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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 19, 2000. All rights
For E-Commerce, a Data Standard
If you think it’s hard to order tomato juice
from an online grocer — because the grocer offers too many item
choices — imagine the complexity of organizing all online
so that the same item gets the same electronic identifier, starting
with the manufacturer and following through to the wholesaler, the
retailer, and the consumer.
A Universal Product Code (UPC), a certain type of bar code, can
items in a standard way in the bricks and mortar environment, but
everyone has been waiting for industry-established standards for the
On Tuesday, July 25, at a press conference in Princeton University’s
McCosh Hall, Paul Benchener, president and COO of Lenox Drive-based
UCCnet, will launch an electronic trading community, a business to
business supply chain for both manufacturers and retailers
UCCnet is an Internet-based universal trading community in the retail
and consumer goods industries, and it is the sister company to the
Uniform Code Council, a nonprofit that supports and distributes UPC
Last April UCCnet completed a "proof of concept," says Tom
Duffy, senior director of marketing. Three grocery companies and three
food suppliers (Kroger, Supervalu, Wegman’s, Ralston Purina, Procter
& Gamble, and PepsiCo/Frito-Lay) worked together on this. Now groups
of executives are helping to develop a Global Standards Task Force
to link the electronic trading communities.
The parent company, Uniform Code Council Inc. (www.uc-council.org),
has 55 employees in 25,000 square feet on the second floor at 109
Lenox Drive, and UCCnet (its wholly-owned subsidiary, www.uccnet.org)
has 14 people in 11,000 feet in its new quarters in Suite 115 of that
building. Nationally, UCCnet works with Uniform Code Council.
it works with the European Article Numbering Community (EAN).
UCCnet supports the movement, access, and organization of data, not
how it is used, says Duffy. "Early on we positioned ourselves
as an Electronic Commerce Platform. We will provide `pointers’ to
the location of data within the supply chain for supply chain members
and thus link the data within the industry."
"UCCnet is the only industry-developed and supported foundation
for the Internet-based electronic commerce. It is the first open,
standards-based, technology neutral, real-time electronic trading
community offered across the Internet," says Duffy.
Other B to B exchanges exist, Duffy admits, over 650 of them, "but
we are completely different. We are creating the ability for all those
exchanges to exchange information. We will synchronize data, based
on industry-defined application requirements. We are in a unique
because of our not-for-profit, non-proprietary position."
"We are creating the life cycle information at the item
says Duffy. "The bar codes have been established for 26 years,
and now we are ensuring compliancy to those business rules."
"It will provide a ton of efficiencies, such as logging errors
within data transactions and preventing problems with the way data
is exchanged," says Duffy. "It will provide greater access
to global markets and facilitate the sharing of information more
and more easily."
If the track record of UCC, UCCnet’s parent company,
is any indication, UCCnet will be wildly successful. Standards set
by UCC make barcode scanning possible and thus save the food industry
$17 billion a year, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report last
year. UCC creates more than $30 billion in net benefits annually —
a benefit 25 times greater than what was predicted 25 years ago. To
put it another way, UPC’s economic impact is bigger than the market
capitalization of Amazon.com and bigger than 1998 sales for
"We see initiatives such as UCCnet’s an essential part of the
continued broad penetration of E-commerce in the marketplace, and
we look forward to working with initiatives such as theirs," says
Sri Kasi, senior vice president for strategic planning and general
counsel for IndustryNetworks. His firm, also based on Lenox Drive,
provides large and midsize companies with a turnkey web-based solution
to manage all aspects of supply chain processes through its E-supply
chain management chain (www.industrynetworks.com) (U.S. 1, July 5).
The need for standards is going to become clearer as the number of
B to B exchanges proliferates, and UCCnet is not the only entry into
the standards market. "There is a fair amount of confusion in
the market today," says a spokesperson for an industry group,
AMR Research, "and UCC’s track record makes it a good candidate
to lead the charge."
"I don’t believe there will be one open standard, that one
can get mobilized for all the industries," says Gerald Bose, of
Locus Consulting on Alexander Road. There are 200 electronic commerce
marketplaces now, Bose estimates, with 10,000 predicted by 2004.
like the situation with Microsoft. On one hand, standardization
a monopoly, but on the other hand it would make doing business over
the Web it infinitely easier."
UCCnet has a growing community of nearly 200 grocery companies, and
the supply chain revenues at these companies top $1 trillion. UCCnet
is now moving into a second industry — general retail. In July
it will roll out its core services so that manufacturers and the
in the Consumer Package Goods (CPG) industry can access product life
cycle information and data.
"With UCCnet, subscribing members of the supply chain will be
able to make use of the Internet to post and access — in near-real
time — information that is accurate, secure, and compliant to
industry standards. This information could include price changes,
item introduction, authorizations, discontinuations, packaging, and
UPC changes, to name a few," says Duffy.
Databases that are not webcentric and that are not using
the UCCnet system share a fatal flaw — updates may not always
get transferred. Common practice is for trading partners to keep
of a shared product data base on their own systems. "When changes
are made to one partner’s copy of the file it can be transmitted,
but nothing ensures that the changes actually get made in the other
partner’s files. Often the results are mismatching of data, resulting
in invoice deductions, etc.," says Duffy.
UCCnet will help correct this problem by implementing any change
all trading partner databases automatically — the changes
will absolutely get made. In addition the partners see the changes
so they are aware of them.
Experts are calling UCCnet an "exchange for exchanges" linking
trading partners, solution providers, and independent trading
To fulfill this promise he thinks UCCnet must meet these requirements:
the industry standards.
obtain them through strategic alliances.
fluctuations in the market.
in the B to B market place will come from an open, noncompetitive,
global trading community," says Duffy. "We can provide the
common set of standards to the exchanges."
— Barbara Fox
08648. Paul Benchener, president/COO. 609-620-4600; fax,
Home page: www.uccnet.org.
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