CPG product info standard proceeds

Despite an economic environment that discourages major new IT implementations, players in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry are moving forward with a small, low-cost supply-chain solution to create a universal standard for product information.

This week Kellogg Co., based in Battle Creek, Mich., announced a deal with Commerce One Inc. to use Commerce One's Xpress Suite to implement the UCCnet Global Registry and UCCnet Synchronization Global Hub.

Last week Solo Cup Co., in Highland Park, Ill., and Musco Family Olive Co., in Tracy Calif., announced a similar deal with Commerce One.

The suppliers are getting a serious push from retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to use both the Registry and Hub because the retailers believe a single standard to describe products will help them streamline integration with back-end systems allowing them to get products on store shelves quicker.

Although e-business infrastructure companies are feeling the effects of the slowdown in IT spending, Commerce One in particular has a head start in this market, according to Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Berkeley, Calif.

"They were one of the system integration partners for UCCnet and helped set up the whole system, and that speaks well that they have expertise in the area," Willett said.

The Commerce One Xpress Suite solution is priced at US$23,000 and can be deployed in as little as two or three weeks, said Willett, who called it a "seed product" that will allow suppliers to comply quickly with the UCCnet standard as well as giving Commerce One a foot in the door of large accounts.

Once product information from a supplier, such as new product data, is loaded into the registry the Xpress Suite application ensures that all the retail clients are notified and keeps a continuous log for the suppliers of which retailers have actually loaded the data into their systems. There are also business process triggers that automate a resynchronization between suppliers and retailers as product information changes.

The Registry acts as a point to which a manufacturer can publish its information and a retailer can subscribe to that information, according to a Commerce One executive.

"A month ago, information about Kellogg's cornflakes was different than Wal-Mart's information about Kellogg's cornflakes. Today the information is identical," said Dan Staresinic, vice president of UCCnet Adoption for Commerce One's e-Business innovation division in Pleasanton, Calif.

According to Staresinic, the Commerce One solution is actually two-thirds services and one-third application.

Although a Web services version of the Suite is not yet available, Commerce One is planning it and is in part waiting for the CPG industry to be ready for it, said Staresinic.

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