Confectioner tackles business processes in suppy chain project

Cadbury Schweppes is tackling the challenge of data synchronization in its bid to build a "supply chain of the future".

Nick Frith, the company's supply chain general manager, said IT is taking a back seat in the project, which involves feeding data to EANnet (a standardized data set of product information used online for trading partners).

This is because the company's supply chain challenges are about business processes and fine-tuning them, not about information technology, he said. "Ensuring the quality, accuracy and timeliness of the data is a business process," Frith said.

"This project, which will fully automate product information, will be a key enabler for RFID.

"We need to ensure that we use clean and accurate product data to pass between suppliers, because that product information is key to the execution of business process ... it is the key to automation and removing human intervention from that process."

Capturing all product data within the supply chain and standardizing it is a challenge best managed by business.

"I guarantee when you first approach the IT department and say we are going to build an end-to-end, fully automated solution they will say 'no worries mate, we can give you a flat text file and you can go do anything you like with it'. Wrong," Frith said.

"They don't fully understand or appreciate what you are asking of them ... the business process consequences, and the business processes that they've got to map the data for - they will come back and tell you they have changed the goalposts."

Cadbury-Schweppes use middleware called PCM (Product Catalog Manager) that automatically validates the data coming from two, siloed SAP ERP systems from the beverage and confectionary business strands.

Nightly the PCM validates the data and synchronizes some 7000 product GTINs (Global Trades Identification Numbers) to EANnet.

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