Unlocking & Empowering your Understanding of the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) – Part 1

by Innovit Corporate Affairs | August 9, 2022 | Blog

Announcing Innovit’s GDSN Blog Series! 

Sharing information about products and devices is a cornerstone of modern supply chains, regulatory compliance departments and ecommerce platforms.  There are several options to facilitate this sharing, from point-to-point implementations to more dispersed methods that allow multiple connections to utilize the same information.     

Over the next few weeks, we will explore one of these dispersed information-sharing methods called the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).  We hope to unpack the key aspects of GDSN that will allow companies to understand, prepare and successfully execute their GDSN journey in the Healthcare supply chain. 

Blog 1: What is the GDSN? 

Every journey starts with a first step.  Today, the first step to unlocking and empowering your understanding of the GDSN is to answer the question: What is the GDSN?   

In a nutshell, GDSN is the world’s largest network of product ‘data pools’ that facilitates the sharing of standardized product master data between a variety of organizations.  While in most cases the use of GDSN is not mandatory, numerous companies and regulatory agencies connect to the GDSN network to either share or receive product or device information. While the roots of GDSN began in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), the GDSN has expanded and matured to include other industries such as Healthcare.  

Companies engage and use GDSN standards stand to gain efficiencies in e-catalogue management, product data exchange, and to avoid duplication of data maintenance effort across organizations that trade with each other along the Healthcare supply chain.  In fact, once a manufacturer or supplier published their product data onto the GDSN, the same product information can be shared easily with any other organization on the network, and in some cases this can be done with literally ‘1click’.  From a distributor, GPO, or healthcare provider point of view, the GDSN provides a single standardized method to source product data from their vendors.   

The benefits for both supply-side and recipient-side are obvious and enormous: these types of standardized data attributes, code lists, and message formats eliminate a great amount of duplication in system integration and data maintenance for exchanging trustworthy product information. 

There are however some limitations and misconceptions about the GDSN that should be understood up front.  

First, information can only be shared with companies on the network that have been authorized by the data owner. GDSN is not an open catalog where companies can just pull ‘whatever they want’.   

Second, data must usually be converted or transformed into the GDSN standard in order to be shared through the network which in some cases can be complex.  However, there are 3rd party providers that have developed Product Information Management systems (PIMs) to help facilitate these transformations and data exchange interfaces.   

The third item to note about participating in GDSN is the use of GS1 identifiers such as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) which is required to use GDSN.  Once GTINs are assigned to products, and data transformations are complete, your information can be easily shared with multiple customers and regulators on the GDSN. 

Finally, as the name implies, GDSN is “global” meaning that organizations in various countries can be connected to publish and receive information, both globally, as well as locally. These countries supported by GDSN cover most of the Globe with a few exceptions.  Each country maintains its own version of the GS1 data exchange standards based on their local requirements, but all GDSN compliant data pools remain interoperable. 

In part 2 of our blog series we will describe how to get started with GDSN.