Master Data Management

The role of GDSN in today’s supply chain management

Ordering a product and receiving it at your distribution centre seems straightforward. In today’s globalised and intricate supply chain, this seemingly simple process can encounter substantial interruptions when there are obstacles to the transmission of information down the supply chain. Therefore, sharing real-time, accurate and universally comprehensible information becomes crucial for the successful completion of supply-chain processes.

This requirement led to the development of a data storage and sharing system for supply chain stakeholders. Known as the Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN), it serves as a conduit between brands and merchants.


GDSN includes all supply-chain-related data about a product. This covers the whole gamut of logistics, shipping and compliance. It includes information such as package type, package size, product transit execution, product storage, product delivery, legal and compliance documents, etc.

Consider a scenario in the shipping process that doesn't involve GDSN. When there's no information available about package dimensions or how the shipment will be carried out, loading becomes difficult, and there is a potential for damage during transit. This results in inconvenience and avoidable delays in restocking orders.

Conversely, when operational supply-chain information is available, it enables stakeholders in the supply chain to prepare their systems and distribution centres for the smooth movement, reception and storage of a product. This proactive approach prevents shipping partners and distribution centres from encountering unexpected issues.

As the supply chain became more globalised and complex, the need for real-time sharing of accurate product data became paramount. GDSN emerged as a response to this imperative.
Essentially, GDSN serves as a bridge connecting brands and merchants.

Improved data consistency and accuracy, better collaboration and transparency among trade partners, reduced out-of-stock situations, and increased supply-chain efficiency are some of the benefits that follow.

Challenges of integrating with GDSN

While the advantages of sharing data through GDSN are evident, executing the process is more challenging than it may seem. Here are some typical challenges, encountered especially by FMCG firms:

Complex master data with multiple input sources

FMCG firms handle intricate master data originating from various in-house sources, including product development, marketing, and sales teams. The challenge is integrating these diverse data sources into a unified format for GDSN while ensuring consistency.

Regional exceptions and customer-specific requirements

Striking a balance between worldwide GS1 standards, regional exceptions to GS1 (labelling, regulations and data norms) and customer-specific requests presents an inherent challenge. This is because multiple data sets are involved.

Attributes and values mismatch between provider and GS1 data pool

Data sync hinges on the precise mapping of attributes between the FMCG firm's data and GS1. Terminology mismatches can disrupt this alignment. Rectifying these disparities is vital for smooth data exchange and supply chain consistency.

Inaccurate or incomplete master data

Data inaccuracies or omissions can result in errors in product identification, pricing, and inventory management. FMCG firms need robust data validation and cleansing processes to ensure high-quality data aligning with GS1 standards.

Dynamic GS1 standards

GS1 updates its standards frequently. Major or minor, the updates affect data mapping and validation. Therefore, FMCG firms must stay informed about and swiftly adjust data sync processes.

Integrating GDSN with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems

The process of integration of GDSN with existing ERP systems can encounter several technical challenges. FMCG firms need to ensure seamless data flow between these systems to avoid manual data entry and maintain data accuracy.

Balance data privacy with transparency

FMCG firms need to adhere to data privacy regulations such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) on one hand and maintain data transparency and accessibility on the other. This must be balanced delicately.

Supplier onboarding and engagement

Onboarding suppliers onto GDSN can be a lengthy process, especially if suppliers are not familiar with the system. FMCG firms may need to invest in supplier education and support to ensure a smooth transition.

Data security and cybersecurity

Cyberattacks and data breaches can disrupt data synchronisation and lead to confidential information exposure.

Customization vs. standardisation

Balancing the need for customised product data for specific customers or markets with standardised data for GDSN can be challenging. FMCG firms must decide when to create tailored data sets and when to adhere strictly to GS1 standards.

Every challenge adds complexity to the adoption of GDSN. Addressing them effectively requires a holistic approach that combines technology solutions, clear governance, strong partnerships, ongoing monitoring and adaptation to evolving data standards and regulations.


Companies of all sizes want timely and trustworthy product information. GDSN serves as the backbone for seamless, real-time, and standardised product data interchange in the supply chain ecosystem. This ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page and enables quick response to changing market demands. Furthermore, it encourages collaboration among trading partners and strengthens a firm's dependability and competitiveness in a market that demands precision and agility.

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