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"The major problem we`re having now is that our suppliers are giving us information that is not consistent among our nine operating companies," he says. "We want one version of the truth."
Ahold is using WWRE`s services to help set common business rules among its suppliers for checking the quality and consistency of product data, for example, keeping package sizes accurate to Ahold`s specifications.
The overall project is expensive, but will bring huge savings, van der Pluijm says. "It will require millions of dollars of investment, but we figure about eight times that investment in savings," he says. The savings will come from more accurate invoices, fewer chargebacks, more accurate pricing, less staff time fixing problems and more efficient warehouses--including robots that don`t require a programmer`s attention.
The importance of accurate, synchronized data will only increase, van der Pluijm says. He notes that Ahold currently works with about 40 to 80 data attributes per product, but will soon share information with suppliers on 80 to 120 attributes, ranging from package dimensions to a complete list of ingredients in processed food products.
That will not only help Ahold to receive and process received goods faster, but it will satisfy the growing consumer demand for more product information, he adds. "Now it can take a long time between the time we announce a product and get it on the shelf," he says. "But we`ll be able to get products on the shelf faster and also have more information on them faster."