Do You See UCCnet?

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If you sell to any major retailer, you've probably already received letters informing you of mandates to become a member of UCCnet. This not-for-profit company is a subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council, the body responsible for assigning the company prefix used to generate a UPC code. UCCnet is a means by which suppliers and retailers can synchronize item-related data based on commonly agreed-upon industry standards. In this article, I'll explain how UCCnet works and what it takes to become UCCnet-compliant.

In the Beginning

The UCCnet initiative began in 1999, when a working group made up of grocery suppliers approached the Uniform Code Council. They were concerned with the number of errors they were experiencing related to the items their customers were ordering. These errors were affecting their bottom line in the form of customer charge-backs. The solution was to develop a registry where item data could be loaded once and shared by suppliers and customers. The result was UCCnet.

One common misconception is that UCCnet will somehow act as a replacement for existing electronic data interchange (EDI) technology. This is far from the truth. In fact, UCCnet will serve to improve existing EDI by ensuring that the item data being sent back and forth is correct. According to a report by A.T. Kearney, 30% of the item information in retailers' item catalogs is incorrect. With an estimated potential savings of $40 billion throughout the supply chain, UCCnet is an initiative that's not going away any time soon.

ROI? We Don't Need No Stinkin' ROI!

When you consider the $40 billion savings estimate, you may initially be ready to dive in and get your piece of the pie. Whether or not you actually achieve any cost savings can greatly depend on the nature of your business. If, for example, your company routinely introduces new items or makes changes to existing items, you can expect some payback by decreasing the amount of time it takes to get your new items on the shelf. You'll no longer have to wait for retailers to enter item information into their systems manually prior to ordering new items. If you deal with a large volume of charge-backs from retailers caused by bad item data, you can also expect to see some savings. If, on the other hand, you introduce only a handful of new items every year, you may never see any actual savings from this initiative. Regardless, the main motivator for implementing a UCCnet solution will probably be due to a customer mandate from retailers like Wal-Mart, Lowe's, or Home Depot.

Global Standards

Before retailers and suppliers were able to synchronize item data, a set of standards had to be defined to ensure that they were all speaking the same language. At the forefront of these standards is the Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN (pronounced gee-tin). The GTIN is a means by which a common item numbering system will be put in place that will encompass other numbering systems currently in place (UPC, I2 of 5, EAN, etc.). The GTIN is a 14-digit number that can contain these other numbers as part of a data structure. In the case of a Universal Product Code (UPC) , which is made up of 11 digits plus a check digit, two zeros are inserted to the left of the UPC number to fill out the 14 digits. For a European Article Number (EAN), a single zero is inserted to the left of the 12-digit EAN, which is followed by a check digit. An Interleaved 2 of 5 (I2of5) carton ID number can be used as is for the GTIN. This item can represent a case, pallet, inner pack, master pack, etc. In all of these cases, the fourteenth digit represents the check digit. Figure 1 below shows examples of how GTINs can be used for each pack level for an item.

Pack Level
Pk Ind.
Mfg. ID
Item #
Ck Dgt
Pallet of 2880 of Item 12345
Master Pack
Master Pack of 144 of Item 12345
Case of 12 of Item 12345
A single each of Item 12345

Figure 1: This table shows examples of a GTIN at each pack level for the same item.

As this example shows, a single numbering system is used to represent all pack levels of an item. As you would expect, the data requirements vary based on the pack level.

UCCnet also uses globally defined product groups to categorize item data. These categories defined by the Universal Descriptor Exchange (UDEX) consist of a series of numbers and related descriptions that define item categories at three levels. Figure 2 shows an example of these categories.


Figure 2: This is a sample of the UDEX item category breakdown.

As this example shows, the first two positions of the code, in this case 34, are used to define the department, COMPUTERS/GAME CONSOLES. The next four digits define the category. In this example, 0255 represents COMPUTER NETWORK PRODUCTS. The final four digits identify the subcategory. Here, 1368 defines COMPUTER ROUTERS.

The UDEX category is just one of the elements required by UCCnet. The current production release of the UCCnet standards consists of 62 core elements used to define item attributes (weight, length, width, etc.). Within this standard, the data is defined using what UCCnet calls document type definition (DTD). Since these initial standards were created primarily for the grocery industry, UCCnet has had to make some additions to support other industries. The newer standards are defined using an XML Schema Definition (XSD). Within XSD, there are 151 common attributes, including 42 mandatory attributes. There are also extended industry-specific attributes. The hardlines industry, for example, which supplies major retailers like Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Wal-Mart, has 50 extended attributes.

The Global Location Number (GLN) works hand in hand with the GTIN and is used to define both supply and demand organizations. The GLN itself can represent any location within a company. Each of the retailers listed above would fall under demand partners. Demand partners will define a GLN for each store location within their company. On the supply side, you could theoretically define a GLN for your main location and any distribution warehouses within your company. The GLN itself is made up of a 13-digit number whose thirteenth number is a check digit. The second through seventh are defined using your company's UCC manufacturer ID. The next five numbers are used to uniquely identify a specific location within your company.

Communicating with UCCnet

Data communications with UCCnet are generally handled using one of two methods: the GlobalPortal or the GlobalHub. The GlobalPortal uses a browser-based, UCCnet-hosted data entry utility called SynchPoint, which allows you to manually enter your item data and publish it to your trading partners. Work lists allow you to keep track of the entire process of publishing items and any related events such as customer authorization. The GlobalHub allows users to use machine-to-machine communications to synchronize item data. This method requires a software solution to take the item data from a back-end system, such as an ERP package, and transform this data into the proper XML format for UCCnet prior to transmitting the data via the AS2 communications protocol. The chart in Figure 3 gives a graphical representation of how UCCnet communications occur.

Figure 3: Demand and supply communications occur through the UCCnet Global Registry. (Click image to enlarge.)

When publishing item information to the Global Registry, you have the option of publishing the information either publicly, meaning that any retailer can have access to the information, or privately, publishing the information only to select trading partners identified by their GLN.

Summing Up the Cost

Several factors come into play when determining just how much it's going to cost you to become UCCnet-compliant. First and foremost is the cost of membership. The annual membership fee is based on your company's annual sales. A table of the current fee schedules can be found on the UCCnet Web site. These fees range from $100 to $400,000 per year. No matter what method you choose to use to send your data to UCCnet, this membership is a requirement.

After the membership fee, costs can vary greatly. If you decide that SynchPoint is the best way to get your item data synchronized, additional costs would be minimal but would probably require receiving some training through one of the approved alliance partners. Should you choose to go machine-to-machine, you could either develop your own software to convert your data into the XML message format required for UCCnet or purchase a solution from a certified alliance partner. If you develop your own solution, you will have to have the solution certified prior to sending any data to UCCnet. This process includes receiving required training prior to certification. The costs of a packaged solution can vary as well, depending on the solution you choose. I'll examine the different types of solutions a little later, but generally these costs can range from a few thousand dollars to over a hundred thousand.

In addition to the software costs, there can also be costs for consulting time to assist you in putting your UCCnet initiative in place.

When you take all of these factors into consideration, you can see that how much UCCnet will cost you can vary greatly, depending on how you choose to implement it.

Implementation Planning

The general process for becoming compliant with retailers' UCCnet mandates is fairly straightforward. Here are the basic steps required to get this initiative moving:

  • Join UCCnet--This part is the one absolute requirement.
  • Receive Training--This will help your organization get a more complete understanding of UCCnet.
  • Find a certified UCCnet alliance partner--A list is available from the UCCnet Web site.
  • Form a project team--This is not an IT initiative. Any part of your company that deals with new item setups needs to be involved.
  • Begin data cleansing--You need to make sure that your data is valid and complete and that it meets all UCCnet requirements.
  • Implementation--Along with your alliance partner, put your solution in place and begin to synchronize item data.

When looking at a process like this, it's important to remember that, while this initiative does require the involvement of your IT department to get a solution in place, UCCnet is not an IT project. UCCnet will completely change the way your company deals with item setups and therefore needs the support and involvement of any area within your organization that deals with item setups. Getting this support may be the most challenging part of your UCCnet project. Without this support, however, your project may be doomed to failure. For this reason, it's a good idea to get as many people as possible from any of these functional areas of your company involved in UCCnet training.

Perhaps the most important step listed above is data cleansing. If the data in your system is incorrect and you synchronize that bad data to your trading partners, you've completely defeated the purpose of UCCnet. A perfect example is a supplier that pays to have a certain amount of space on the retailer's shelf. Item dimensions determine how much of the product can fit on the shelf. One supplier found that the package dimensions were incorrect and that they were in fact paying for shelf space that was being used by their competition. The data cleansing process will also involve ensuring that you have all of the mandatory data attributes. You'll need to gather any missing information prior to synchronizing.

Alliance Partners

The term "alliance partner" has come to mean many different things. UCCnet alliance partners are companies that have been certified to assist suppliers and retailers with becoming UCCnet-compliant. This assistance can include software that stores, translates, and sends your data to UCCnet. It can also include training and consulting services.

For storing and sending your data to UCCnet, you have several options. The lowest-end solutions will take a supplied data file (CSV, Excel, flat text file, etc.), translate the data into the required XML format, and send the data to UCCnet. This type of solution can be cost-effective on the surface, but it will require more of your IT resources to determine how to get the data from your back-end system into the required data file. In addition to that, you may have to modify your existing item database to support attributes not currently available. The next type of solution available would be hosted service providers. These companies act like an EDI VAN in that they will take your data, again in a spreadsheet or text file, and handle the translation and sending to UCCnet. Again, this type of solution will require more work from your IT staff to get the data into the correct format. The third group of solutions includes software offerings from companies such as LANSA, webMethods, and EXTOL, which give you a fully integrated UCCnet solution. This type of package integrates to your back-end database and allows you to store any attributes not available in your back-end system in a local item catalog. Specifically, LANSA's UCCnet Direct solution runs on the iSeries and offers users a full item catalog that can be integrated with other databases on and off of the iSeries. This solution also includes a workflow component that can be used to track the process of an item setup within your company. In addition to giving you fields to store the additional attributes required by UCCnet, this solution will also allow you to store additional non-UCCnet information within this item catalog. You can also create links from an item to external documents like image files or spec sheets. While this type of solution does carry a higher price tag than some of the lower-end solutions, these packages give you some value-added features that may be a means by which to justify the costs. For example, most of the software solutions include some sort of AS2 communications component to transmit the data to UCCnet. In some cases, this component can also be used to send and receive EDI data via the Internet (EDI INT). Additionally, some packages give you item catalog components that can be used for applications outside of UCCnet as well. When considering which type of solution is right for your company, it's important to remember that this initiative will ultimately influence the way that you do item setups.

Change Is the Only Constant

The standards are constantly changing to keep pace with the marketplace. In upcoming releases of these standards, item pricing will become a component of the data. Keep this in mind when deciding on a software solution. If the application is inflexible and doesn't allow you to keep up with standard changes, you may find yourself looking for a new solution down the road.

It's also important to remember that UCCnet is a precursor to other initiatives, such as Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) as well as the much-touted Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Without common item data, neither of these initiatives is possible.

Mike Faust is the IT Manager for The Lehigh Group in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Special thanks to Bill Hood and Alan Christensen from LANSA for their input on this article. Check out Mike's books The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things and Active Server Pages Primer from MC Press. You can contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mike Faust

Mike Faust is a senior consultant/analyst for Retail Technologies Corporation in Orlando, Florida. Mike is also the author of the books Active Server Pages Primer, The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things, JavaScript for the Business Developer, and SQL Built-in Functions and Stored Procedures. You can contact Mike at

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    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.