Coop automates for higher data quality

Erik Holmberg, Business Manager at Coop Hemma. Photo: Coop

Automated processes are key to save time, increase security and customer satisfaction in most organizations. It was for these very reasons that Coop Hemma started a digitalization project in autumn 2019. But how do you get everyone onboard the digitization journey? We have talked to Erik Holmberg, Business Manager for Coop Hemma, to hear about the journey so far and his key takeaways.

As one of Sweden’s largest players in the grocery industry, Coop offers affordable products from a sustainable and popular range. Together with GS1 Sweden and their service Validoo, Coop has been working for several years to create structured trade item information for products throughout the supply chain. About a year ago Coop, with support from GS1 Sweden, started a digitalization journey. The goal was to create the same trade item information security in the Non-food range that is already present in the food range.

Automated processes for higher data quality

Structured product information is vital when dealing in goods and is widespread in the grocery trade. The previous requirements for non-food products were not up to par to ensure a steady flow of product information. Erik believes that the previous approach could have led to a deterioration in customer offerings ultimately.

– Suppliers for non-food products have for a very long time worked manually with product information, outside of commonly used systems, where every step in the process had to be 100 percent correct every time. The information about the product itself is not deficient, it is rather the way it is stored and shared that is. In step with digitalization, where more and more people shop online rather than in stores, greater demands are placed on better and broader data about products, says Erik.

Coop chose to focus on the goods that have had underdeveloped master data throughout the years. The goal was to convert manual processes to automated, to create security throughout the supply chain and become more time efficient. GS1 and the Validoo service became the obvious choice for the transfer.

Support in project management and training of suppliers

Previously, Coop communicated with Excel sheets to send and share information manually. Validoo enabled Coop to communicate automatically with the suppliers’ business systems. In the past, information had to be updated manually in every relevant Excel sheet, but now it is possible for Coop to correct errors everywhere and update the information directly in the Validoo system, says Erik. Validoo has also assisted them with project management and in the training of suppliers.

– Together with GS1 Sweden, we have conducted training to ensure that suppliers are part of the change journey that is takes place. GS1 has also helped with follow-up to see our suppliers’ level of digital maturity, which has led to fewer problems later in the process, says Erik.

Digitisation creates new conditions

Reactions have been mixed among the suppliers affected by the change. Those who are used to working digitally understood the purpose of the initiative. For others, with lower digital maturity, understanding has been somewhat lower. Coop has therefore, together with GS1, focused on explaining the usefulness of the initiative.

– The first step is to get suppliers to realize and accept that this is the right way to go. Change is hard for some, but once you are up and running, it is easier to see the benefits. The challenge in understanding where suppliers are in the process has led to valuable lessons learned from us who do not usually work with the supplier side of Validoo as a service, says Erik.

Another challenge has been the work with all of Coop’s international suppliers. Coop Hemma, for example, has a higher proportion of non-Swedish suppliers, which creates a completely different starting point for change.

– Our work with international suppliers has meant a major change in how we carry out the digital journey on a technical level. Together with GS1, we have been trained and learned a lot about how GS1 works internationally, says Erik.

Collaboration for the future

This spring Coop Hemma enters the last phase of implementation, and in March, Erik estimates that it will be around 90 percent ready at the supplier level. In less than two years, Coop Hemma, in collaboration with GS1 and Validoo, has moved hundreds of suppliers into Validoo. The benefits are many, Erik explains:

– The main advantage is that we will have less problems with orders and finances between us and suppliers because we will share the same processes. This will lead to increased online growth and save a tremendous amount of time. A large part of the job has been done by the suppliers – and I am extremely grateful for their efforts.

Erik welcomes the cooperation with GS1, and they already have several joint projects planned. As a next step in the process towards an even better e-commerce experience, Erik now wants to work even deeper with, for example, image management and packaging materials.

– Working with centralized master data is necessary, and for those of us who have a long history of working with GS1, they were an obvious choice. Validoo offers processes that support our business and can be used in the change for the future. I can without a doubt recommend this solution to others who want to control data inflows!

Thanks, Coop, for letting us join on the digitalization journey.

Five key take aways

  1. Get Suppliers onboard early in the journey of change by demonstrating the benefits of the initiative.
  2. Training sessions for suppliers with support from GS1 to increase knowledge and create security in processes.
  3. Determine the suppliers’ digital maturity and put extra effort on those who are not as used to it.
  4. Stay up to date on where in the process suppliers are, to catch any challenges before it has gone too far.
  5. Stay one step ahead and automate processes so that they are relevant both today and tomorrow.