Carrie Wilkie is senior vice president, standards and technology at GS1 US, where she leads the teams responsible for developing GS1 Standards and technology offerings that align with industry’s current and future business needs focused on supply chain visibility.
Previously, as senior vice president of enterprise program delivery at GS1 US, Wilkie oversaw product management and education and training, where she guided customer support strategy, the development of tools and services, and educational offerings across several industry sectors including apparel, general merchandise, foodservice, healthcare, and retail grocery, as well as industries with emerging standards usage (banking and government).
Before joining GS1 US in 2014, Wilkie held several management roles during her 10-year tenure at Dawn Foods, where she worked to improve product data management and address regulatory affairs. She led cross-functional, digitally innovative teams that made significant improvements to data synchronization, data quality, and regulatory compliance in the foodservice industry.
Wilkie is a frequent speaker at industry events, including the Association for Financial Professionals, Secure Cash and Transport Association, and GS1 global standards events. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics and government from Ohio Wesleyan University, a Master of Arts in organizational management from Spring Arbor University and a Master in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:01
Hitting a logistics milestone. The current state of the industry. And a major reorganization.
Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast.
Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the group editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
Logistics Matters is sponsored by Hyster Company, a global manufacturer with nearly a century of experience designing forklifts and high-capacity materials handling equipment used in the world's most intense industries. Operations rely on Hyster as a strong partner for everything from choosing the right motive power source to their Edison Award-winning operator-assist solution Hyster Reaction. For more information, visit hyster.com. That's H-Y-S-T-E-R dot com.
As usual, our DC Velocity senior editors Ben Ames and Victoria Kickham will be along to provide their insights into the top stories of this week. But to begin today: This week marks the anniversary of a very important technology that most of us use every day, and has revolutionized how supply chains operate. To find out more about what it is and why it is so significant, here's Ben with today's guest.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 01:23
Thank you, Dave. Yeah, as you said, we're here today to talk about the anniversary of one of the most powerful tools in modern logistics. That's the simple barcode. That striped code is the foundation, of course, for all the automatic identification and the product scanning that happens in almost every warehouse, retail shop, and grocery store across the country. Since it was adopted as an industry standard 50 years ago this month — that's a half a century — the barcode's distinctive beeping sound — of course, we've all heard it millions of times each day across all the stores — and less visibly, it's also used to maximize the power of data across industries, including healthcare and many others. It's really, it's changed the entire way that we've shopped over these last 50 years. And here to talk about those events, how far we've come, and what might be in the future. We have today's guest, who's Carrie Wilkie. She's the senior vice president for standards and technology at GS1 US, which is the standards group that governs barcode scanning technologies. Welcome, Carrie.
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 02:35
Thanks, Ben. Happy to be here.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 02:37
Yeah, we're glad you could join us. So, to begin with, as we've said, the barcode has been around now for 50 years. Can you bring us up to speed a little bit? What was GS1's role in that history?
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 02:49
Yeah, absolutely. So, GS1 actually didn't exist as GS1 50 years ago, but 50 years ago this week, industry, out largely in the retail grocery space, came together recognizing a need for a standard to simplify checkout and really improve the consumer experience in the amount of time that people were spending in the grocery store, standing on line, waiting for prices to be entered for their groceries. That quickly evolved into technology needed to support that, which is the barcode that we all know and love today, and GS1's role was born as a governing body to really ensure that there was one global, interoperable standard that would work to serve this purpose. And you'll probably hear from us, in about a year from now, the 50th anniversary of the first time that that beep happened at point of sale after the standard was adopted by industry.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:47
Oh, interesting. So, the beep, of course, might not have been present at the very beginning, there, but that's very useful to signify that it was successfully scanned.
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 03:55
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:56
Got it. So, in the years that followed that very beginning, can you describe a little bit of how the barcode might have impacted really global supply chains, because it went far beyond just checking out your groceries?
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 04:08
It did, and that's one thing that always really interests me about the history of the barcode. When the industry came together 50 years ago, they thought they'd issue a handful of numbers and close up shop. We'd really would identify all of the grocery items that were in play at the time, and there'd be no need to continue. Really quickly, other parts of the supply chain and other industries saw the value that it was bringing in the grocery industry, and it continued to evolve and take shape, so everything, as you referenced there in the intro, Ben, from use in healthcare and pharmaceutical and medical-device spaces that we see now to moving items from a ship onto a truck, into the back of a store, or getting items to our homes through the postal service and delivery services. The global Supply Chain really relies on barcodes for automating a lot of processes along the way.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 05:07
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But, you know, talking about how it's impacting, you know, that incredibly broad global supply chain now, I imagine, though, that people are using it to address different logistics challenges in 2023 than what they had first faced in 1973.
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 05:25
Oh, of course, and, you know, I kind of challenge you and the audience, maybe to think of another technology that hasn't evolved at all in 50 years, which is really where we are today, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the standard of the barcode. Those bars and spaces haven't really changed much. There's different symbols available today, and I know we'll talk about that a little bit later, but the challenges that we're trying to address with the barcode are so much more robust now: challenges around traceability, knowing on, maybe a produce item, down to exactly which row in the field that came from, not just you know which city the field was in, but which row in the field it was. For operating system[s] in a hospital, knowing exactly which bed the patient is in, and which operating suite they're in, and which tray the medical device was carried into the operating suite on. The level of challenge and the amount of data that's required is so much more than whatever fit on a package, and something that users are really looking for in every aspect to be available with a single scan, and that can't happen with a laser scanner, which is what the foundation of those bars and spaces on a UPC barcode was meant to convey in 1973.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 06:47
Yeah, that's a great point. If you listed all of that information, it would, of course, never fit on the box of what you might — or container pills, or what have you.
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 06:56
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 06:57
And indeed, you know, shoppers, I think have seen, you know, the shape of the barcode might have started to evolve a little bit already. Sometimes instead of being rectangular, it's in the shape of a certain, you know, brand or something, or a type of food or whatnot. But I know that GS1 is also involved in a further transition from one-dimensional barcodes — those zebra stripes — to two-dimensional ones, which look more like a tile mosaic or something. Why changing now? Was that part of being able to carry a little more information?
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 07:30
It's absolutely about more information — and more information, not only for the supply chain, but for all of us as consumers, because at the end of the day, you know, we're all interacting with different levels of products and services. The one-dimensional barcode, as you said, the zebra stripe, only holds numbers, so most of us in the U.S. are used to that looking like, you know, 8, 10 12 numbers. In Europe, you're used to looking like 13 numbers. But that's all we can encode in there. The QR code, or the the mosaic, as you described it, holds a lot of information, and it holds numbers and letters and special characters and symbols, but most importantly, it can encode a URL, which just kind of makes the sky the limit for what a brand owner can communicate with the consumer with the supply chain, with the regulator, with anybody who's looking for more information. Why now? We need more information than we've ever needed before at our fingertips, and I think, you know, one benefit, if I dare say there was a benefit from the Covid pandemic, as consumers, we've all gotten so used to interacting with QR codes. You know, I'm trying to think of the last time I was in a restaurant where I was given a paper menu, and not just a QR code that was sitting on the table to scan, something that we've all gotten used to interacting with, and it's something that now is starting to signal to users, "there's more information here, and you can find out more about this product or more about the service or more about this location. And oh, by the way, you can do it with the computer that you already have in your pocket" — or more likely in your hand, because none of us are ever detached from our phones for very long. And you don't need an app to do it. You simply need to open your camera point it at a QR code that's using the GS1 standards, and you're opening that wealth of additional information.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 09:16
Yeah, that's a stirring potential there. That's an incredible amount of change that we might see, but at the same time, I know that that there are some steps that we need to do to get there, to that two-dimensional approach, I believe, and GS1, of course, is involved in that, and in recent times, last time that we talked, I think there's a process that GS1 is rolling out with retailers and users of the barcodes to to help with that transition?
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 09:43
Yes, absolutely. One of the things that was critical for us to understand was what was necessary from a hardware and software perspective to make 2D barcodes work the same way that the 1D UPC barcodes work today, which is to say we can't break point of sale There's so much more robust information that can come out of a 2D barcode, but at the end of the day, if it doesn't also serve the point-of-sale needs — the price lookup, the inventory management, the things that are happening really, really well today with that 50-year-old barcode technology, then it isn't going to be a lot of use in helping to evolve to better use of the packaging. We've spent a lot of the past year doing research with hardware and software providers, as well as industry, to understand what is the state of scanning in retail environments, what needs to happen from a software perspective, what needs to happen from a hardware perspective. Surprisingly, there wasn't as much work to do there as we thought there might be. There's a lot more hardware installed right now that is capable of scanning 2D. Some of the work that still needs to happen, though, is connecting the systems. So, scanning a 2D is great. The system will scan it, it'll pick it up, but it doesn't know what to do with it. So, that's kind of the next round of work that GS1 is undertaking with industry to understand what will it take to get this to work at retail, to first go beep at point of sale and do that price lookup, but then unlock a lot of benefits that retailers can see from this, such as recall management or on-demand discounting, or things that would tie into their their back-end systems much differently. The one thing I would add: that we're excited to see in the U.S. is, through partnership with GS1 globally in 115 other countries, there's tremendous work happening in evolving to 2D barcodes. So, we're able to take those learnings across a lot of other countries and apply them to what we're doing here in the U.S., and also take that power through the hardware and software manufacturers who are looking to solve this challenge globally, and use that to make things happen a little bit faster in the U.S. than we thought they were going to, as people start to see the benefits that are being unlocked here.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 12:02
So interesting, really exciting times that we're in. Carrie, we appreciate your joining us here to give us a little peek at what a lot of us will be seeing rollout very soon.
Carrie Wilkie, Senior Vice President, Standards and Technology, GS1 US 12:12
Absolutely. Happy to be here.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 12:15
Our guest here today, talking about the 50th anniversary of the barcode, has been Carrie Wilkie from GS1 US. Back to you, Dave.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 12:22
Thank you, Carrie and Ben. Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week. And, Victoria, the latest numbers are out from the monthly Logistics Managers' Index. What do they tell us about the state of the industry? A lot, as usual. Business conditions across transportation and warehousing markets continued to slow in March, and that's down from the record activity levels we saw during and just after the pandemic. As you said, Dave, this is all according to the latest LMI report, which is a monthly survey of logistics managers from across the country. It aims to sort of take the pulse of the industry and gauge demand for logistic services. In March, the LMI reached an all-time low reading of 51.1. That's down nearly four points from February, and just slightly above the 50-point mark indicating economic expansion in the industry. Just to reiterate there, an LMI reading above 50 means the industry is expanding or growing, and reading below 50 indicates contraction. The LMI researchers said the drop in March was largely due to continued slowing in freight markets. Transportation prices reached their lowest level in the history of the index, and transportation capacity continued to expand, so those both indicate sort of softening demand for services. In one comment, the researchers noted that the freight recession that's been discussed over the last few months — and I'm quoting — "seems to have reared its head in March."
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:49
What's the long-term outlook for freight, and I guess the industry overall?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 13:55
Yeah, well, these are the slowest conditions reported in the six-and-a-half-year history of the index, and the macro economic outlook is less than rosy, I guess we could say uncertain at best. There are many business leaders out there still predicting a recession in the second half of this year. So, the outlook isn't great, but specifically to your question, the LMI report includes a, what it calls a future conditions index, and this asks the survey respondents to predict movement in the overall LMI over the next 12 months — you know whether we'll see the industry expand or contract. And the future predictions in March still point to growth, so that's good, but logistics managers are less optimistic than they were in February. Just as an example, some respondents said they're getting increasingly pessimistic that shipping volumes will grow, which could cause transportation prices to continue to contract over the next 12 months. Logistics managers are more optimistic though when it comes to warehousing. Respondents said they expect capacity to open up, which could bring relief in terms of prices, there, warehousing prices, and the researchers say that would help both tenants and consumers. So, definitely a slowing, but not a complete halt just yet.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:12
Right. Well, at least there's a little bit of hope in that overall uncertainty. Thanks, Victoria. You're welcome.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 15:19
And Ben, one of the biggest companies in logistics is undergoing a reorganization. Can you provide the details?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 15:26
Glad to, and this also, you know, touches on some of that uncertainty and change that Victoria was sharing the measurements with us. People in all corners of the industry are seeing that, of course. This one was about the parcel sector, and FedEx in particular, Federal Express. The company said this week that they're going to bring almost all their business units under a single corporate umbrella. Historically, they've been known for operating them as independent divisions, but now they're going to bring FedEx Express and FedEx Ground and FedEx Services and some other operating divisions into an umbrella unit that's still going to be called Federal Express Corp. The lone exception to this realignment is FedEx Freight. That's their less-than-truckload, or LTL, division. So, that's going to keep on providing those transportation services as a standalone company, although it will also report up to that — the new umbrella unit. It's going to take a little while. The change is set to be fully implemented, they think, by June of 2024, a little more than a year from now. And in FedEx's words, the new single company will operate what they call a "unified, fully integrated air and ground network," and it creates more efficiencies to meet what they called the evolving needs of customers. FedEx also said that the unified organization will bring a distinct focus onto their air network and international volume, and also have a more holistic approach for ground operations, using both FedEx employees and contracted service providers. So, those are some of the variables that the company had in mind with this.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:07
Well, Ben, that sounds like a lot of change, but do we know what it iss really going to mean for shippers and other FedEx customers?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 17:14
That's the question on everybody's mind, and it's too early to say. Of course, to hear FedEx say, as we said, it'd be more aligned, more holistic, more efficient, but the company did share two main reasons for the change from their point of view. One, as I said, as they mentioned, was to help manage customers' evolving needs. They didn't specify what those needs are, but, you know, looking at the overall industry, we've all been looking at, you know, rising costs, you know, seeing interest and inflation rates very high; the freight trucking market is in the middle of a downturn cycle. So, some of those things have been causing some pain points for shippers. But the second is a little bit more obvious and more internal, and that's cost cutting. So, FedEx is using the reorganization as part of a — there's pre-existing cost-cutting transformation that they called DRIVE, and something called Network 2.0 — this is sort of some corporate lingo here. But in general, it's a multiyear effort to improve their efficiency for picking up, transporting, and delivering packages. This all affects the U..S and Canada. So, the new effort will be led by a familiar name, that's Raj Subramaniam. He was already the top FedEx executive, and he'll also step up to take the corner office at the new reorganization version. So, every company likes cost cutting, of course, but you know, we should point out here that FedEx, in 2022, was already the second-biggest U.S. parcel carrier by revenue. They were a little bit behind UPS, but they were well ahead of the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon, just in revenue size. So, you know, they seem to have the revenue arranged pretty well, but they're looking for a little better efficiency to get rid of the costs, and I guess boost the overall profit.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:06
Right, and hopefully, the reorganization will bring some dividends to FedEx and their customers. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 19:12
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:14
We encourage listeners to go to DCVelocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories, and check out the podcast Notes section for some direct links on the topics that we discussed today.
And again, our thanks to Carrie Wilkie of GS1 US for being our guest. We welcome your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at podcast at DC Velocity.com.
We also encourage you to subscribe to Logistics Matters at your favorite podcast platform. Our new episodes are uploaded each Friday.
Speaking of subscribing, check out our sister podcast series Supply Chain in the Fast Lane. It's coproduced by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and Supply Chain Quarterly. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
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We'll be back again next week with another edition of Logistics Matters. Be sure to join us. Until then, have a great holiday weekend, and a good week.
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