This August GS1 is launching a National Location Registry to streamline transport operations and boost supply chain efficiency. MHD talks to Bonnie Ryan, GS1’s Director of Freight, Logistics and Industrial Sectors, to find out more.
For too long Australian supply chain industry has been hamstrung by insufficient information about important physical locations, says Bonnie Ryan, Director Freight, Logistics and Industrial Sectors at GS1.
“In order for a transport operator to execute a delivery, they not only need to understand where they are picking up something from and where they are delivering it – but they require knowledge about specific parameters around the location,” Bonnie says.
While a driver might know a site’s address, the main entry point for deliveries is not always the same as the entry to the main office, she says. There may also be other constraints – such as safety requirements and complex OH&S regulations – and further complications when dealing with complex construction sites, in the CBD for example.
Operators need to know these things, and to that end GS1, in collaboration with industry and Government has spearheaded the creation of a soon-to-be-launched National Location Registry (NLR), where attribute information about physical pickup and delivery locations is digitally stored and accessible to authorised users.
“The NLR is basically a digital registry that enables the storage, enrichment, and retrieval of information about physical locations,” Bonnie says. “The NLR will contain up-to-date information that will streamline transit of goods between major supply chain and logistics operations – whether it’s information about new road accessibility, where receivers want goods put, the opening hours of particular locations, or health restrictions in force at a location.”
Bonnie says that a major frustration for truck drivers is when they turn up to a location to make a delivery only to find the location isn’t open yet. Schedules are disrupted, and there are knock-on effects throughout the supply chain.
“Before the NLR there has been no place where transport companies can get this information,” she says. “So, they have to create it afresh every time. To give you an example, a company like Woolworths deals with 100 different transport companies. So those 100 transport companies all have their own record of all the Woolworths locations – it’s hugely inefficient and leads to massive and unnecessary duplication of work.”
And because each company is concerned only with their discrete slice of the pie, they can’t keep up to date with all the changes that are taking place across the industry. “There’s no easy way of disseminating that information between the locations, owners, and companies – like transport operators – that need that knowledge,” Bonnie says.
HOW WILL IT WORK?
The NLR, which will go live mid-August, will be available to registered users, rather than an open forum accessible to all. This is to ensure the integrity and quality of the data that is shared on it, says Bonnie.
“It will be very easy to use,” she says. “The user interfaces are very user friendly, and it will function much as one would expect a modern well-designed website to function. Big companies will of course be able to build API interfaces into the registry so that large volumes of data can be uploaded or downloaded without having to manually key it all in. But it will also cater to smaller transport companies that might just need it to log on and download a particular customer location when they need it.”
Bonnie says that the NLR will have a quiet launch, insofar as it won’t be full of data at the outset. Rather, the NLR provides a framework and infrastructure through which companies can register, be verified, and then upload and make available the information they want to make available to the users they wish to grant access to.
For those accessing the data, they can subscribe to just those locations which they need to keep track of and will receive automatic alerts when changes to location information occur.
IMPROVING SUPPLY CHAIN EFFICIENCY
As Bonnie points out, all of GS1’s work is oriented towards industry concerns and needs. “It always starts with a problem that industry wants to solve,” she says. “We’re very practical and goal driven. And we only concern ourselves with solving problems for the benefit of the entire sector – not for individual organisations.”
Creating greater efficiency in the transport network was an obvious objective to pursue, she notes.
“At some point, goods always need to enter the transport network to be picked up from somewhere and delivered somewhere else,” she says. “And that can be a quite complex process. So, when you’re looking at overall supply chain productivity, digitising and making accessible location information is a great opportunity to improve operational efficiency. Having good information about where you’re going, and the special considerations that attach to a given location, really smooths out the whole transport process.”
Its neutral position as a non-profit association within the industry meant GS1 was well positioned to work with industry and Government to bring about this important initiative for the benefit of all stakeholders. “We brought competitors to the table to solve a common problem,” she says. “And that’s the real value we bring – helping industry to collaborate in a non-competitive way for a goal that couldn’t be achieved by any one company. Because we are a neutral player and had the support of the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport, this meant we could bring industry players together for a mutually beneficial project.”
Government supported the NLR as part of its National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
A Woolworths spokesperson says it has worked with GS1 from the outset to help bring the NLR to life.
“GS1 has worked to build support with industry and Government to launch a great product that will continue to develop in future,” the spokesperson says. “The National Location Registry will be a key part of the National Freight Data Hub and a good example of GS1 working for whole-of-industry efficiency improvements.
“The registry has the potential to be for supply chains what barcodes were for retail.”
For more information on GS1, click here.