Hidden Champions: The Systems Behind Us
What was the most influential invention of the 20th century? A rocket that could go to the moon? The mobile phone? The internet? As a society, we tend to lean towards the spectacular: the more complex a design, the more we appreciate its significance. However, arguably the most important development in the last 100 years was far more rudimentary: a metal box.
You know the type: that corrugated steel container you see on trucks, freight trains, and at sea ports. The one that carries everything imaginable: from delicate micro-electronics, to heavy metals, to frozen chickens. In 2012, there were over 20 million of these boxes, officially known as intermodal containers: masterpieces of simplicity, scalability, and practicality. Faces of a quiet revolution that has changed the world.
The future: as standard
So why is the intermodal container so important, and what does it teach us about logistics? The clearest lesson is that standardization works: without standardization in shipping, a retail sector that offers next-day delivery would never be feasible. Secondly, it shows us that true change in delivery models can only be accomplished on a worldwide scale. In an industry that is international by design, a complicated mess of national-level regulations will only lead to confusion. The 20 ft or 40 ft standard shipping container is a language understood from Seattle to Shanghai, undoubtedly the key to its success.
However, a box alone is not enough. Modern business requires the ability to track the individual pallets within each container – and indeed the individual products within each pallet – and the global standard that supports this has been a major factor in the improvement of delivery services into the modern age. Of course, we’re talking about Global Standard One.
GS1 is probably the most influential system you’ve never heard of, but in reality, it has been part of your life for decades. You see the barcode on the can of Coca-Cola you’re drinking? It means something. The code is actually made up of two individual numbers, which are issued by the manufacturer when the product is produced: the GLN (Global Location Number), which identifies the company, and the unique GTIN (Global Trace Item Number), which identifies the product itself – one code for each item. GTINs are issued only once for a product by its producer, which make them unique and reduce the potential for confusion.
The GS1 Data Matrix – usually a scannable barcode on a product – is instantly recognizable. Product type, product identification, and additional information (serial number, batch, etc.) are standardized and easily accessible. Additionally, data carriers for automatic transfer at the point of receipt, the receipt of raw material, outgoing goods, and dispatch to the customer are governed by GS1.
This data is available to any company using the GS1 system: the more companies that implement the standard, the more effective it becomes.
LOGICDATA and GS1
Why is this so important? In a word: scale. LOGICDATA sells millions of products and components for adjustable furniture systems every year, which in turn require millions of further components to create. The result of this is an expansive delivery network that incorporates producers and customers from Austria, to Australia, to Asia, and to America: a huge logistical challenge that requires a special system to function. Our recent change to the GS1 standard is intended to unify these worldwide businesses into a sleek and streamlined logistical process, improving our offering to customers and allowing our own business to grow.
As a LOGICDATA customer, you only need to insert the newly-defined GTIN into your systems to experience the benefits of GS1. These include: security in product storage, automatic identification at the point of receipt, improved transparency and traceability along the assembly line, and improved customer service through standardized data structures.
The unique nature of the number allows us to recognize which parts have been used, manage data, and work with our customers to ensure greater security and transparency. Retrieving data quickly, effectively, and correctly is one of our most important goals and one of our biggest assets.
With GS1, the same information is used at every point in the chain, ensuring that no data is lost and that no multi-flagging or system failure incidents occur. We strongly believe that this will increase transparency, reduce errors, and optimize our processes.
GS1 standards allow us achieve traceability throughout the entire supply chain and communicate vital information across the world, leading to optimizations and others benefits for each party involved.
Eyes on the Prize
Our work introducing the GS1 system has not gone unnoticed. LOGICDATA has been crowned the winner of Austrian Standards “Living Standards” award in the GS1 category: a major accolade for our company and one that shows the excellent work performed by our Logistics and Production Management Teams.
Michael Schwab, Leader of the Production Management Team, was enthusiastic about the achievement. “To be recognized by Austrian Standards for our work with the GS1 traceability system shows that our company is looking towards the future. It cements our reputation as a global industry player with a truly global outlook. Our next goal is to bring as many of our customers and suppliers on board as possible, creating a network that conforms to the highest standards of reliability, accountability, and performance.”
Click here to find out more about our GS1 system.