Are You Ready For Sunrise 2005?
North America is finally going to get onboard with the rest of the world when it comes to product identifiers. What does that mean to your business?
Your mother probably used to say to you "Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you should." That may be true in some instances, but when it comes to business, sometimes not doing what everyone else is doing can cost your company money.
Take the EAN.UCC system of product identification for example. For 30 years, the United States and Canada have used 12-digit UPCs (universal product codes, also known as UCC-12) to identify goods. In the meantime, the rest of the world has been using EAN (European article number)-8 and EAN-13 symbols. This disparity has been a pain, but it's going to become a throbbing, excruciating pain as of January 1, 2005. Per the Uniform Code Council's (UCC) Sunrise 2005 initiative, this date marks when North American companies that want to engage in global trade will have to make their UPC-based POS (point of sale) systems accommodate EAN symbols as well. This means applications and databases will have to be upgraded. Who knew product codes could cause so much headache for end users and so much opportunty for VARs?
What's The Big Deal?
You're probably thinking "a code is a code - some have 8 digits, some have 12, others have 13." Well, it's a little more complicated than that. First, many end users' applications and databases in North America are designed to process and store only 12 digits. So, even though most scanners in use today will scan both EAN and UPC symbols, there is a problem at the POS and the back end. Currently, overseas suppliers that use EAN symbols relabel products with UPCs. Besides increasing costs, this process holds up the supply chain. To make trade more efficient, North American manufacturers, packagers, distributors, and retailers are being forced to play nice and take on the EAN symbology.
Offer Assessments To Customers
So what do you do now? Assessments are key. Test your customers' current hardware and software. Keep in mind, it's not only the POS systems that need to be upgraded. You will have to assess other areas of customers' businesses as well. Those areas include ERP (enterprise resource planning), scale management, warehouse management, and returns processing. To make a full analysis of what your customer needs, inventory devices and systems, distribution and receiving systems, order fulfillment systems, accounts payable systems, accounts receivable systems, and product catalogs also have to be tested.
Assessments will be especially important for small- to medium-sized businesses. These retailers may not have the resources more readily available to larger companies.
Don't Stop At Sunrise
Becoming Sunrise compliant is Scene one of a two-part performance. Scene two is becoming GTIN (global trade item number)-compliant. (GTIN is the umbrella over EAN-8, EAN-13, UCC-12, and EAN-14 data structures.) A GTIN-compliant company can process and store all four data structures. GTIN compliance opens the window for RSS (reduced space symbology). RSS brings bar code marking to items that are too small for the traditional UPC or for a business requirement to scan additional data at the POS.
End users will rely on you to know the proper steps to make this move. Are you prepared?