Every type of foodservice operator, distributor and manufacturer will benefit from a new study on electronic alignment of product and price data between trading partners.

The results will establish a foundation upon which business-to-business electronic commerce (e-commerce) can succeed in the foodservice industry.

The EFR Executive Committee announced the study today after selecting The viaLink Company of Dallas, TX, to synchronize product and price information from the test companies' databases for purposes of this EFR pilot. The research will begin in September and end in late November with published results that will seek to identify voluntary industry guidelines for near real-time data alignment. Computer Sciences Corporation's (CSC) Consulting Group will manage the study titled "The Foundation of B2B Electronic Commerce in the Foodservice Industry -- Item & Price Alignment."

The research will measurably demonstrate business value of aligning product and pricing data between foodservice operators and their distributors and between distributors and their suppliers. The pilot will involve Brinker International's Macaroni Grill, Levy Restaurants, B. E. Keith, Kraft Foods, Inc., General Mills and Tyson Foods, Inc. The EFR project leaders are in the process of confirming another national distributor's participation.

"In order to take full advantage of today's increasingly sophisticated B2B capabilities, as a starting point trading partners need to communicate up-to-date product and pricing data in real time and in electronic formats their trading partners can use," said Mark Allen, executive director of EFR. "This study will demonstrate the positive results that can be achieved by exchanging accurate, timely item and price information."

"This is an extremely important project for EFR and the foodservice industry," said Chuck Troyer, a partner in CSC's Consulting Group and a leader of the EFR initiative. "The study will both demonstrate the real-world, quantifiable benefits of e-commerce and lay the groundwork to create voluntary communication and process standards that will allow the foodservice industry to reap these benefits."

According to Troyer, the study also will provide a foundation from which EFR can launch future initiatives targeting more advanced forms of e-commerce, such as the order-to-cash cycle and collaborative planning.

"For operators, especially independents, this will be a real breakthrough," said Andrew Van Ermen, director, information services for Levy Restaurants, who serves on the EFR Electronic Commerce Committee. "This pilot will demonstrate that technological barriers inherent in the current business process can be overcome, thereby putting even the smallest operators on an equal footing with much bigger players."

"We are excited about improving the accuracy of item and price information shared with our trading partners," said Charles Hunn, executive vice president of business development & strategic initiatives for Kraft Food Services. "Aligning data and eliminating the myriad inefficiencies associated with the current process will be of great value to every operator and distributor we do business with. We are big proponents of EFR and believe the leadership they are demonstrating will help shine some light on what is needed to prepare companies for the evolving world of e-commerce."

The EFR study will use viaLink's syncLinkTM as the trusted, secure technology platform for communicating and synchronizing product and price data between the participating trading partners. The viaLink service will translate product information from any data format a vendor is capable of providing, to any format their customer is capable of receiving.

The foodservice industry's Profile database will complement the study by providing up-to-date nutrition and ingredient information where applicable.

The expected benefits for study participants, and for companies that embrace item and product synchronization in the future, will include:
  • Reduced purchase price variances.

  • Fewer shipment mistakes due to item number errors.

  • Reduced invoice errors.

  • Less time to process invoice errors and credit memos.

  • Shorter invoice-processing cycle time.

  • Reduced processing time.

  • Increased product data quality.

  • Fewer order entry errors, and less time required to correct them.

  • Knowledge of successful e-commerce practices.
For more information on "The Foundation of B2B Electronic Commerce in the Foodservice Industry -- Item & Price Alignment" and other EFR topics and activities, contact Mark Allen, executive director, EFR, (703) 532-9400, ext. 228; or by e-mail to mallen@fdi.org. Or, visit the web site: www.efr-central.com.

Efficient Foodservice Response is a joint project sponsored by 10 industry trade associations. The project was created so manufacturers, agents, distributors and operators could jointly study methods to eliminate non value-added costs from the foodservice supply chain. The project is built around the EFR strategies of: Supply Chain Demand Forecasting, Electronic Commerce, Equitable Alliances, Logistics Optimization and Foodservice Category Management. The EFR sponsoring associations are: International Foodservice Distributors Association/Food Distributors International, International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, Uniform Code Council, Inc., International Foodservice Brokers Association/Association of Sales and Marketing Companies, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inc., Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada, Foodservice & Packaging Institute, Inc., National Restaurant Association, National Association of Convenience Stores and Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors.