge yet – since the original introduction of the GS1 barcode.

For too long retailers and suppliers have spent time on non-added-value activities that try and deliver accurate product data – time that could be spent on future developments and innovation. The industry needed a solution, one that’s owned and managed by the industry themselves. And now we are finally developing one, thanks to the commitment of our Retail Grocery Advisory Board and Early Movers Group who have all signed their letters of intent. We’re working with them on a new catalogue service which will be owned and governed by the industry to ensure all product data put into the catalogue will be accurate. The Digital DNA service will enter operational use later in 2017, ahead of a full industry launch in 2018.

If you want to get involved, then get in touch today.

Jim Dickson E:
T: +44 (0)7823 526354



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