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Joint initiative removes major barrier to EDI

A joint initiative by building materials distribution associations has removed a barrier to expansion of electronic trading in the building materials distribution sector.

The organisations involved are The Builders Merchants Federation Ltd (BMF), National Merchant Buying Society (NMBS) and United Merchants (UNIMER).

The three merchant organisations have negotiated an agency arrangement to provide internationally recognised GS1 Global Location Numbers (GLNs) to UK builders’ merchants and building material manufacturers and suppliers at a greatly reduced cost.

GLNs are an essential element of electronic trading, acting like a post code to identify specific business locations and improve the efficiency of communications between trading partners for EDI ordering, delivery and invoicing.

Under the GS1 GLN global standard, every number allocated is unique worldwide and there are over 100 international issuing bodies.

This opened the way for BMF, NMBS and UNIMER to negotiate the best terms to encourage smaller businesses within the UK building materials distribution sector to adopt electronic trading practices. 

GLNs will be available to subscribing companies at the following annual rates, exclusive of VAT.

£100 for 1 GLN

£125 for between 2 to 5 GLNs

£150 for between 6 to 10 GLNs

£200 for 11 GLNs onwards

Each subscribing company will be allocated their own unique company registration number, the 13 digit identification coding used by the GLN system will then allow up to 99 separate location codes linked to that company registration.

This will be sufficient for most multi-site independent merchants and those wishing to separate heavyside and lightside ordering, delivery and invoicing.

Said BMF Secretary, Peter Matthews: “We recognise that it is important for the sector to use the international GS1 GLN standard, but valid GNS can be supplied by GS1 offices throughout the world.

“We investigated the options and considered a number of providers before deciding to work with GS1 Malta.

“We now have a joint agency agreement with them, whereby we take on part of administration, and this enables us to provide individual GLNs at a price below that available to individual companies.”  

Chris Hayward, managing director of NMBS, said: “We have been working with BMF and UNIMER for several years on a number of initiatives promoting EDI within our sector and chipping away at the barriers to entry – essentially, ease of use and cost.

“For many smaller companies the fact that we now offer a low cost, entry level GLN will mean, for the first time, they can seriously consider adopting electronic trading.”

UNIMER managing director Howard Grant added: “Comparing GS1 bodies worldwide allowed us to develop a flexible costing structure that is far more appropriate to many of the companies in our sector.

“There is no doubt that EDI can help to speed transactions, improve accuracy and reduce overheads, and this lower cost model should encourage more businesses to get on board.”