A Publication of WTVP

If your business supplies any major distributor or manufacturer-such as Lowe's, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, or Menards-then UCCnet will have an impact to your operations.

What is UCCnet and why should you care?

UCCnet is a subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council, which developed the familiar Universal Product Code (UPC) system, which identifies a product and its manufacturer through a scannable bar code.

UCCnet is a global, electronic commerce service that allows companies to improve supply chain efficiency. UCCnet's Global registry serves as a worldwide source for companies to store product data, ensuring that trading partners have access to accurate, up-to-date, and industry-compliant trading information. This synchronized and standardized data enables companies to reduce the costs and delays associated with inconsistent or "dirty" supply chain information.

The problem

Throughout this interaction between suppliers, brokers, and retailers for thousands of products, errors are inevitably produced. An average of 30 percent of the information in consumer goods and retail systems is incorrect because of the lack of an agreed-upon system for trading partners, human error during manual processing, and a lack of data integrity.

Additionally, the traditional process for new item additions and item maintenance is slow, cumbersome, and prone to error. The addition of a new item at retail involves an average of 10 to 15 paper-based, manual steps with coordination between thousands of retailers, manufacturers, and brokers. Through the inefficient process, new items and price changes can take more than four weeks to get to store shelves.

So far, 124 retailers and suppliers have joined the UCCnet community. Participation in UCCnet is voluntary, but its adoption by manufacturers and retailers will increasingly pressure smaller enterprises to have their product codes changed and accurate as a prerequisite to conducting business.

In February 2003, Wal-Mart sent a letter to 3,000 of its U.S. suppliers explaining that it plans to receive all product data electronically by January 2004 and be UCCnet compliant by January 1, 2005. It strongly urged adoption of UCCnet services, as this is the direction in which Wal-Mart will be headed. Wal-Mart's goal with respect to content exchange is to synchronize product data between its retailers and consumer goods manufacturers on a global basis. Wal-Mart will be able to decrease operating costs by reducing errors and thus increase margins. Suppliers that can't or won't comply with UCCnet in time will be eliminated as vendors.

Whether you have homegrown systems or ERP, you'll have to prepare you systems for the new, longer code sets; understand how to convert or cross reference current codes to new UCC codes; and start a business assessment early in 2004 to determine your impact, cost, and scope. IBI