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A basic guide to the 4 G’s: GDSN, GS1, GTINs and GLNs

All of us have heard about the 4 Ps of Marketing. How about extending this concept to the world of data synchronization between trading partners?

Supply Chain is one of the most important functions these days for any large organization that manufactures and sells a variety of products. There are innumerable trading partners involved throughout this supply chain and ensuring that every stakeholder has accurate and on time data is one of the most crucial aspects that cannot be ignored.

Having a robust system in place that ensures continuous coordination of information between the manufacturer and the retailers is what GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) facilitates.

GDSN is a universally accepted set of data formatting standards that ensures senders and receivers of product data are operating within the same structure and maintaining the highest levels of data integrity.

This is how information flows in a GDSN typically:

The manufacturer wants to publish information about its items or products in a global data pool or registry. This information is sent in a decided format that is accepted by the receiver. The recipients of this data are retailers who can request for this information by subscribing to specific items. The middle person between the manufacturer and the retailers is the Global Registry = GS1. GS1 provides validation services to ensure uniqueness and applies some basic rules.

The GS1 Global Registry® is the GDSN’s “information directory” that details who has subscribed to trade item or party data, guarantees the uniqueness of the registered items and parties, and ensures that all data pools in the network are complying with a standards-based set of validation rules

This is now where GTINs and GLNs come into picture. The two main keys based on which GS1 functions are the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) and the GLN (Global Location Number)

The GTIN is a unique number assigned to a product that can be ordered, priced and invoiced by a trading partner at any point in the supply chain. Simply put, it is the Barcode that you see on a product.

There has to be a very close relationship between the GTIN Data and the Product Data.

Think of it this way: A company manufactures pens for example. Now, end customers like us would be buying a single pen – let’s call this an item. There would be large depots or supermarkets who would however purchase cases of 20 pens for example. And think of transporting these cases of pens from the manufacturing plant to the warehouses on wooden trays or pallets.

Each of these items, cases and pallets would have their own characteristics and hence would be assigned a unique barcode for easier tracking. The length, width, height, weight and various other dimensions and attributes of these GTINs in essence, need to be maintained accurately. This is what is maintained in that common pool of data that every trading partner can access.

The GLN is used to identify the physical location of a items in a supply chain, legal entities and trading parties.

Implementing GDSN for any company is going to be beneficial. However, there are some key points that need to be thought over before taking that big step:

  • Readiness of the organization and all stakeholders involved to accept this big change – especially end users whose work processes will change here after.
  • Choosing the right GDSN partner is of key importance – the product that they offer should suit your needs and whatever customization is required should be achievable quickly and without too much of a hassle
  • Strategizing the roll out of GDSN – Do you want to do it all in one go through a big bang approach? Or test it in one market and then gradually learn from the mistakes made (if any) and proceed further

Hope this helps gain some perspective on the basics of GDSN and GTINs in general.

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