Definition

GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network)

Contributor(s): David Essex

GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) is an internet-based network that enables trading partners to exchange product-identification data in a standardized way in real time. Launched in 2004, GDSN is an initiative of GS1, a global not-for-profit association that maintains standards for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), barcodes and RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.

Technically, GDSN consists of interoperable "data pools" (repositories) spread out around the world. Trading partners must choose a data pool to subscribe to. When one supplier updates its data, its trading partner updates its data at the same time. This means everyone has access to the same continuously refreshed data, according to GS1.

In November 2017, GS1 announced that GDSN crossed the 25-million-product threshold and was being used by nearly 50,000 companies.

How GDSN works

GDSN follows a publish-subscribe messaging model. The "brand owner" (the company or organization that owns the trademark or intellectual property rights) assigns to each product a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is a unique, 14-digit identifier. The GTIN is the number encoded in the barcode or RFID tag. The brand owner then assigns attributes to the GTIN that provide details about the product along with such information as package size.

The brand owner uploads the GTIN to the one data pool to which it has access. Each trading partner then uses its own data pool to subscribe to the GTIN. The brand owner authorizes its data pool to publish the GTIN data to the trading partner's data pool. Sometimes, entities use the same data pool. 

Some companies also assign a Global Location Number (GLN) that identifies physical locations and legal entities. When transmitted electronically on GDSN, GLNs help identify trading partners to each other, though some companies also encode them in barcodes and RFID tags for purely internal use.

The GTIN and GLN data is used in the software applications that a company uses to manage its supply chains, such as an ERP system and warehouse management system (WMS).

GDSN data pools

Data pools must be certified and tested by GS1 before being added to the GDSN. The GS1 Global Registry, a central directory that tracks connections between data pools, helps to ensure uniqueness of data and compliance with GS1 standards. It also stores the data-pool location of each product's GTIN.

Users can only gain access to GDSN through a data pool, which serves as their single point of entry.

The people responsible for maintaining the data pools provide consulting and technical services to assist companies in preparing and converting their product data for uploading to the pool. They also might help convert a company's product data to government or commercial standards unique to that industry. For example, the 1WorldSync and GHX data pools help medical device manufacturers with the Unique Device Identification required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Benefits of GDSN

According to GS1, GDSN benefits include eliminating manual processes, reducing errors and cutting the time and cost needed to manage and distribute product data. It also makes trusted product information more easily accessible to end customers in real time and facilitates compliance with health and nutrition standards. Faster, more convenient access to product information can help bring new products to market more quickly.

An Accenture report sponsored by GDSN participants in the grocery industry stated that data synchronization frees people to deliver mission-critical processes, such as demand planning and procurement, more efficiently, and to be more effective at value-adding collaborative activitiessuch as supply chain visibility and "price synchronization," which is a GDSN standard for synchronizing prices on invoices, smartphone apps, e-commerce sites and other entities along the supply chain.

In case studies posted on the GS1 website, GDSN users claimed significant improvements in purchase-order accuracy and the percentage of problem-free deliveries, while negatives like lost sales from shelf stockouts and orders of discontinued products were reduced.

This was last updated in April 2018

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