Driving efficiencies between merchants and suppliers through product data in agribusiness

The agribusiness sector is a key contributor to the New Zealand economy, with exports in the primary sector of over $50 billion. Despite this, however, the sector has significant opportunities to boost performance and profitability, by aligning on the use of global data standards to create a ‘common language’ for the exchange of key product data in the sector.

For almost 50 years, GS1 has been assisting industry to optimise supply chains, reduce costs through automation and efficiencies, and help ensure consumer safety.

In 2015, an industrywide call- to-action, spearheaded by the rural retailers, sought to roll out standardised product identification using the GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN – aka the ‘Barcode Number’) and to get GS1 barcodes reliably onto products.

Since 2015, over 90% of retail SKUs are now being reliably identified and scanned at the checkout counter and throughout the supply chain. This was a major achievement, and has driven numerous business benefits for both suppliers, their merchants and ultimately, the users of products such as farmers and other rural folk. It was always recognised that ‘sorting out’ identification of product was an important building block, but there were further opportunities.

Earlier this year, GS1 facilitated a meeting at the request of the major agribusiness retailers (Farm Source, Farmlands, Rural Co and PGG Wrightson) who were all interested in pursuing pro-competitive collaboration to align on industry opportunities. They agreed to work collaboratively with suppliers in an industrywide initiative, to harness the benefits of having more accurate and complete product data, to increase supply chain visibility and efficiency, and reduce costs.

Three major themes emerged from the discussions:

  • Being able to share accurate, high quality product information among the suppliers, retailers and farming community is vital if the benefits on offer for everyone are able to be achieved
  • The use of GS1 data standards could improve business performance outcomes through improved inventory and batch control, waste minimisation and enhanced sustainability management.
  • Implementing a modern, industry-wide, online product recall management system could aid the sector in increasing overall trust and confidence, especially from consumers and the various regulators.

A series of supplier seminars were hosted by GS1 New Zealand with the active participation and support of the rural retailers in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch in October, to discuss the initiative, receive feedback and plan a way forward.