Saint-Gobain: ”There are no real obstacles to a uniform standard.”

Ilkka Sartjärvi, Saint-Gobain
At global construction product manufacturer Saint-Gobain, unique GTINs can be found on almost every product. As an international operator, standardized unique product numbers help them to identify products in different markets and are seen as part of the future of the construction industry.

Headquartered in Paris, Saint-Gobain manufactures gypsum boards, insulation, coatings, clay gravel, acoustic boards, and infrared pipes, among other things. In Finland, the company's product brands include Ecophon, Gyproc, Isover, Leca, PAM, and Weber. For Saint-Gobain, digitalization has brought different ways to serve customers even better in product concepts and services, and it has been implemented in a variety of ways throughout the company:

In the digitalization of our operations, we have looked at the services we have and what new opportunities they could offer in digital form as well. For example, we have transferred our product solutions to digital structural calculators and product trainings to webinar format. We also offer our customers the product information from our own interface, says Data and Digital Development Manager Ilkka Sartjärvi, who is responsible for the company's digital services, such as brand websites and product information interfaces, as well as the development and maintenance of internal tools.


The same GTIN throughout the life cycle of the product

Part of Saint-Gobain's digitalization work is also the use of GTINs as standardized identification numbers. GTINs stay with the products throughout their life cycle and are important for product identification and internal logistics.

Our goal is that each of our product articles has its own unique GTIN, which stays with the product from production to use. As an international operator, we also have products here in Finland that we have manufactured in other parts of the world. GTINs help identify the product throughout its journey from abroad to here in Finland and from Finland onwards for our partners and customers, explains Sartjärvi.

Behind GTINs, product manufacturers can add all the product's documents in digital form, such as its declaration of performance and installation and maintenance instructions. Sartjärvi sees that the use of standardized identifiers is an important part of the future of the construction industry:

Factories, retailers, and construction sites are making more and more use of modern tools, and the fact that we can get building materials into a machine-readable form contributes to this development. When a product has a standardized identifier that follows it throughout the product's life cycle, it is identifiable at the factory, retailer, construction site and end user. Using the GTIN, for example, the installer can search the product's installation and maintenance instructions online or from the database anywhere.


GTINs facilitate cooperation with customers

Sartjärvi says that several Saint-Gobain’s customers use GTINs in the automatic identification of products. A common standard is convenient when Saint-Gobain wants to transfer product information to its customer. Connecting a product from one database to another is easy with GTINs, and it also remains the same format regardless of whether the product is manufactured in Finland, the Czech Republic, the USA or elsewhere.

Sartjärvi hopes that more operators in the construction industry would use GS1's global standards, so that digitalization could be implemented in the industry even more widely:

I see that digitalized product information and documentation will be easily accessible to everyone who needs it in the future. Different construction professionals, whether they are designers, installers, or site foremen, can access the information and product data they need using mobile devices through the interfaces of the industry operators. Transferring product information to a digital, machine-readable format enables a smoother flow of information from one user to another, which increases construction site efficiency and makes everyday life easier for both construction industry professionals and the end users of buildings.


The more GTINs are used, the more the entire industry will benefit from them

For a long time, Saint-Gobain has been involved in the Digitalization Group of the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, where the use of GTINs in the construction industry is promoted. Sartjärvi considers cooperation around the issue important:

We see the Digitalization Group as a great channel for discussion with other influencers in the construction industry. Digitalization of the construction industry cannot be achieved by one actor, but it requires a common understanding of the direction we want to go as an industry. In the Digitalization Group, we can set an example together and think about how we can support the industry in the various challenges of digitalization.

Although the large-scale use of the standards requires new operating methods and work from the operators of the construction industry, Sartjärvi does not see any major obstacles to the implementation.

There are no real obstacles to a uniform standard. GS1 is a well-proven standard system already in use around the world. Implementation requires activity from industry members and the industry itself. The more GTINs are used, the more we benefit from them together. The change towards a more digitized flow of product information will not happen in one leap but is a longer-term effort that requires people from every stage of the product's life cycle, from manufacturers to builders, installers, designers, and contractors.

The unique identification of products is the first step on the way to a common digital language in the construction industry.