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Managing the master material

master material

In 2021, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Board endorsed the use of the National Product Catalogue (NPC) to enable suppliers and operators to log, manage and share material master data to improve efficiencies.

The NPC was delivered by Project i-TRACE, a joint initiative of the ARA and GS1 Australia.

Rail Express speaks to GS1 general manager, industry engagement, Bonnie Ryan, about how this standardised approach to capturing and sharing critical data about the materials that flow through the rail supply chain saves the industry exposure to unnecessary costs, duplication and data quality errors.

“The rail supply chain is a complex and interconnected network that requires efficient management and coordination to ensure seamless operations,” she said.

“One of the critical elements in this process is the standardisation of material master data, which refers to the detailed information about the materials and products involved in the supply chain. Establishing standardised material master data plays a pivotal role in enhancing the efficiency, accuracy, and reliability of rail supply chain operations.”

To support best practice in material master data management (MMD), the NPC enables the adoption of a standard list of data attributes and processes for exchanging MMD in the rail industry.

· Streamlined procurement process

“Standardised material master data enables a streamlined procurement process by providing accurate and consistent information about the materials needed for rail operations,” Ryan said.

“With standardised data, rail operators and suppliers can easily identify, categorise, and locate the required materials, reducing the time and effort required to procure them.

“By eliminating confusion and ambiguity, standardised material master data enhances procurement efficiency and helps minimise delays and disruptions in the supply chain.”

· Enhanced inventory management

Ryan said effective inventory management was essential for ensuring the availability of materials when needed, while minimising excess stock and associated costs.

“Standardised material master data enables accurate tracking and monitoring of inventory levels,” she said.

“With consistent data, rail companies can make informed decisions regarding inventory replenishment, avoiding stockouts or overstocking. This improves operational efficiency, reduces carrying costs and optimises capital utilisation.”

· Improved maintenance and repairs

Maintenance and repair activities are critical to ensure the safe and reliable operations of rail assets.

Standardised material master data enables efficient maintenance planning by providing accurate information about the required spare parts and their specifications.

“With standardised data, maintenance teams can easily identify the right parts, order them promptly, and carry out repairs or replacements without unnecessary delays,” Ryan said.

“This leads to improved asset availability, reduced downtime, and enhanced overall operational reliability.”

· Data integration and interoperability

In a rail supply chain, numerous stakeholders and systems are involved, such as suppliers, manufacturers, maintenance providers, logistics partners and rail operators.

“Standardised material master data serves as a common language that facilitates data integration and interoperability among these diverse systems,” Ryan said.

“When all parties adhere to standardised data formats and structures, information exchange becomes seamless and error-free. This enhances collaboration, visibility, and transparency  across the supply chain, leading to improved coordination and operational efficiency.”

· Accurate reporting and analytics

Standardised material master data plays a vital role in generating accurate reports and conducting meaningful analytics.

By having consistent and reliable data, rail operators can analyse key performance indicators, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions.

Ryan said that standardised data enabled comprehensive reporting on various aspects of the supply chain, such as inventory levels, procurement costs, maintenance activities, and supplier performance.

“These insights help optimise operations, identify areas for improvement, and drive cost savings,” she said.


In the rail supply chain, standardised material master data serves as a foundation for efficient and effective operations.

“By establishing and adhering to standardised data formats, rail industry organisations can streamline procurement, enhance inventory management, improve maintenance processes, facilitate data integration, and enable accurate reporting and analytics,” Ryan said.

“The benefits of standardised material master data include increased operational efficiency, reduced costs, enhanced collaboration, and improved overall supply chain performance.

“As the rail industry continues to evolve and embrace digital transformation, the importance of standardised material master data will only grow, becoming an indispensable component for success in a rapidly changing landscape.”

To determine the right option for your NPC journey, visit www.gs1au.org/for-your-industry/ rail/national-product-catalogue-in-rail