Interview with GS1 Poland: Helping Solve Global Supply Chain Challenges with Custom-Made Software

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Interview with GS1 Poland: Helping Solve Global Supply Chain Challenges with Custom-Made Software
Table of Contents
  • What does GS1 do? What are your objectives?
  • What is your role at GS1 Poland? How long have you been working at the organization?
  • What are GS1 Poland’s values?
  • How do you measure success at GS1 Poland?
  • Why did you decide to build GlobLOC? What needs does the product address? What are the benefits of using it?
  • Why did you decide to outsource software development to a third-party company? What problems were you hoping to solve?
  • Was there anything you were unsure about at the beginning of the cooperation?
  • What are some of the milestones we reached together since we started our cooperation in August 2019?
  • Do you think having a technology partner like STX Next could help other GS1 member organizations implement and spread the GS1 standards worldwide?
  • Do you have any words of advice for CTOs who are considering software development outsourcing?

GS1 is a non-profit organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication, including product identification and code assignment. One of its most recognizable standards, the barcode, is used by billions of people worldwide.

Since August 2019, STX Next has been working with GS1 Poland, the organization's Polish branch, to develop an app that helps optimize local supply chain operations.

We've spoken to Aleksander Niemczyk, the former President of GS1 Poland (currently the Customer Service Manager), about the importance of GS1 standards for global transport networks, our collaboration to date, and the benefits of outsourcing software development.

What does GS1 do? What are your objectives?

GS1 Poland is one of GS1’s 114 national organizations. In short, we are responsible for promoting and applying GS1 standards in Poland. We make sure that all of our members that want to apply these standards are able to enter the system and benefit from it. We also ensure that those who do sign up and use our standards do it correctly. 

These standards are global—they facilitate the flow of information and materials across supply chains and provide real benefits. 

If barcodes were no longer recognized at the checkout, this would pose very serious challenges. It’s difficult to imagine we could ever stop using them, unless a new technology comes up to replace them. We’ve got used to this standard and take it for granted. The only time we are made aware of its existence is when a barcode cannot be scanned at the till. Our goal is to teach suppliers to mark their products the right way to avoid these situations.

What is your role at GS1 Poland? How long have you been working at the organization?

This year marks GS1 Poland’s 30th anniversary. For 16 years, we were part of the Institute of Logistics and Warehousing, where I had worked for 20 years. 

Since June 2016, GS1 Poland has been an independent organization. Since I was tasked with unmerging it from the Institute, I transferred to the organization and led it as the President of the Board during its first term. 

Becoming an independent entity was required of us by the global GS1 organization—each of the 114 national organizations should be autonomous.

What are GS1 Poland’s values?

We are convinced that using GS1 standards and solutions brings plenty of benefits. 

Firstly, accurate and clear product identification. If a product is correctly and clearly marked, it will be easy to identify by anyone using our standards anywhere in the world. 

The second aspect is information exchange. In the time of ecommerce, each product should have their “digital twin” online with a detailed description and, ideally, a photo. 

This information should be coded in accordance with the GS1 standard. Nowadays, more and more online marketplaces require sellers to obtain GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers) for each of their products, which, in their physical form, are the barcodes readable by barcode scanners. 

It’s important that this number complies with GS1 standards. If someone bought a product once and knows its GTIN, they’ll be able to reorder it online. They can be sure they will receive the exact same product again. 

Another value we believe in is the quality of product data. Each one of our members has to authorize information about their product. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee absolute accuracy—if the manufacturer enters incorrect information into the system, we cannot be held responsible for it. However, we have various methods and mechanisms to prompt manufacturers to make sure their product descriptions are correct. 

There is one more aspect, which is part of our GlobLOC project: the Global Location Number (GLN). It can be used as a marker of legal identification and be used in EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) messages. It can also identify physical locations, and this is what we use it for in GlobLOC. 

GS1 has a very important role to play when it comes to electronic exchange of documents and digital transformation. Due to the fact that GS1 standards have a global impact, they’re very likely to become universal.

How do you measure success at GS1 Poland?

Firstly, we look at the number of our users. This is an indication of the system’s popularity. 

The prevalence of the standard is an incredibly important metric. It consists of both the number of users and the extent to which they apply the standards. 

Most users approach us because they need barcodes for their products, and they stop at this. We encourage them to describe their products to make them searchable online. This opens up brand new possibilities and ways to reach clients, as ecommerce requires producers to have a clearly described “digital twin” of the actual product. 

Last year, over 30% of our new members said that ecommerce was the reason they wanted to be part of our system. We offer them a helping hand: thanks to GS1 and our standards, they can run their business in a different way. 

Another metric we use to measure success is the number of users who applied for a single GLN. This means that they need the number to be able to send documents electronically. We have over 1700 users who joined simply because they needed a GLN. This is a very important area for us—it shows that Polish companies are undergoing digital transformation. 

We now have 27,000 users, of which 94 are not digital. They’re very special for us, and we know the owners of all of these entities. They’re usually sole traders, very often elderly people. We respect their choice and want to keep the human touch. We don’t want to impose on them a way of managing their business that is totally unsuitable for them. However, we do aim to make sure that all their products are digitized, and we help them with the process. 

This demonstrates that we can serve both large and small businesses. Our clients include the National Bank of Poland and huge retail chains as well as farmers and sole traders, whose owners are not computer-literate. This is our value—our standards are for everyone, and we’re able to serve anyone who needs our help.

Why did you decide to build GlobLOC? What needs does the product address? What are the benefits of using it?

The GlobLOC platform was devised to help solve the last mile problem. In the transport industry, it’s commonly known that the last mile of the journey is the most challenging one. GlobLOC helps ensure that those physical locations that had been assigned a GLN were described appropriately and accurately to avoid any problems that typically occur during onloading and offloading of the cargo.

There are many requirements that have to be met by the driver. Some of them are related to the current pandemic and increased security measures. The forwarding agent should be familiar with them when they organize the journey for the driver.

We’ve been made aware on many occasions that drivers repeatedly call their forwarders with questions related to their journey. If the forwarder doesn’t know the answer, they need to get in contact with the administrator of the final destination. All of this takes time.  

GlobLOC helps solve this problem. We’re a source of credible and accurate information, provided to us directly by location owners. Our app also allows drivers to report any suggestions or requests for updates, which are then authorized by the location owners. We can also contact the owners to verify the credibility of these comments.

Why did you decide to outsource software development to a third-party company? What problems were you hoping to solve?

We don’t have an IT department that could have built the platform for us and we outsource all software development. When we considered creating GlobLOC, we gathered offers and chose, in our opinion, the best one. 

Other than the usual criteria applied when outsourcing software development, one of the key factors that helped us reach a decision was STX Next’s collaboration with another national GS1 organization. 

The fact you are familiar with GS1’s standards, at least from the IT perspective, was crucial for us.

Was there anything you were unsure about at the beginning of the cooperation?

Our first concern was whether, as an organization, we would be able to swiftly and effectively respond to STX Next’s requests for information and the need to consult solutions. 

Also, I think what was challenging was the fact we saw the project as a goal for you to complete, while your approach was that you only made your resources available to us. These two ways of looking at the project were initially difficult to reconcile, but we did manage to come to an agreement, which I am grateful for. 

We eventually set a shared framework. Even though we differed in the way we approached defining and achieving the objective, we succeeded in meeting the expectations of both parties.

What are some of the milestones we reached together since we started our cooperation in August 2019?

Most importantly, we managed to create this product and run a pilot. We’re deeply convinced that the project has evolved so much that we don’t feel we need to implement any changes for now, at least till the end of the year. 

Notably, two of your representatives attended the GS1 Global Forum in Brussels in 2020, where they had meetings with many other local GS1 organizations. Your advantage has been that you’ve been working with GS1 Poland as well as another national organization. 

I think you’ve got to know the GS1 standards, our expectations, and the environment. This opens up opportunities with other national organizations around the world.

Do you think having a technology partner like STX Next could help other GS1 member organizations implement and spread the GS1 standards worldwide?

I had a presentation about GlobLOC during the GS1 Global Forum in Brussels, and I have to say that many people were interested in this kind of platform because the last mile problem is a global challenge. 

We’re still in the early pilot phase, so we will see how the solution catches on, but we are very hopeful. The external conditions at the moment are extraordinary, which also affects many operations. 

One of the solutions that could help solve global challenges, and that is also something we spoke about at the Forum, is creating a global register of products identified with GTINs and all the mandatory attributes. Soon, it could also be a global register of GLNs with basic information. 

When it comes to the GLN register, STX Next is probably the most informed software house.

Do you have any words of advice for CTOs who are considering software development outsourcing?

Other than purely commercial conditions, your recommendations were very important to us. In the past, you collaborated with another GS1 organization that is located very far and belongs to a different culture. Distance didn’t play any role in that collaboration, which we thought was important. 

I think it’s vital not to be afraid to have differing opinions and to speak openly about what you need. Reaching a compromise was very significant. During the Discovery Workshops, we had time to get to know and understand each other even before signing the contract. 

Although there were some misunderstandings, they were ironed out during the discussions. It wasn’t a waste of time—even if we had decided to go ahead with another company in the end, our participation in the Discovery Workshops was very beneficial indeed. It helped us better understand what we needed and realize what we didn’t know.


Each project we work on is unique. Our partnership with GS1 Poland has allowed us to become familiar with the organization’s practices and standards which play a crucial role in keeping the world of logistics going. We are proud of our contribution to GlobLOC and how the platform can solve some of the challenges inherent to global transport networks. 

If you’d like to find out more about the project, including the technology stack we used and the specific services we provided, take a look at GS1 Poland’s portfolio entry.

And if you feel that you could use expert assistance to develop your project faster, why not leave us a message? We’d be happy to advise you on how we can work together.

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