Trust in PEPPOL paves the way for modernisation

Combined with the adoption of GS1 barcoding standards, PEPPOL’s standardised approach to e-procurement messaging paves the way for the modernisation of material planning and material flow processes

To find out how much traction PEPPOL and GS1 have in healthcare, Data Interchange, one of the first PEPPOL access point providers to be accredited in the UK, hosted a round table of NHS trusts, suppliers and technology providers at the London headquarters of GS1 UK and commissioned a report.

What is PEPPOL?

PEPPOL, which stands for Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line, is an electronic data interchange (EDI) protocol that enables public entities and their suppliers to exchange electronic procurement documents over its network, explains David Eyes, Head of Business Development. It is co-funded by the European Commission and 18 government agencies to simplify the purchase-to-pay process between government bodies and suppliers.

In simple terms, PEPPOL offers a standardised messaging connection for e-ordering, e-invoicing, electronic credit notes and advanced shipping notifications (ASNs). These technologies automate information exchange across the supply chain, reducing the cost and potential risk of error from manual intervention.This European initiative provides the standardisation that will ensure open, cross-border competition in the market for electronic trading exchanges, which ultimately lowers procurement sourcing costs.

Combined with the adoption of GS1 barcoding standards, PEPPOL’s standardised approach to e-procurement messaging paves the way for the modernisation of material planning and material flow processes within public bodies, helping to reduce errors and cut burdensome administration by automating tasks. PEPPOL standardises messages and works together with GS1 standards to simplify inventory management and improve traceability, removing waste and cost and freeing staff from onerous stock-keeping duties, allowing them to devote more time to their primary roles.

Stripped back to its basics, PEPPOL is a set of procurement message standards and a communications infrastructure, called the PEPPOL network. The PEPPOL network is simply the collection of PEPPOL-certified access point providers – such as Data Interchange. Any PEPPOL access point can exchange messages with any other PEPPOL access point without having to sign and set up an interconnect agreement. Suppliers using PEPPOL will benefit from having access to every public body in the UK and across Europe without having to work through multiple systems.

Funding obstacle

Funding for PEPPOL and GS1 implementation was highlighted during the roundtable as the biggest stumbling block. In line with Lord Carter’s report on efficiencies, NHS trusts are expected to fund putting PEPPOL and GS1 in place from future savings, but the roundtable heard that fitting this in around other priorities is difficult.

Although NHS trusts are well aware that the strategy is mandatory, few are as far advanced as they would wish. As for suppliers, many large companies are making multi-million pound, multi-year investments but smaller UK manufacturers and distributors may be waiting to see whether there is any traction before making changes.

However, it would seem that the message is starting to get through that PEPPOL and GS1 compliance is serious and is happening. The need for the demonstrator sites to establish a critical path towards the mandated standard for suppliers as well as NHS trusts was emphasised. Despite the concerns voiced, the consensus was that the PEPPOL and GS1 drive is moving, even accelerating. The critical factor is to gain recognition that this is not a procurement or supply chain initiative, it’s an organisation initiative, with trust-wide impact.

To receive a copy of the roundtable report, ‘The Benefits and Challenges of Adopting PEPPOL and GS1 standards’, please email: info@datainterchange.com.

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