Ten steps of GS1 eCom implementation
This page is meant for companies that are about to start the implementation of GS1 eCom standards. It will help identify what needs to be done to successfully implement and benefit from GS1 eCom.
- 1. Identify a business process in which you want to implement GS1 eCom
- 2. Make sure that there is a commitment of upper management in your company to implement GS1 eCom
- 3. Contact your local GS1 Member Organisation
- 4. Make sure that your company is a member of GS1 and has a company prefix
- 5. Educate yourself about the GS1 eCom standards
- 6. Check which standard you need
- 7. Check with your GS1 Member Organisation if there are message profiles for your country / sector
- 8. Perform a gap analysis between the data you need to exchange and content of the standard message or profile
- 9. Align Master Data with your trading partners
- 10. Start to exchange data using the GS1 eCom standards
GS1 eCom standards support a variety of supply chain business processes: from Order, through Deliver to Payment. For each of these processes, different set of messages are needed.
Therefore, before you start any GS1 eCom implementation, you need to answer the following questions:
- Which business processes will be supported by GS1 eCom?
- What data need to be exchanged in these processes?
- Which business partners will send or receive these data?
GS1 eCom standards provide solutions for multiple sectors using the same GS1 eCom message. This is achieved through profiles applied to general GS1 eCom messages, for example food industry, entertainment, office supply or textile. Therefore, sector specifics should also be taken into account during the business process analysis.
In addition, in some countries user groups create message profiles, reflecting regional practices of implementing GS1 eCom in specific sectors and business processes (see Step 7).
This is crucial for the successful implementation, as the management needs to make available the necessary human and financial resources.
The management needs to have a basic understanding of the principles and benefits of GS1 eCom. They have to be aware that the GS1 eCom implementation can help to improve trading partners service and their satisfaction, enhance the efficiency of the supply chain, cut costs and optimise inventories.
Get into contact with the local GS1 Member Organisation. Most of them have dedicated experts for specific technical areas, also for GS1 eCom. Check who will be your main GS1 eCom contact.
The contact point for the user companies seeking support in implementation of standards is always the local GS1 Member Organisation. If the local experts are not able to help directly, they have an access to the global network of GS1 eCom experts from other GS1 Member Organisations and user companies. GS1 has more than 100 local Member Organisations, serving over a million companies in over 140 countries.
Companies from the countries, where no GS1 Member Organisation has been set up yet, can contact directly the GS1 Global office.
The GS1 Identification Keys are used in all GS1 standards, both in physical flow of goods e.g. encoded in bar codes and in information flow of business data. Without them it is not possible to use the GS1 eCom standards.
The following GS1 Identification Keys that are created using the same GS1 Company Prefix:
- GLN – Global Location Number, identifying parties and locations, used in all GS1 eCom messages
- GTIN – Global Trade Item Number, identifying goods and services, used in all GS1 eCom messages
- A number of other ones for specialised applications, e.g. identifying logistic units or assets.
If you are not sure whether your company is a GS1 member and already has a GS1 Company Prefix, you can contact the local GS1 Member Organisation to find out who is the GS1 contact person in your company.
GS1 provides a wide range of educational material related to the GS1 eCom standards. Most of them, including on-line training courses, are available via your local GS1 Member Organisations. They also organise classroom training courses in local language.
GS1 provides two sets of GS1 eCom standards:
- GS1 EANCOM® – is a GS1 standard for ‘classic’ EDI, a simplified subset of UN/EDIFACT
- GS1 XML – uses the XML to exchange business documents over the internet
To new GS1 eCom users GS1 recommends GS1 XML, but if your trading partners are already GS1 EANCOM® users, you may be asked to follow their standard of choice.
GS1 EANCOM® has a large user base around the world that needs to be taken into consideration when selecting the set of GS1 eCom standard. Please note that GS1 will support and maintain GS1 EANCOM® standard for the foreseeable future.
A number GS1 Member Organisations work with their user companies to create profiles of the GS1 eCom standard messages adapted to specific sectors in their countries, e.g. for DIY sector in the Netherlands.
Profiles are subsets of messages fully compatible with the ‘general’ standards. They are adapted to the needs of the target user groups, e.g. by choosing only certain optional message components. The documentation of these profiles often contains recommendations for implementing them in the specific sectors or user groups, therefore they are frequently referred to as Message Implementation Guidelines (MIGs).
User groups can create such profiles at the international level for their sector, e.g. the Upstream group developing GS1 standards for supply chain integration between manufacturers and their suppliers.
There are also Implementation Guidelines for general GS1 eCom (EDI) implementation.
The best way to check what kind of documentation is already in place for your sector / country / technology of choice is to contact the local GS1 Member Organisation.
8. Perform a gap analysis between the data you need to exchange and content of the standard message or profile
The GS1 eCom standards are developed based on real user requirements and reviewed by the user companies, so they cover all or most information that needs to be exchanged with trading partners. However, if there are any gaps between the user requirements and the data covered by the messages provided, the standards need to be updated accordingly.
It is very important to take note that the business terms used by your company and GS1 may be different, while semantically the content of data elements is identical. Therefore, the comparison should be made between data definitions, rather then just business terms.
The GS1 data definitions can be found in the Global Data Dictionary (GDD) documentation of messages.
If you identity gaps between your data needs and those covered by GS1 messages, you need to submit the Change Request (CR) to the GS1 Global Standard Management Process (GSMP), to amend the message or request development of a new message. The Change Request can be submitted directly on the GSMP website but we advise to contact your local GS1 Member Organisation to get help in submitting and managing the Change Request.
If the change needs to be introduced to a local (MIG), than a Change Request should be submitted to the local GS1 Member Organisation, who will identify the user working group to deal with that requirement.
Master data alignment is a necessary step of GS1 eCom implementation, because the master data are not repeated in the transactional messages, but simply referenced by the standard identification keys. For example, the name and address of the buyer and seller are not mentioned in the Order or Despatch Advice, but simply referenced as Buyer and Seller Global Location Numbers (GLN).
This approach allows to remove redundant data from transactional messages, ensures efficient processing and brings considerable cost savings, also by integrating the electronic transfer of data with the physical flow of goods.
GS1 provides standards for exchange of master data. There are three main ways of sharing the master data:
- In the simplest form, the master data can be send via email or fax. This solution may be suitable for companies that have no experience in using GS1 eCom. At the later stage of implementation, when your company has the GS1 eCom infrastructure already in place, the master data standards should be used.
- Exchanging master data messages bilaterally, between the business partners involved in the GS1 eCom exchange. When some of this data change, the relevant message needs to be resent, including the updates.
- - The bilateral exchange works very well for a limited number of business partners, but when the number of partners increases, it becomes difficult to manage. GS1 offers the Global Data Synchronisation Network, where the business partners can publish their data. Their partners will be automatically notified about any updates.
Before the exchange of GS1 eCom messages can start, certain technical preparations must be made.
- First, your company will need to acquire a software or service that supports GS1 eCom and responds to your needs. GS1 does not recommend a specific product, as market neutrality is one of our foundational principles, but your local GS1 Member Organisation can provide a list of companies offering these products and services.
- When the software tool is installed, you need to map data stored in your internal database, e.g. an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) [ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning, a software product internal company data and providing automation of core business functions. In other words, it's the use of technology to integrate the information from all your key business functions and smooth its flow around the organisation. The transaction related data is extracted from the ERP and used to populate eCom messages. The ERP can be a very sophisticated tool, including automation of production, accounting, distribution, supply chain and human resources. There are certain, relatively simple ERP tools intended for SMEs.] back-end system, to the software supporting GS1 eCom.
- Your business partners need to know what are the technical requirements to exchange the business data with your company. This information can be exchanged in the form of Interchange Agreements. This is a very important step, so various standard organisations provide specific instructions for such an exchange and templates for the Interchange Agreements. Examples can be found under the following links:
These templates cover general business situations and can be adapted to the specific needs of your company.
- Once you reach the agreement with your business partners, you need to test your eCom infrastructure. Both the content of the messages and the actual communication need to be tested.
Many GS1 Member Organisations offer various services related to GS1 eCom implementation, e.g. testing of messages, certification, GS1 eCom infrastructure for transferring small number of messages, etc. Getting acquainted with these services will help in your implementation.
When the results of all the tests are positive, you are ready to start exchanging messages and enjoy the benefits of GS1 eCom.