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Data standards body commissions research into supply chain technology adoption amongst small grocery suppliers

A recent survey commissioned by GS1 UK, the independent supply chain standards body, indicates that small grocery suppliers recognise the business case for adopting supply chain technologies. Eighty six per cent of those surveyed said that they would adopt supply chain technologies if they could gain a competitive edge in the market and 87 per cent said they would use supply chain technologies if they helped to improve their customer service.

The survey, which was carried out by IFF Research, consisted of a sample of 100 grocery suppliers with between 1 50 employees. Respondents were asked about their knowledge and use of a wide range of supply chain technologies including bar coding, RFID, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and GDS (Global Data Synchronisation).

It seems that education and support may prove vital for technology providers to gain entrance into the untapped small suppliers market. Survey participants listed the main barriers to adoption as lack of understanding and awareness of the technologies (62 per cent), while 50 per cent believed that adopting supply chain technologies would require a significant change in their business culture or direction.

These barriers contrast with the widely held belief that suppliers adopt new technologies simply because of pressure from retailers. Only 3 per cent of suppliers using bar codes, for example, stated that the reason for adopting them was because supermarkets demanded it.

Commenting on the results of the research Gary Lynch, Chief Operating Officer at GS1 UK said: Its clear that smaller suppliers are willing to look at new technologies but fear the skills and information gap, and the change that this might impose on their organisations. We believe that it is our responsibility to work with these companies to bridge this gap.  It is also the responsibility of technology providers to demonstrate how their solutions can add real value and improve the bottom line without disrupting business. 

In response to the survey GS1 UK, whose members include thousands of companies like those questioned, has launched a series of SME initiatives across its network of training centres in the UK. These will include reduced rate training, free events and user group meetings all aimed at helping to educate companies on improving supply chain efficiency.

This willingness to embrace new technologies is a far cry from peoples notion of the greatest shopkeeper of all time. Of those surveyed, 49 per cent selected Arkwright, the local shopkeeper in Open all Hours as their favourite celebrity shopkeeper. Other favourite shopkeepers included: Young Mr. Grace from Are you being served? (13 per cent) and Berta and Babs from Acorn Antiques (6 per cent).

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