Kees de Kat, Fruitmasters, on data quality:

“Two per cent out is 100 per cent wrong”

Supplying correct product information is a challenge for the fresh produce sector. Think of the high rate of circulation of products, the large diversity within products and the large number of mutations in product information. Nevertheless, especially this sector knows the importance of data quality like no other. Kees de Kat, CEO of Royal Fruitmasters: “We cannot afford any mistakes.”

Kees de Kat is CEO of Royal Fruitmasters, a cooperative that processes 200 million kilograms of Dutch fruit, and sells it on both the national and the international market. Thanks to his previous position as the person responsible for buying and merchandising at the Super de Boer supermarket, he is also very familiar with the supermarket world. “Product information ensures maximum efficiency throughout the chain. Or, to put it differently, incorrect information leads to unnecessary failure costs. Additionally, product information is important for the realisation of maximum relevant transparency. In a world that is becoming increasingly digitised, correct information is necessary in order to trust products.”

On the fresh produce market, product information requires additional attention. “We supply a true nature product, not a standard factory product. With those, it is relatively easy to determine product specifications. But that is less easy when it concerns fresh produce. Nature decides product quality, and the expert’s opinion plays an important role. It is therefore a challenge to turn these variables into relevant data.”

Relevant for the entire chain
As De Kat already indicated, exchanging product information is relevant for the entire chain. The importance of the links at the end of the chain is beyond dispute. “In retail, efficiency plays a crucial role. If you have an assortment of 20,000 articles, your thinking will have to be very smart to limit human mistakes. Imagine a supermarket chain putting on a promotion with a beer brewer. One small deviation in the measurements of the crates can mean all the difference for a few lorries more or less.”

In the fresh produce sector, product information also plays its part at the start of the chain. Think of the developments in the field of precision agriculture, which make it possible to decide per cauliflower how many and which nutrients have to be used. Using visual techniques, fruit cultivators can decide exactly which apple should already be picked and which have to stay on the trees a bit longer. “If the impact of technology increases, the importance of data will also increase. That is to say, relevant data: data that leads to more efficiency or added value for all the links in the chain.”

Not a Dutch party
De Kat subscribes to the proposition that data quality is as important as product quality. “Just look at the importance of information about nutritional value or allergies. We cannot afford any mistakes in that field, for the consumer’s sake.”

Besides, the international character of the fresh produce market plays an important role as well. More than 80 per cent of all Dutch cultivated fruits and vegetables is sold abroad. “Standardisation regarding the exchange of product information is important, but not just at a Dutch level. In our sector, global standards are a necessity. The Dutch fresh produce sector has set up its own platform for this, Frug I Com, in order to guarantee international standards, and they therefore work closely with GS1 in the Netherlands. Standardisation is no longer just a Dutch party, but we can do the pioneering work in the Netherlands.”

Taking further steps
As member of Frug I Com’s board, and as a member of the business council food of GS1 Netherlands, Kees de Kat is closely involved with the development of standards in the sector. “Of course, we at Fruitmasters join the available standards as much as possible. In addition, we are busy implementing a new ERP system, which will allow us to take further steps in the field of data quality. Think of the design of workflows, so that, after putting in product information in one department, an automatic request is sent to another department to check that data.”

At Fruitmasters, data management is the responsibility of the supply chain management department. “After I started with Fruitmasters in 2011, I immediately set up a supply chain management department. This discipline does not just integrally work with all the other departments, but also has, as a task, encouraging cooperation throughout the chain. And that also includes exchanging product specifications.”

One hundred per cent wrong
De Kat is a strong supporter of DatakwaliTijd 2.0, the programme launched by GS1 to improve data quality. “The importance of the correct product information is substantial. If even two per cent of the information is incorrect, it will be 100 per cent wrong.” Obviously, data quality is also high on the agenda of Fruitmasters. It makes no difference whether it concerns data from one of its own brands such as the Kanzi apple or the Migo pear, or if it concerns the products Fruitmasters makes under private label. Data always has to be correct. “Of course, one customer might have more requirements than another one, but we personally always assume the highest norm.”

Seize the opportunities!
Data quality is one of the themes at the third EU Fresh Info Forum & Round Table, which Frug I Com organises in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 29 and 30 November. GS1 Netherlands convenes a special session on 30 November. Birgitta de Gruijter will explain what data quality means for the fresh sector, while Theo Vermeer from Sligro will explain why data quality is important for retailers. Tom Bouwman from Harvest House will talk about the impact for a fresh produce company. 

Kees de Kat is calling on everyone to come to the event, and, in particular, to participate in the session on data quality. “It is our challenge as a sector to translate the future developments into concrete actions for contemporary practice. This event will be a good time to start with that. In this field there are great opportunities and challenges. Seize those!”

Source: GS1

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