With Jim Petragnani, director, business development, Uniform Code Council

With Jim Petragnani, director, business development, Uniform Code Council

Jim Petragnani is director of business development for the Uniform Code Council. The UCC is a not-for-profit standards organization and one of the most respected organizations in global commerce. It administers the Universal Product Code (UPC) and provides standards and business services for more than 250,000 member companies doing business in 25 major industries.

Q. How do you see the UCC assisting in supply-chain security?

A. We bring a formal structure to identifying products. Even more so, it's an architecture that can fit within a chip, if you will. Right now that's the problem that U.S. Customs has. They are able to do some tracking of shipments using technology, but they don't bring consistency of information because they don't have standards. We do a very good job of getting the right parties involved. We get people in the room because we can share the right experiences with them and make them feel comfortable with us. Everything that's said in the room stays in that room. We're not consultants. We're neutral. We don't play to one group or the other, and that includes hardware and software.

Q. What are the challenges in establishing supply-chain standards?

A. For any sector, people get confused about what standards are. The other thing is that people look at standards as a technical solution. They're not. Standards are a business approach. You want to drive the business requirements first, and from that you can flesh out your technical requirements. People will get radio-frequency identification technology or (bar code) symbology without even knowing their business requirements.

Q. How do you get the various trade partners to buy into a standard?

A. For the private sector, we look at the complete supply chain, from raw materials to the end user. The end user, especially in the industrial sector, is not always a consumer. If we enter a new or existing sector, right away we want to know who the partners are, because if we don't have a value proposition for every one of those suppliers, they're not going to buy into it. When we talk about the value proposition, it's really a cost situation. The cost is in the bridging, or mapping, of the information between trade partners. If companies have a single standard, then the mapping is less traumatic for them.

Q. What is the work you are doing with Customs?

A. We're mapping a supply chain from point to point so you can see the stopping points along the way. Customs can identify the number of containers that come in, but there's no way of tracking them. That's the solution we bring to the table. Not only are we going to track the container, we can track the shipment.

Q. What other supply-chain initiatives are you involved in?

A. We are part of the Smart and Secure Tradelanes initiative, but somehow the man got lost. He contacted us to participate, but I haven't heard from him since. I need to track him. We're working with the Transportation Security Administration. They are in the process of identifying their airport assets. Their equipment is being identified using the UCC systems. We're also working with the Federal Aviation Administration on their communication equipment.

Q. How long does it take to establish a standard?

A. It's up to the industry. The UCC does not dictate a standard. We work with industry until they finally come to a point, once the information is provided to them, where the right highway for them to travel becomes obvious.

Q. Who should drive standards - government or business?

A. It's got to be a collaborative effort. It can't be driven by government or industry. If only one drives it, we're back to that buy-in - "You didn't involve me so it's not my standard."

Q. How difficult is it to extend standards to foreign countries?

A. That plays right to our strength. When you look at global industries such as agri-chemical, we developed standards for the world to support that industry. So I don't see this as being the major challenge that it has been. It's a matter of collaborating and understanding business requirements. Also, when companies see the amount of work in developing standards, they realize it's not a lot of work for them. There's time involved, but the work is mostly on our side.

Q. What's the future for standards?

A. Standards are evolving because business changes every day. People are looking to see how standards can help them in this evolving business environment.