Building materials is a very diverse product group. Even within a manufacturing enterprise there may be considerable variances in what kind of product information you need for different product groups. If production is taking place on plants around the world, then local demands and cultural differences is another source of diversity in how product information is handled.
In many cases building materials are not sold directly to end users, but are forwarded in the supply chain to re-sellers being distributors/wholesalers, merchants/dealers and marketplaces. These trading partners each have their range of products and specific requirements for product information which makes it very hard for the manufacturer to prepare product information that fits all.
The IT enabled discipline aimed at solving such challenges is called product data syndication. There are namely these three kinds of product data syndication relevant to manufacturers:
Enterprise wide product data syndication aiming at linking, transforming and consolidating product information created by various business units and production sites around the world. The goal is to have consistent, accurate and timely information ending up in one place, often being an in-house Product Information Management (PIM) or Master Data Management (MDM) solution.
Ecosystem wide product data syndication push aiming at providing product information to re-sellers in a uniform way. On the other hand, it should be possible for the diverse crowd of re-sellers to pull that information adhering to each one’s requirements for format, completeness and conformity at a certain time.
Ecosystem wide product data syndication pull also in many cases applies to a manufacturer. It is not unusual that a manufacturer complements the own produced product range with special products supplied from other manufacturers, where product information must be provided by those. In addition to that manufacturers buys raw materials, spare parts for machinery and other products where product information is needed when the surrounding processes should be automated.
At Product Data Lake, we offer a solution to these challenges. We emphasize on these capabilities:
Product Data Quality aiming at improvements of completeness of product data, as well as the accuracy, timeliness, consistency and conformity of the product information shared with trading partners and end users.
Product Data Syndication Freedom, as the solution is suited for consolidating enterprise wide diversities and pushing information to trading partners in a uniform way while making it possible for trading partners to pull the product information in their many ways.
Learn more about the solution and the benefits for manufacturers of building materials on the Product Data Push site.
One of the news this week was that Maersk for the first time is taking a large container ship from East Asia to Europe using a Northern Route through the Arctic waters as told in this Financial Times article.
The purpose of this trip is to explore the possibility of avoiding the longer Southern Route including shoehorning the sea traffic through the narrow Suez Canal. A similar opportunity exists around North America as an alternative to going through The Panama Canal.
Similar to moving products and finding new routes for that we may also explore new routes when it comes to moving information about products. Until now the possibilities, besides cumbersome exchange of spreadsheets, have been to shoehorn product information from the manufacturer into a consensus-based data portal or data pool from where the merchant can fetch the information in accurate the same shape as his competitors does.
Gartner, the analyst firm, has a hype cycle for Information Governance and Master Data Management.
Back in 2012 there was a hype cycle for just Master Data Management. It looked like this:
I have made a red circle around the two rightmost terms: “Data Quality Tools” and “Information Exchange and Global Data Synchronization”.
Now, 6 years later, the terms included in the cycle are the below:
The two terms “Data Quality Tools” and “Information Exchange and Global Data Synchronization” are not mentioned here. I do not think it is because the they ever fulfilled their purpose. I think they are being supplemented by something new. One of these terms that have emerged since 2012 is, in red circle, Multienterprise MDM.
As touched in the post Product Data Quality we have seen data quality tools in action for years when it comes to customer (or party) master data, but not that much when it comes to product master data.
Global Data Synchronization has been around the GS1 concept of GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) and exchange of product data between trading partners. However, after 40 years in play this concept only covers a fraction of the products traded worldwide and only for very basic product master data. Product data syndication between trading partners for a lot of product information and related digital assets must still be handled otherwise today.
In my eyes Multienterprise MDM comes to the rescue. This concept was examined in the post Ecosystem Wide MDM. You can gain business benefits from extending enterprise wide product master data management to be multienterprise wide. This includes:
Working with the same product classifications or being able to continuously map between different classifications used by trading partners
Utilizing the same attribute definitions (metadata around products) or being able to continuously map between different attribute taxonomies in use by trading partners
Sharing data on product relationships (available accessories, relevant spare parts, updated succession for products, cross-sell information and up-sell opportunities)
Having shared access to latest versions of digital assets (text, audio, video) associated with products.
This is what we work for at Product Data Lake – including Machine Learning Enabled Data Quality, Data Classification, Cloud MDM Hub Service and Multienterprise Metadata Management.
When working with product data syndication in supply chains the big pain is that data standards in use and the preferred exchange methods differ between supply chain participants.
As a manufacturer you will have hundreds of re-sellers who probably have data standards different from you and most likely wants to exchange data in a different way than you do.
As a merchant you will have hundreds of suppliers who probably have data standards different from you and most likely wants to exchange data in a different way than you do.
The aim of Product Data Lake is to take that pain away from both the manufacturer side and the merchant side. We offer product data syndication freedom by letting you as manufacturer push product information using your data standards and your preferred exchange method and letting you as a merchant pull product information using your data standards and your preferred exchange method.
The concept of doing Master Data Management (MDM) not only enterprise wide but ecosystem wide was examined in the post Ecosystem Wide MDM.
As mentioned, product master data is an obvious domain where business outcomes may occur first when stretching your digital transformation to encompass business ecosystems.
The figure below shows the core delegates in the ecosystem wide Product Information Management (PIM) landscape we support at Product Data Lake:
Your enterprise is in the centre. You may have or need an in-house PIM solution where you manipulate and make product information more competitive as elaborated in the post Using Internal and External Product Information to Win.
At Product Data Lake we collaborate with providers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities and similar technologies in order to improve data quality and analyse product information.
As shown in the top, there may be a relevant data pool with a consensus structure for your industry available, where you exchange some of product information with trading partners. At Product Data Lake we embrace that scenario with our reservoir concept.
Else, you will need to make partnerships with individual trading partners. At Product Data Lake we make that happen with a win-win approach. This means, that providers can push their product information in a uniform way with the structure and with the taxonomy they have. Receivers can pull the product information in a uniform way with the structure and with the taxonomy they have. This product data syndication concept is outlined in the post Sell more. Reduce costs.
However, there will always be one or two persons in the audience who wants to know about the technology behind. And for sure, this is important too.
The service is built using some of the newest and best-of-breed technologies available for this purpose today. This includes Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud for hosting the public cloud version, MongoDB for storing data, RabbitMQ for handling data streams and ElasticSearch for finding data.
When working with Product Information Management (PIM) and not at least with product information exchange (product data syndication) between trading partners, I have noticed three major sectors where the requirements and means differs quite a bit.
These sectors are:
Food, beverage at pharmaceuticals: These are highly regulated sectors where the rules for taxonomy, completeness and exchange formats are advanced. Exchange standards and underpinning services as GS1/GDSN are well penetrated at least for basic data elements among major players. This sector counts for circa 1/6 of the world trade.
Fashion, books and mainstream electronics: The products within this sector can be described with common accepted taxonomies and do not differ that much though there certainly are room for more common adhered standards in some areas. The trade here is becoming more penetrated by marketplaces with their specific product information requirements. This sector counts for circa 1/6 of the world trade.
The rest (including building materials, special electronics, machinery, homeware): This is a diverse segment of products groups and the product groups themselves are diverse. The requirements for product information completeness and other data quality dimensions are overwhelming and the choice of standards are many, so most often two trading partners will be on different pages. This sector counts for circa 2/3 of the world trade.
Note: Automotive (vehicles) is a special vertical, where the main products (for example cars) resembles mainstream electronics and all the spare parts resembles special electronics. Some retailers (like department stores) covers all sectors and therefore need hybrid solutions to their product information exchange handling challenges.
The main drivers for better product information handling are compliance – not at least within food, beverage and pharmaceuticals – and self-service purchasing (as in ecommerce), where the latter has raged many years within fashion, books and mainstream electronics and now also is raising in more B2B (business-to-business) biased product groups as building materials, special electronics and machinery.
Learn more about how to tackle these diverse needs in product information exchange in the article and discussion about Product Data Lake.
The term End-to-End is used a lot in marketing jargon. Now, I will jump on that wagon too.
In reality, no solution will be an End-to-End solution for all your business needs. Therefore, my take will merely be to cast some light on an End-to-End need for which there are only very scattered solutions today.
If we look at Product Information Management (PIM) there are many good solutions for taking care of the End-to-End needs within your organisation. The aim is to gather the product information that exist within your organisation in various silos, have one trusted place for all this information and being able to publish this information in a consistent way across all sales channels – the omnichannel theme.
However, product information does in many cases not live just within your organization. In most cases, it lives in a business ecosystem of manufacturers, distributors, merchants and large end users.
Therefore we need an End-to-End solution for product information exchange (product data syndication) that encompasses the path from manufacturers over distributors to merchants and large end users and in some cases the way back.
Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, merchant, large end user or a provider of tools and services for product information you can join the business ecosystem oriented End-to-End solution for product information. Please find some more information about Product Data Lake here.
The next step towards excellence in PIM is to handle product information exchange (product data syndication) in close collaboration with your trading partners. Product Data Lake is the solution for that. Here upstream providers of product information (manufacturers and upstream distributors) and downstream receivers of product information (downstream distributors and retailers) connect their choice of in-house PIM solution or other product master data solution as PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or ERP.
The PIM-2-PIM solution resembles a social network where you request and accept partnerships with your trading partners from the real world.
After connecting the next to set up is how your product attributes and digital asset types links with the one used by your trading partner. In Product Data Lake we encompass the use of these different scenarios (in prioritized order):
You and your trading partner uses the same standard in the same version
You and your trading partners uses the same standard in different versions
You and your trading partner uses different standards
You and/or your trading partners don’t use a public standard
Then it is time to link your common products. This can be done automatically if you both use a GTIN (or the older implementations as EAN number or UPC) as explained in the post Connecting Product Information. Alternatively, model numbers can be used for matching or, as a last option, the linking can be done in the interactive user interface.
Now you and your trading partner are set to start automating the process of sharing product information. In Product Data Lake upstream providers of product information can push new products, attribute values and digital assets from the in-house PIM solution to a hot folder, where from the information is uploaded by Product Data Lake. Downstream receivers can set up pull requests, where the linked product information is downloaded, so it is ready to be consumed by the in-house PIM solution.
This process can now be repeated with all your other trading partners, where you reuse the elements that are common between trading partners and build new linking where required.
If you have any questions, please contact me here: