Taking Charge of Our Data and Our Future

Dave Stafford
Vice Chairman, FEDA
President/CEO, Stafford-Smith

As we find our way through the next year, it is imperative that we stay on course to address a central concern affecting dealer and channel partner success: third-party management of our industry’s data. Several years ago, FEDA dealer and manufacturer workgroups began assessing our industry’s product data quality, data access and data ownership and privacy practices. Both groups came to similar conclusions regarding the most critical data challenges impeding business success. First, there was a widespread lack of data accuracy and uniformity followed by high third-party costs for sharing or accessing data. Finally, there were concerns that if third parties sold industry data it would harm dealers and manufacturers.

It was clear things needed to change. Poor data quality and the lack of agreed-upon product information standards have forced dealers to manually correct, realign or organize data into their own formats for use. This has also added to the burden on manufacturers, who must reconfigure data according to unique specifications every time an individual dealer requests product information. In the modern world where we are accustomed to having our personal data flow freely between globally connected systems and databases, it’s frustrating that our members and partners have had to manage this time-consuming work while contending with a stressed supply chain and tight labor market.

This situation led FEDA to construct an industry designed product database called the FEDA Data Repository. This one-of-a-kind database was carefully and thoughtfully developed by dealer and manufacturer test groups with the support of innovative tech and data governance consultants who defined uniform foodservice equipment product data attributes. These attributes, which include applicable global product standards, are Taking Charge of Our Data and Our Future formatted in a specific structure for long-term universal industry-wide use.

In addition to data quality troubles, manufacturers and dealers are grappling with climbing third-party costs to share and access product data. These costs are not only the consequence of the high-tech labor market but also aggressive pricing by companies that have limited or no competition for our industry-specific product needs. While most other industries have benefited from multiple competing vendors for their specialized software, ours has not. One answer may be more competition for the software we need, including new and better tech solutions. As FEDA’s data repository becomes aligned with multiple third-party partnerships, we may see a corresponding decrease in data related tech costs and an increase in more inventive software.

Lastly, while third parties have the right to try to monetize services, this issue’s article on how Big Tech is owning then using and selling business data for profit indicates that our industry would benefit from working more carefully with tech partners to ensure we remain in charge of our data and are managing it in the best interest of the supply chain.

FEDA will continue investing in important enhancements to the data repository and in exceeding our full product inclusion goals to ensure it performs beyond dealer and manufacturer expectations. The association’s team will be reaching out to more groups in the next several months to discuss how everyone can connect to the repository so it may serve the whole supply chain. I encourage you to read more about the repository in this issue and – if you haven’t already done so – to reach out to the FEDA staff to become involved in this project.