Nordgren says operations and functions in the retailer's supply chain had become decentralized, riddled with legacy systems and business-process handoffs that made it difficult to initiate new standards and workflows. "Prior to implementing the system, we had to initiate a workflow process and wait for it to complete before going on to the next," she says. "We couldn't in parallel set up an item for sale in the store, add the buying information, and then price it. We had to wait for each step to complete before moving on to the next."
That all changed two years ago, when Safeway embarked on a data-synchronization interoperability test with data-pool companies Worldwide Retail Exchange, and Transora. Unilever, the food, home, and personal-care products supplier that sits on Safeway's top 25 supplier list, also participated. The actual test began in February and was completed at the end of June. Product information transferred from Unilever to its primary data-synchronization engine, Transora, was processed through WWRE, Safeway's primary data exchange. The information then was forwarded to Safeway using GDS communication standards. Velosel's CPIM application synchronized messages, data, and processes. The project proved successful--there's now product information on 3,000 items stored in the CPRIM catalog tool.
The consumer goods retailer is transitioning toward global data synchronization with its suppliers as a more efficient and accurate means of exchanging information about products. Now that Safeway's pilot is complete, the company is moving the information on its 3,000 cataloged items into full production, synchronizing each with its legacy systems. The strategy meant documenting end-to-end business process flows and how the technology might support that. The biggest challenge was software interoperability, Nordgren says. But it also meant educating Safeway employees and suppliers on new communication languages.
The plan is to have its top 25 suppliers in line with its strategy by year's end. "We also have the ability to perform data synchronize with UCCnet, and now the interoperability between WWRE and Transora gives our suppliers more options," Nordgren says. "It's a huge amount of effort, but there is a lot of value to the industry as a whole."